J.C. Herz, "The military-entertainment complex," Joystick nation: How videogames ate our quarters, won our hearts, and rewired our minds (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1997), 197-213
Readings for this class do not get much more straightforward than this chapter from JC Herz's book on videogames (referenced yesterday by Dr. Steinkuehler, incidentally). Herz, herself, has, interestingly enough, worked as a consultant for industry and for defense concerns, which I found quite salient.
At any rate, this chapter has as its goal to point out and then document the profound interlinking of the videogame/entertainment and defense industries. The interest the two share is technological, financial and even philosophical, to a certain extent. Earlier in class, it was pointed out (perhaps by Dr. Halverson) that the need to synthesize and analyze great deals of information presented dynamically and simultaneously is growing ever important in our information economy, and the case is the same for military applications. Herz notes that "most modern warfare takes place behind the screen, anyway," with controls and gadgets becoming secondary to their virtual information displays. She also points out that the use of videogame technology does a great deal to validate it (whether positively or negatively is a personal interpretation) outside of the confines of wasteful passtimes in video arcades - although it is worth noting that the entire chapter is characterized by a sarcastic, cynical tone. Perhaps Herz's knowledge of the inner workings of both industries, independent of each other as well as collectively, is to blame.
The type of gaming most often relevant to military applications, as we have already learned, is simulation ("M&S," it is called), and this article simply underscores that point. She was also able to glean interesting insights from some important industry insiders in the defense contracting, military and gaming industries, all of whom cited the relationship among them as being critical to military advance and success and game and technology development. In short, Herz suggests, all one need do is follow the money trail to establish this relationship.
Also of note is another point we have discussed previously, which is that there is a reality threshold that designers and military personnel are aware of, in which, on the one hand, games become unplayable for entertainment purposes due to being too realistic, and the realism in the military arena becomes counterproductive to the ends of training soldiers to kill (i.e. empathy for the enemy is inadvertently instilled if the enemy appears too real).
The bottom line for this chapter is simply that there is an intrinsic relationship between military and gaming development (and, arguably, with all digital technology development, really). Perhaps awareness of this fact is the important first step in being able to develop mindful critiques of them both. Herz does not offer a particularly hopeful solution to this situation - in fact, she might not see it as problematic, per se, in the first place - but the direct connections she has drawn among the various players involved are important for any student and scholar of video games, and for any social critic interested in a broader picture of how technologies are developed in our society.