America’s Digital Army is an ethnographic study of the link between interactive entertainment and military power, drawing on Robertson Allen’s fieldwork observing video game developers, military strategists, U.S. Army marketing agencies, and an array of defense contracting companies that worked to produce the official U.S. Army video game, America’s Army. Allen uncovers the methods by which gaming technologies such as America’s Army, with military funding and themes, engage in a militarization of American society that constructs everyone, even nonplayers of games, as virtual soldiers available for deployment.
America’s Digital Army examines the army’s desire for “talented” soldiers capable of high-tech work; beliefs about America’s enemies as reflected in the game’s virtual combatants; tensions over best practices in military recruiting; and the sometimes overlapping cultures of gamers, game developers, and soldiers.
Allen reveals how binary categorizations such as soldier versus civilian, war versus game, work versus play, and virtual versus real become blurred—if not broken down entirely—through games and interactive media that reflect the U.S. military’s ludic imagination of future wars, enemies, and soldiers.
List of Illustrations
1. America’s Digital Army
2. The Art of Persuasion and the Science of Manpower
3. The Artifice of the Virtual and the Real
4. The Full-Spectrum Soft Sell of the Army Experience
5. Complicating the Military Entertainment Complex
6. The Labor of Virtual Soldiers
"Play scholars should not overlook Allen's book as just another study of FPS games. His is a unique study, both microscopic in its examination of the work of the game developers and macroscopic in its putting the development of America's Army into the larger perspective of the rise of the militarization of American culture and the creation of a military-entertainment complex—the late-capitalist version of the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about in his 1961 farewell address. Allen's book is smart about many of the issues the reader will find in the body of scholarship on digital gaming and culture."—Jay Mechling, American Journal of Play
American Journal of Play
"Robertson Allen convincingly demonstrates that America's Army has blurred the old, neat margins between local and global, real and virtual, in a new "globital" era of war in which we are all soldiers."—Daniel Binns, Michigan War Studies Review
Michigan War Studies Review
"America's Digital Army is at once a description of the decade-long foray of the US Army into the production and deployment of video games as recruiting tools and, more tellingly, an analysis of how the production of militarized labor is increasingly diffused throughout US society."—Steven Gardiner, American Ethnologist
“A rigorous and fascinating glimpse of what is more than just one online game. America’s Digital Army opens up crucial issues about the conflation of war and work, play and drill, pleasure and simulation, as well as the labor involved in the production of the militarized, fear-ridden cultural politics of the contemporary United States.”—Jussi Parikka, professor of technological culture and aesthetics at the University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art
“A compelling account and a critical assessment of a gaming reality and the militarization of society; a groundbreaking ethnography deciphering the illusory separation between the real and the fictional, and the fun and the dead-serious.”—Sverker Finnström, coeditor of Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing