The White House released a video montage of violent scenes from popular video games yesterday which has since been delisted for being complete malarkey (or restricted for not having an age gate, maybe a bit of both). The contents of the video are no surprise. Some unpaid White House intern was likely forced to put it together at the behest of some old senior staffer who wanted to show, “all the killing that goes on in the video box.” The result is a bunch of out-of-context scenes of violence that appear to be stolen from other YouTube channels and cobbled together in Windows Movie Maker.
The video games shown in the White House video aren’t any big surprise. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (of course “No Russian” features prominently), Wolfenstein: The New Order, Dead by Daylight, Sniper Elite 4, and Fallout 4 are featured in all their gory glory. Regardless of the fact that these games are rated M, and most (if not all) retailers in the US require you to be 17 or older to purchase them, the White House seemed intent on showing games in the worst light possible. Well, at least the worst light they could find in 10 minutes searching on YouTube.
A game that was conspicuously missing from the White House’s list is America’s Army: The Official Game of the U.S. Army. In America’s Army: Proving Grounds, the latest version of the game, you get to take the role of a U.S. Army infantryman and take part in joint exercises in a training environment. However, the series wasn’t always so tame. In previous editions of America’s Army, the gunplay was portrayed in a much more real way. When you shot enemies blood poured out, and the scenario presented was kill or be killed.
I guess at some point someone decided that the U.S. Army backing a game where you kill other players with guns modeled after real firearms was a recipe for PR disaster. The latest game’s training ground environment takes some of the “realism” of combat away in favor of a more subdued setting.
However, one of the attendees of yesterday’s White House summit on violence in video games, retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, claims that techniques used by armies to train soldiers to kill are mirrored in video games and that playing them hardens children emotionally to the act of killing. According to Grossman’s standard a game that mirrors techniques used by the U.S. Army to train soldiers must have the same effect. Grossman loves calling first-person shooters “murder simulators,” but when you get down to it isn’t the training environment in America’s Army just that? When you take on enemies in Proving Grounds it’s presented as though you’re not really killing anyone, but you’re definitely simulating it, right?
Of course, Grossman probably exempts America’s Army: Proving Grounds from his campaign against video games. You would think that since it’s an overt tool for enticing young adults to join the U.S. Army that it would be under even more scrutiny. However, that would indicate that anyone wanted to apply critical thinking to the situation, which obviously isn’t the case.
As it stands, maybe the White House needs to think a bit more about how it’s cherrypicking violent moments in games. After all, this article shows just how easy it is to make a game seem insidious without too much effort. Perhaps with a little more thought, the White House can start to understand the issues in society that are causing people to act the way they are and stop fearmongering about violence in video games.