My son recently returned home from school with a recruitment pamphlet for the Canadian Army, full of praise for the presentation they put on that day. Obviously the recruiters had done a really good job of getting the kids pretty excited, and my son rattled on ceaselessly about all the guns and equipment and how cool it all was. He even went so far as to suggest he might like to join the army himself, which at the time I didn’t take too seriously, knowing his extreme aversion to authority of any kind.
But wow, they really had done a good job. Maybe too good.
Something began to nag at me as my son turned on his X-Box and started blasting away at the virtual representations of soldiers and tanks with more than usual gusto. I picked up the pamphlet he had left on the table and that’s when it struck me. It looked exactly like one of the inserts that come with a video game case. It was even roughly the same size. That wouldn’t be a deliberate attempt to attract the attention of highly impressionable, 14 year olds, raised in the electronic age of video games and internet, would it?
Mobility. Firepower. Protection.
Those were the exciting, bold words on the cover. Inside the glossy, concertina-like pull out there were images of macho soldiers in their night vision goggles and Kevlar helmets, carrying their C7 A2 assault rifles, complete with laser aiming devices and optical sights. Armoured vehicles and tanks shared the pages with howitzers, described in every detail down to the rate of fire and size of projectile. Throughout there is a sense of high-tech adventure.
I am not going to get into any arguments about war or the validity or need for the military actions around the world that our country finds itself involved in. That’s a topic for another day.
But what I do have an issue with, as a parent, is the use of psychological tools to associate a deadly serious reality with a medium that kids are familiar with as a recreation, a game, as fun. Shooting at pixels on a screen is pretty harmless; the goal being to earn points in a game, but shooting at real people with real bullets could just as easily earn a ride home in a body bag. This material to me is expressly designed to blur that distinction in the minds of kids. That’s a pretty soft target (excuse the pun).
And if the Canadian Armed Forces website, a virtual world of flashy, rollover graphics, interactive modules, fast-paced action videos and synthesized electronic sounds wasn’t developed by a video game designer I’ll eat my hat. (Good job it’s wool not Kevlar).
Even in the small, rural community where I live the harsh reality of armed engagement has been felt first hand. I find it offensive that these small communities should be invaded by those intent on poaching yet more of our young people to potentially squander on foreign soil. I object to the fact that army recruiters are permitted to come into our schools and fill the fertile minds of our kids with images that lend a false glamour to what is a most unglamorous act.
Copyright2010, Angela Lovell.