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The message is the game, or is it?

Justin Beck

In this contribution of the analysis of America's Army I will look at how a game like America's Army communicates on the Internet as an advertising tool. I will discuss why the American army chose for an online interactive computer game as a means to recruit people.
In order to really understand how the game communicates I will define and give an analysis of the advergame. The advergame can be separated in a product placement advergame and a virtual interactive advergame. As a concept the advergame is a very appealing tool for companies and in particular the American army to use. In this contribution I will also distinguish the advergame from the propagame in order to give a further analysis of America's Army.

The game America's Army, the propagame as I will call it, is unique in its being. However it is also unique in its communication strategies. America's Army enfolds the game concept as has never been seen before on the Internet. The game concept will probably by a central theme in the years to come. Advergames are still in their pre-phase and there is still a lot of experimentation going on. America's Army is without a doubt the biggest experiment at the moment (costs are over 8 million dollar and there are estimates that the game is being played by several hundred thousand people in the US and probably several millions globally). It is thus very interesting to investigate America's Army.

The main theme of the course "New Media New Citizenship" is the way citizenship is being created on and through new media and in particular internet. Who can participate and who will be left out and how does this come about? My investigation in the second part of this paper will look at the consequences of America's Army, advergames in general and the game concept for new media and new citizenship. Concepts which will be central are: the superpanoticon as described by Mark Poster, the gain over communication access, the so called contestation between powerful economic actors and civil society and network power which is being created through adver- and propagames within the game concept.

The importance of this contribution will show with what kind of process one engages with when one is dealing with advergames and propagames. Another side effect is that this paper will give a better understanding of communication flows and power relations, which are being constructed with new media. Can people still turn their backs and choose not to participate or will they be swallowed by the game concept?

This article uses a lot of material from articles, which can be found on the Internet. I have selectively used content of several articles and "mixed" it (thus rewritten text, extended it with own writings and created concepts or put it in a different structure), in order to discuss the topic and create one story. Because I used this method of creating a text it is sometimes difficult to refer directly to a person or an article, all the more because articles on the Internet themselves use this way of creating texts. In order not to commit a scientific felony I have put all the links to the used material under References which can be found at the end of this article. If there is an important reference it will be followed by a () referring to a specific topic or link under References. Within the notes apparatus the most important articles are also distinguished with an asterisk (*), which indicates that these texts have contributed a lot of content and are thus key texts.
The References apparatus also has other links referring to a certain topic or referring to interesting material for the context of subtopics and the main topic of this paper. Other literature used from the reader of the course "New media new citizenship" will be directly referred to as common thus with a note number referring to the text in the notes apparatus.

Now, let the game begin.

Uncle Sam wants you for the……
….come out, come out wherever you are

The last century the United States army has been one of the most largest and influential armies on the planet. At the moment the US government spends over 350 billion a year to keep the Army in good shape (). This amount is by far the most money spend on military forces globally. The US army needs many people to fulfill all of the tasks. The average amount of new soldiers wanted each year is about 80.000(). There are problems however finding new recruits. In 1999, recruitment numbers hit their lowest point in thirty years. To tackle this problem, the United States Congress called for "aggressive, innovative experiments" to find new soldiers, and the Defense Department pulled up recruitment budgets to $2.2 billion a year. From the private sector specialists were brought in to form the Army Marketing Brand Group. Leo Burnett, a top advertising agency that has also worked with McDonald's and Coca-Cola, developed a new Army advertising campaign that debuted in January 2001. The two-decades-old "Be All You Can Be" slogan was dropped in favor of "An Army of One".
The new slogan and a new logo have now been integrated into dozens of marketing initiatives: Electronic kiosks have sprung up in shopping malls, advertisements now air in prime-time television slots and movie theatres, and billboards are displayed prominently in major cities. A fleet of Army marketing vehicles is bringing the message to schools and communities across the country. The Cinema Van, a touring multimedia theatre that seats up to forty, shows films ranging from Combat Arms: "Are you Tough Enough?" to Service to Country, a patriotic number on military history. The Adventure Van, meanwhile, offers the chance to sit in a real Cobra helicopter cockpit and fire a state-of-the-art M16 weapons simulator.
The "aggressive, innovative experiments"() called for by Congress seem to be doing their job; enlistment quotas have now been met for two years straight and are on track for 2002. But the goal of the revamped recruiting campaign is not just to raise short-term recruiting numbers; it also aims to ensure a steady stream of recruits in the long term. The goal, as spelled out in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, is to penetrate youth culture and get the Army into a young person's "consideration set". By reaching kids when they're young, the Pentagon hopes they will develop a level of comfort with the military that will increase their propensity to enlist later. Within this recruiting strategy to reach and penetrate youth culture, the game America's Army was developed. The game America's Army can be described as a type of advergame. Before we go any deeper into the development of the game America's Army itself and the way it was introduced, it is best first to explain what an advergame is.

The advergame
Media strategist Matthew Ringel first coined the name advergame with colleague Jane Chen a couple of years ago. Advergames are becoming more and more the new hit in advertising on the Internet and are thought of as being more effective then the well-known banner ads. Expectations about total sales of the advergame industry alone range from a billion to 5 billion dollars a year by 2005. Other statistics show that last years electronic gaming industry sales where estimated at 10 billion dollar and movie ticket revenues where estimated at 9.3 billion dollar (). Before I will discuss why there are such high expectations about the advergame I will first define the advergame.

There are two types of advergames. The first type of advergame is a game, which is sponsored by one or more companies that advertise in the game through product placement. This type of advergame can be called the product placement advergame. The advertisements are being placed in the game just like ordinary advertisements on television or in the newspaper. You can see the name, the logo or the message of a corporation. On the Internet these types of 'old' advertising or product placements are called banner ads.
The second type of advergame is the virtual interactive advergame (). In this type of advergames the gamer is not only confronted with product placements, but the gamers get interactive with the product or the message of the product itself. So the message of the product, or the lifestyle which the product can give a costumer, is being transformed into a game. This doesn't necessarily have to be a racing game for a car manufacturer. DaimlerChrysler for example has an advergame similar to Simcity in which mobility (and transportation) is the main message (). The main idea behind this type of advergame is that it's more directly focused on selling a message through interaction between the game player and the message of the product.

There can be made another type of differentiation in advergames. Advergames are on the one hand being given away for free; these advergames are called virtual giveaway advergames (). These types of advergames are usually small games (in capacity) which will take about an hour or less of gameplay. They can be downloaded on the Internet very easily because of the small capacity, but they can also be put on a cd-rom and be given away with a magazine.
On the other hand there are advergames that can be bought and these advergames are usually larger in size. These are the more expensive advergames and they can be described as purchased advergames. They are expensive because they took much longer to develop. These types of advergames are usually (except for America's Army, yet) made for gameconsoles like the X-box and Playstation 2, but they can also be played on personal computers. DaimlerChrysler for example is in talks to develop games for X-Box from Microsoft and PlayStation 2 from Sony. Purchased advergames will off course never emphasis that they are advertising in the games. The message they send is the fun game itself and within this structure (interactive) marketing messages are placed.

Advergames are being made in cooperation between a game producer (like Sony or Nintendo) and one or multiple companies (PEPSI, Coca-Cola or DaimlerChrysler). They can be played online and offline, singleplay and multiplay. Virtual giveaway advergames have several marketing advantages in comparison to product placement advergames or regular product placements (like banner ads)

The first advantage is that games themselves are interactive. While people play a (adver-) game they get absorbed in the game and there is very little evidence that people playing games are multitasking. This is in contradiction to the common advertisement done by product placement in which the advertisements are not the main theme. In for example James Bond movies where a lot of product placements are shown, people get absorbed in the movie itself or the main character. The product placements are bystanders and not the main theme or main focus.

The second advantage is that advergames can reach the wanted segment of the market. Demographics show that more than 50 percent of children and young men head for game sites when they get online. For women the biggest group of game players is between the ages of 45 and 54. Further statistics show that 72% of frequent computer gamers are 18 or older. In fact, the interactive gamer's average age is now 28 and 43% of players are women. Relate these figures to the number of people that are on the web worldwide and there is a multimillion market which is steadily growing ().

This leads us to the third advantage which is that companies can tailor advergames to the wanted segmented market and their objective, thus easily penetrate and communicate the wanted message. An advergame can be made for any demographic. There are for example differences in the way women and men play games. "Men are very happy to engage in continuous and repetitive play time after time after time. They will go around a racetrack 100 times. For what? For points. Women, on the other hand, abhor repetitive behavior. They like strategic and fantasy-oriented games where the reward grows larger the more you play. Men will go to great lengths to kick somebody else's butt. Women would much rather collaborate with their friends to achieve a greater score." (Quotation from advergame producer Ferazzi: article fastcompany ()

The fourth advantage is that information about the players or the costumers can be easily obtained through an advergame. The way this information can be obtained is through the building of a dialogue. There are several ways to build this dialogue. In order to get the dialogue started a customer must first give information. This can be given for example when a customer has played a game and wants to go to a higher level or a webisode (the next episode of a series of games), fills out a survey or enters the score in a sweepstakes. Extra information like age, location and e-mail address can be given. The "dialogue" consists of sending consumers advertising e-mails that are tailor-made.

The fifth advantage of the advergame is that the advergame can easily be past on to friends. When somebody likes a certain advergame because it is appealing he or she can mail it or recommend it to a friend. The advergame becomes a proven persuasion. The advertising is done by the gamer of the advergame, and this has been popular called word of mouse. In more common marketing terms it's called viral marketing.

The sixth advantage is that the costs of advergames can be kept low and the time can be limited. Because the game doesn't have to be very complicated the production can be done very quickly. While a PC game that might have 80 hours of gameplay could take three years and $5 million to create, an advergame might take three to five months and cost between $20,000 and $250,000. Because the gameplay can be reduces to several minutes the costs per minute are, in comparison to broadcast advertising, significantly lower.

The last advantage of the advergame is that they can be easily adjustable. Most advergames have an online connection so companies can interfere with the game whenever they want. The game can be changed, updated or be put in a different perspective. The interaction is thus not only from the gamer to the advergame but also from the company to the gamer through the advergame. The virtual interactive advergame is an interactive advertising medium placed in an interactive marketing unit (IMU)()

Because of the advantages of the advergame, it is thought of as the next big hit or the elusive Holy Grail of online advertising. But it doesn't stop there, it has been said that the advergame is going to be tied into larger global marketing campaigns that integrate television and print and even events all around the game concept. The game concept is put into the new video game lifestyle in which many people seem to be more and more attracted to.

The success or failure of advergames hasn't yet been determined because of its short history. There is a tendency to look at how many gamers show up or sign up, but that won't tell a company if the advergame does its job as an advertising tool. The same can be said however about usual product placements. Because of the big advantages mentioned above, advergames will be the thing to watch at concerning Internet advertising.

The creation of America's Army
The game America's Army has been in development since 1999. The U.S. Army's Office of Economic & Manpower Analysis at the United States Military Academy directed game development. Colonel Casey Wardynski supervised the game's production. Two main army institutes have been committed to the development of the game. These are the institute MOVES (Modeling, Virtual Environments & Simulation) at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California (), and the institute ICT (Institute for Creative Technologies)(). This latter is collaboration among entertainment executives and game makers committed to dreaming up new systems for training soldiers.

The staff of MOVES developed the game's highly realistic simulations and situations. They worked with leading firms such as Epic Games, NVIDIA, THX Division of Lucasfilm Ltd., Dolby Laboratories, Lucasfilm Skywalker Sound, HomeLAN, and GameSpy Industries ().

MOVES spent over three years and over $7,5 million to get every detail right. And an additional $2.5 million will be needed annually to update the game and create new missions. They (including the programmers, the level designers and the graphic artists) visited nineteen army installations, digitally filming soldiers and landscapes. Weapons are modeled directly from the Army's arsenal. They feature real-time reloading, clips that fall the right way at the right speed. Guns even malfunction from time to time. Everything, from the explosion of different types of grenades to the way soldier's run, walk, and crawl, is accurate.

The game America's Army actually consists of two separate games. The first is the first person shooter (FPS) game "operations". This game is like many other FPSs, but the emphasis lies on teamwork. With a group of soldiers or comrades the first person shooter has to succeed in accomplishing a certain goal. "Operations" has been online since July 4th 2002. This is also the game analysed in the other papers of this online paper. The second game is called "Soldiers". This game looks more like a strategic Simgame () and will be online later this year. Within a strategic Simgame the gamer builds the life of a character in a certain situation for a longer period. The character can be a person (like The Sims), but it can also be a city (for example Simcity) which has to be build or grown from scratch and which is confronted with everyday situations. The strategy consists of making the right decisions in variable situations and one has several things to weigh and keep in mind.

Communication strategy: shock and awe
In order to let the game America's Army be a successful game it uses three basic strategies. The first one is already spelled out above. A lot of money was put in the development of the game in order to let it be as realistic possible and have technical quality (it's a good game to play). The game has the potential to compete with other similar commercial equivalents. The second strategy it uses is that the game can be downloaded from several sites (it is also available on cd-rom) including America's Army own site. The third strategy is that the game is freely available and this is without a doubt the most effective when it comes to spreading the word about the game. A lot of game sites advertise the game because it can be downloaded for free. This viral marketing has put the game on many charts and it has even won several prices for example at the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles (). This Expo is curiously created by Spygame industries, a firm also working with MOVES.

From advergame to propagame

America's Army uses full potential of the advantages of the advergame. It is not only a virtual interactive advergame, but it's also a virtual giveaway advergame. America's Army is the exception when it comes to advergames. It's highly developed, thus expensive but also freely available or downloadable. The game can reach the wanted segment of the market. Girls will be more attracted to "Soldiers" and boys will be more attracted to "Operations". The games are not wholly tailor made for a segmented market, like they are made from the public's perspective (what does the public want). The game clearly sends it's own message and the gamers who feel addressed will follow, those who don't feel addressed will not. The big advantage when it comes to tailor made games is that FPSs and strategic Simgames are very popular genres under gamers. Within this structure the game can be adjusted (better graphics) and extended (with more operations and more possibilities) so the game will remain to be a "hit" under gamers. During playtime gamers can build their status and this information is off course known at the command center of America's Army (IMU). So within this structure information can also be obtained from the participants and they can be personally addressed with a message like: "a player like you should think of enlisting!" Viral marketing is put in motion through the combination of strategies mentioned above. The webisode with America's Army really is the enlisting for the actual army. When it comes to the expenses and the yield of affection (the time a person is conflicted or engaged with a message) it is important to stress that the army already has very high advertising expenses. Every enlistee costs the army 15.000 Dollar on advertising. Within the training period the enlistee can walk away because the expectations could be not as thought off and those 15.000 advertising Dollars will go down the drain. America's Army has cost about 7,5 million Dollars to produce and an additional 2 million Dollar annually. With 300 to 400 enlistees each year the game would play even. Another side effect is that the people, who have played the game, will know exactly what to expect in training. The last big advantage to mention is that the game, so also the advertised message, gets full attention. The message America's Army sends itself is propagandistic. It propagandises a certain kind of lifestyle message in which the army would like the participant to join and become. Propaganda itself has a history within religion. Religion also sends the same message, to let the participant (or the participant in becoming) join and become the religion (so sending the message of religion). So America's Army, with its governmental background, is instead of an advergame, better to be described as a propagame.

Conclusion of the description

America's Army could be the blueprint for a new type of advertising or propaganda used for new media. All the advantaged mentioned about the advergame can put this kind of marketing high on the reference list of how best to approach youth culture. Not to forget the growing number of adults who play computer games.

When it comes to the propagame America's Army, the next quotation is striking:
"The initial success of America's Army has exceeded the Army's expectations, and Colonel Wardynski and his design team are excited about the possibilities. "We're going to be pushing out new versions of the game as fast as we can build them," he says. "This same team will be building missions, weapons, and new features for years to come." The nation's youth can expect a lot more from their friendly army of one."( 'America's Army' Targets Youth by Jacob Hodes & Emma Ruby Sachs)

The outline of America's Army does look like the prescription for the future of advergames. The medicine obtained seems to be working for the American army, but what are the side effects?

Online, offline, inline or outline?
From the analysis of the advergame and the striking resemblance I have described with the propagame America's Army I will now turn my attention to the consequences for communication on Internet by such games. I will look at the way this new type of games influence new media citizenship in a broader perspective. I will not examine the game itself in gameplay or the internal communication between participants (this is done in the other articles of this online paper). Neither will I focus at the direct external communication. With this latter I mean how much attention America's Army gets and how it is portrait as a game at game sites or in news articles. What I will examine is why advergames and propagames could be the frontrunners on the Internet for a radical change of the Internet (sphere) and society as a whole. A radical change because most emphasis in the inclusion and exclusion narrative is being put on exclusion. Who will be left out and cannot participate? But exclusion is of course not in the interest of commercial enterprises and neither in the interest of America's Army. When one is excluded, one cannot play the game.

America's Army: what's in a narrative
Saskia Sassen distinguishes two narrations being told about the Internet thus far ( Sassen, 1999). The utopian romantic narration emphasizes the decentralization and electronic democracy of the net. It assumes that the Internet will always be the open and decentralized space it was designed to be. The other narrative, which comes from the logic of business and markets, contributes a parallel polarization about electronic space: a utopian approach that emphasises the decentralisation and electronic democracy of the net, and a dystopian approach that emphasises the global power of the large corporations. Sassen describes this as narratives of eviction ( Sassen, 1996b). The utopian view excludes the fact electronic space is embedded in actual societal structures and is internally segmented. The dystopian view excludes the limitations and complementary dependencies of the new digital technologies and also the fact of growing contestation between powerful economic actors and civil society in public electronic space. A force for strengthening political activity. Sassen doesn't want to reject these narratives but she wants to construct borderlands that merit their own empirical and theoretical specification. Thus an approach of negotiation, which can bring together knowledge of the Net and a deep awareness of the threats to the Internet, as we have known it coming from the mass discovery by business of the Net.

Concerning the strengthening of political activity it is important to ask ourselves which role America's Army has on the Internet stage. The army is without a doubt a governmental led organisation. Governments are the representation of civil society and set up the rules for civil and economic society. Things get rather complicated when governmental organisations themselves step in the economic arena. As governmental organisations endue themselves with marketing communication and use marketing strategies, the contestation between powerful economic actors and civil society becomes a deviate advocacy. Can civil society still see the government as a representative organisation of civil society or will they see government as an equivalent of powerful economic actors? These are important questions to ask concerning globalisation, powerful economic actors and the future of nation states.

Sassen sees the need to re-theorize the Net, address the larger issue of electronic space or digital networks and within look at the larger issue of network power. Within Cyberspace, two major actors have run into each other. These are the corporate sector and civil society. Sassen differs three distinctive forms of cyber-segmentation. These are: the commercialisation of access; the emergence of intermediares to sort, choose and evaluate information for paying customers; and the formation of privatised firewalled corporate networks and 'tunnels' on the Web.
Regarding the commercialisation of access Sassen emphasises not on the current forms assumed by paid services, but what lies ahead. "Current commercial forms of access are undergoing change. Microsoft, after being an Internet laggard, is now offering free Internet access and browser programmes to lock the market. And AT&T, the worlds largest telephone company, recently launched a campaign to offer customers free access to the Internet. All this free access offered by giants in the industry is tactical. There is right now an enormous battle among the major players to gain strategic advantages in what remains a fairly unknown, under specified market. Microsoft's strategy in the past has been to set the standard, which it did for operating systems. The issue today, it seems, is once again to set standards, and to do this by providing the software for free in order eventually to control access and browsing standards and thus be able to charge"

Although the 'threat' Sassen sees in gaining control over access in order to once be able to charge, this is also a futuristic approach. (This doesn't necessarily mean it is the wrong way to deal with the subject). There is a thing which must be mentioned however in relation to gain over access. Access also implies that people enter into a situation in order to do something. In order to do something the access must be there. Referring back to the virtual interactive advergame that can be downloaded freely. The access is free and this is strategically done by cooperation's in order to interact with the citizen or netizen. The gain for companies lies not ahead but lies after or underneath. After once gained access the citizen or the consumer is persuaded to stay a little longer, download other software, call more for less, get more information, play another game (a webisode maybe at a higher level) In the case of America's Army the underlying thought could be to bridge the gap between the army and the citizen by virtual training. And when one is fully virtual trained the difference between the virtual and the real isn't so great anymore, so why not step it up to the next level and become a real soldier. Within this process interaction is build between the citizen and the commercial corporation. Information is being obtained and transferred. The citizen is persuaded to become a consumer, which sees products and the message they bring, as it's interactive communication partner. The real company and producers behind the products who construct the messages however are hidden. The consumer will never really communicate with the company itself but only with the products and messages they send.
The exception is America's Army because it communicates itself as a company in which citizens can join. The aim is to let the gamers themselves join the company as an employee and be the producers within of the message the army sends. One of the aims of advergames is to construct a process of viral marketing, but this is done unlike the propagame. The advergame aims that consumers virally communicate about the game or the message it beholds for the purpose of spreading the word, but not to become one with the company itself. DaimlerChrysler for example wouldn't make a game in which one is being trained to become the director of a car factory (this would create competition). Not yet (emphasised), but maybe in the future it will when one seeks for employees.
First contact or first access will, in the perspective of commercial enterprises, not be a smart place to tighten the doorways. In the contrary, the easier a citizen can get access, the better first contact can be made for a process of interaction and persuasion. This doesn't mean however that when interaction becomes more intense access doesn't cost anymore. The real access isn't really at the gates but it's further down the road. The further one drives the more exclusive products become.

MOVES works with several companies to create America's Army. DaimlerChrysler cooperates with Sony and Microsoft to create advergames. These alliances between media and communication companies and different product companies are very important to keep in mind. The products being sold are for example not only cars, food or jobs, but they can also be communication value, referring to time, space (for example web space) and content used or rented for communication. Media and communication companies are selling communication value. Other companies are very interested in buying some of this communication value, in order to interact with citizens. Alliances are thus being forged for gain.

When it comes to America's Army as a propagame and advergames in general, questions could be raised about the assumption that "The power center of America…has moved from its role as military industrial giant to a new supremacy as the world's entertainment information superpower."( Rifkin, 2000) Although it's obvious that a lot of emphasis these days lies at the entertainment and information industry, underneath it is still a marketing tool. Used as a marketing tool to sell or communicate messages and persuade customers buying more products at the end of the line. The entertainment and information industry are thus communicating messages but also hiding the real producers of products. Advergames in fact seem to be the seduction incorporated and can be described as a virtual interactive panopticon.
For Mark Poster the world of consumer surveillance amounts to a superpanopticon: "The panoptice now has no technical limitations. The technology of power does two things. It imposes a norm, disciplining its subjects to participate by filling in forms, giving social insurance numbers, or using credit cards. But it also helps to constitute complementary selves for those subjects, the sum, as it were, of their transactions."( Lyon, 1994)
While participation from the gamer is still needed in order to set this advergame panopticon in motion, when one looks ahead at the development of games and advergames in general, participation could be something wanted and maybe needed. In Foucauldian terms this could be called a self-disciplining society.

America's Army is as mentioned earlier the exception of the advergame. It's state funded with taxpayer's money in order to recruit new soldiers. I thus called it a propagame: a game that propagandises a message to become the message. Within the game, gamers are disciplined and the power structures are like the common army power structure: top down hierarchical. This same type of power structure is also constructed by and within advergames. Not at glance maybe when one plays the game in a so-called non-linear and non-hierarchical way. Further down the road however, when one wants to play the webisode, play at a higher level or get recognition (recognition is maybe a topic worthwhile investigating concerning games) by entering the scores or results, one steps or gets seduced into a hierarchical power structure. The only way up is to buy or give more information.

Further more: "The neat theoretical distinctions - between government and commerce, between collecting data and supervising - do begin to blur when confronted with the realities of contemporary electronic surveillance. Increasingly, disciplinary networks do connect employment with civil status, or consumption with policing. The worker could once leave the capitalistic enterprise behind at the factory gates. Now it follows him home as a consumer." ( Lyon, 1994)

America's Army and US army marketing in general shows very nicely how distinctions between government and commerce can blur (, the US army also sponsors a racing car driver) It also shows how the tremendous force of commercialisation will always find it's way to the consumer, even in there private sphere. As nowadays the living space is becoming more and more intertwined with new media, both at work and at home, commerce will follow one way or another to get attention.

Escape from America's Army or fighting bugs at planet P?

My investigation led me to belief that advergames and the propagame America's Army aim not to exclude. The key words are interaction and participation and these goals can only be met when one is included. The main aim is to include. How much one is included remains to be seen. America's Army "operations" is a very muscular game, which will address men or boys more, then it will attract woman. But pretty soon Americas Army's Simgame "Soldiers" will be freely downloadable with the aim to include the female population.

When one looks at media as a whole, the new media apparatuses and access software are being constructed or maybe construed upon citizens as an interface to consume. First access, as I mentioned before, will not be the smartest place to tighten the doorways. The real access will not be at the gates (the access to internet or the access to a mobile phone) but will be further down the road. When one has entered, the citizen can become a customer, thus interesting for organisations. Further down the road, when citizens have engaged themselves with several messages, a company can make profit. Interaction as a means to tempt the citizen to become a consumer. The more interaction can be created, the more the citizen can be tempted to consume.

Thus raises the paradoxical questions: do we want to be included in this type of interaction? Can we choose not to participate? Which other options of participation is available?

Although Internet remains to be a very open space, and one can choose to participate in other discourses then games, persuasion awaits and will take on different interactive forms than the well-known product placements or Banner ads. Advergames are the commercial type, but America's Army shows what a propaganda type can do. Other governmental or institutional propagames can soon follow (the US navy is working on it's own version of America's Army).

When one is confronted with these types of persuasions into interaction, basic civil right might be important to emphasis. Important civil rights ( Marshall, 1950) for individual freedom are for example: the liberty of the person; the freedom of speech, thought and faith; the right to own property; the right to conclude contracts and right to justice. Although all of these rights can be obtained, commercial persuasion can become an obstacle undermining these civil rights. Especially when the commercial persuasion occurs in-home. In which way is liberty of the person or the right of speech, thought and faith guaranteed? Or persuaded to be otherwise? How can one make a clear decision when one has entered an adver- or propagame (if identified as such), not to go all the way? Games are off course fun, but they are also highly addictive. When propaganda then is also used to persuade citizens in-home, how can one make a clear distinction between the civil society and commercial interests?

Futuristic questions which could be raised: Will the future be like Starship Troopers ()? In this vision of the future one can earn its citizenship by becoming a Starship Trooper. Fighting bugs on planet P. isn't so far from fighting virtual terrorists in America's Army. Then again, maybe P. could stand for Persuasion. Another question: Could this be the future of network society? Will the police in the Netherlands sponsor the national soccer team in the future with the main message: teamwork: one for all, all for one? As I stated earlier a futuristic approach isn't always the wrong way to deal with the subject, it can lead to very interesting hypotheses.


  1. Sassen, S. 'Digital Networks and Power', in: M. Featherstone and S. Lash, Spaces of Culture; City, Nation. World (London: Sage Publications, 1999) pp 49-62
  2. Rifkin, J. 'The connected and the disconnected', in: The Age of Access. How the shift from ownership to access is transforming capitalism. (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguinbooks, 2000)
  3. Lyon, D. 'From Big Brother to the electric Panopticon', in: The Electronic Eye; The Rise of Surveillance Society (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1994)
  4. Marshall, T.H., 'Citizenship and Social Class' in: T.H. Marshall & Tom Bottomore, Citizenship and Social Class (London: Pluto Press, 1992, originally published 1950)

Other sources

  • Advergames in general
    • Bloomberg News, 'Chrysler, Kraft, Nokia Try to Add Sales With Computer-Game Ads', visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
      • Slashdot, Comments on Bloomberg News article, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Edwards, E., 'Plug (the Product) and Play', in: Washington Post, Januari 26th, 2003, visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
    • Business Wire, Changing the Face of Online Advertising Forever: Virtualgiveaway's Advergames Are Now Able to Run Inside The New Larger Iab Interactive Marketing Units, visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
    • Wendland, Video games draw buyers to automakers' Web sites, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Red I Studios, Advergames, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Leviathangames, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Companies/sites with advergames (use search option to find the games)
    • Pepsi, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • DaimlerChrysler, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Online Games Spelen, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Games.pagina.nl, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Games demographics and statistics
    • Game Research, Statistics, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • GameMarketWatch.com, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Simgames
    • SimCity, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • The Sims, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Advergames and America's Army, press releases
    • Hodes and E. Ruby-Sachs, J., 'America's Army' Targets Youth, The Nation, August 23rd, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
    • Guardian, Army To Release Computer Game, July 2nd, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • New Orleans Times Picayune, Army recruiting tool has UNO connection, July 2nd, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Kennedy, B., Uncle Sam Wants You to Play This Game, New York Times, July 11th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Berkowitz, B., U.S. Military Makes Game Of Recruitment, TomPaine.com, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Vance, R., Playing Soldier, AbcNews.com, July 26th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Chris, D., America's Army: The Latest Front in the Battle for Hearts and Minds, COMD, visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
    • Stuteville, S., GI Joe goes digital, Asheville Global Report, December 5th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Horiutchi, V., Army Fires Up Video Games For Recruiting, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 16th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • BondGraham, D., America's Army, The Berkeley Mic, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Barber, J., A Trip To Virtual Boot Camp - America's Army Review, We Ain't Cool, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Berkowitz, B., Recruiting the 'New Army' Videogame aims at enticing computer-savvy enlistees, Oakland News, August 6th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Game sites or related and America's Army
    • Gigex.com, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • 3D Gamers, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Shakefire, Review of America's Army, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Igames, The U.S. Army to Partner with iGames for America's Army: Operations Tournament, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • U.S. Army sites
    • Go Army, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • America's Army, visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
  • Related U.S. Army sites
    • Congress Approves Funding for U.S. Army School of the Americas, DefenseLink News, February 2nd, 1998, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • The Moves Institute, visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
    • USC and U.S. Army To Sigh $45 Million Contract to Develop Modeling & Simulation Technologies, Augustus 17th, 1999, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Institute of Creative Technologies, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Companies working with America's Army
    • GameSpy Industries, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Nvidia, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Dolby, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • HomeLAN, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • THX, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Lucas Digital Ltd., visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Articles about recruitment for the US army
    • Rochelle, C., Army asks private sector to supply recruits, CNN, June 5th, 2000, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Strozniak, P., Military Approach, Industryweek, July 16th, 2000, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • Propaganda and techniques
    • Propaganda techniques, visited April 7th, 2003,
  • US Defense budget
    • Vanhoutte, P., Zijn de VS ons voorbeeld?, De Standaard Online, June 18th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Lobe, J., PNAC: "VS geven te weinig uit aan defensie", De Waarheid Nu, April 7th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • U.S. Defense Budget, visited April 7th, 2003, (*)
  • Other Links
    • Yaya expands roster with Ringel, January 8th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Crace, J., War game, July 9th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Benner, J., The Army Is Watching Your Kid, Wired News, January 29th, 2001, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Syria launches Arabs' first video game, on Intifada, February 23th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Army turns to Hollywood for advice, BBC News, October 8th, 2001, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Trotsky, L., A Contribution To The Question Of Military Propaganda, 1921, visited April 7th, 2003,
    • Starship Troopers, visited April 7th, 2003,
© 2003
Sean Storey, Justin Beck, Ruud Oud, Jeroen Steeman
Utrecht University