message is the game, or is it?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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.
- 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
- 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,
- Lyon, D. 'From Big Brother to
the electric Panopticon', in: The Electronic Eye; The
Rise of Surveillance Society (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT
- Marshall, T.H., 'Citizenship and Social
Class' in: T.H. Marshall & Tom Bottomore, Citizenship
and Social Class (London: Pluto Press, 1992, originally published
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With Computer-Game Ads', visited April 7th, 2003,
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New Larger Iab Interactive Marketing Units, visited April
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at enticing computer-savvy enlistees, Oakland News, August
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Army: Operations Tournament, visited April 7th, 2003,
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- Related U.S. Army sites
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DefenseLink News, February 2nd, 1998, visited April 7th, 2003,
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Modeling & Simulation Technologies, Augustus 17th, 1999,
visited April 7th, 2003,
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- Companies working with America's Army
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- Other Links
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April 7th, 2003,
- Crace, J., War game, July 9th, 2002, visited April 7th,
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29th, 2001, visited April 7th, 2003,
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23th, 2002, visited April 7th, 2003,
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2001, visited April 7th, 2003,
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Propaganda, 1921, visited April 7th, 2003,
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