Guard games for recruits
An interactive video game expo hits Appalachian State University this weekend and, while students may enjoy shooting outlaws in Red Dead Redemption and trying for holes in one in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011, organizers admit to an ulterior motive behind the screens: Recruitment.
"We're in a collaborative effort with the National Guard," Interactive Game Experience's Sydney Greenblatt said.
The California-based company has been working with the National Guard across the country, using video games as a platform to reach college-aged men and women.
"We just completed a 14-campus tour in Florida," Greenblatt said. "The National Guard is looking for unique opportunities to talk to young people about the career and educational opportunities of the National Guard and, because we're an electronic gaming exhibit and we're on college campuses, it's a natural draw for students."
While many of the games are violent in nature, the violence isn't intended to equate with the Guard experience, organizers say.
"It's a relaxed and fun atmosphere to talk to students about the opportunities [the Guard] can offer, through college scholarships," Greenblatt said.
Using video games to recruit soldiers has, however, netted criticism nationwide, particularly in Philadelphia, where the U.S. Army Experience, a video game lounge intended to help Army recruiters connect with young people, has been accused of glamorizing the realities of war.
Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has repeatedly called a video game designed by the U.S. Army an inappropriate tactic.
Here in Watauga County, Joanna Weintraub of Mountain Peace Keepers took a break from Tuesday's Peace Day festivities to give her personal opinion on IGE's pending visit.
"People love video games, and when you're using it as a tactic ... then you're manipulating them," she said.
With games with titles like Modern Warfare, Weintraub feels organizers may be comparing real war to what's on the screen. "Once people sign up for the military, then there are all kinds of tactics... but video games shouldn't make the decision for them," she said.
Organizers insist the intention of the Experience is to showcase the career and educational opportunities available as young people "gather to play this year's latest video games."
More than 30 of today's electronic games will be featured, including Iron Man 2, Red Dead Redemption and Madden NFL 2011. The exhibit will include 17 game ports, featuring Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox game consoles. Gamers can also sign up to participate in three tournaments: UFC Undisputed 2010, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Halo: Reach. Prizes will be awarded to the winners.
The IGE exhibit happens Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Holmes Center, 111 River Street, and is also open to public gamers.