Toy soldiers looks at military-themed computer games:
So why is the US computer games industry, as compared to, say, music, movies or television, so explicitly gung-ho?
Partly it is the lure of ‘problem-solving’ projects for a class of digital expert. They are so compelled by the challenges that they bracket out any distracting context, often involving wider ethical or political questions. Steven Johnson’s recent book Everything Bad Is Good For You made a case for the cognitive benefits of computer games. Though the content may be violent, the mental gymnastics involved in negotiating these complex worlds had to be recognised, and not demonised, he argued.
What’s intriguing is that this is exactly what senior military games people such as Jeff Wilkinson, a program manager at the US army’s Simulation & Training Technology Center, want. In return for their investment, they want a higher level of cognitive performance. ‘We are frequently looking for ‘first-person thinker’ environments and not ‘first-person shooter’ environments,’ says Wilkinson. ‘This provides a significant opportunity for gamemakers to focus their resources in new ways.’ He says the benefits of investment will accrue mostly to education, not entertainment.