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Texas, Video Games and the Military-Entertainment Complex

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Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about the military-industrial complex and it’s influence. Here, some 52 years later, the nation has a new, powerful influencer: what author Corey Mead calls the “military-entertainment complex”.

The phrase draws from WWII propaganda films, but presently “refers to the link between the military and video game industry,” Mead says. He's the author of "War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict." Listen to his interview with KUT's David Brown below:

At the University of Wisconsin, Mead founded a group that looked at video games as  the “new literacy.”

“Even if people look at [video games] and see the violence of a first-person shooter, they’re not easy to play,” Mead says. “Why will kids spend 60 hours playing this very difficult game … but won’t spend 5 minutes reading a book?”

Mass standardized testing, long distance learning, and adult education have emerged and evolved through the military. Mead said the military has funded education technology for about five decades, from AV equipment to video games as learning tools.

“It’s military seed money that has made that happen,” Mead says. “So, if now the military has been a head of education [and] adapting video games for learning, we can see that [money] filtering down.”

In practice, the military uses games that are a couple years behind the latest titles to train soldiers. Infantrymen in Afghanistan return after a day’s work and input enemy tactics based on encounters.

One particularly advanced training center is Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas. Mead says they engage in simulated but sense-encompassing battle training, using virtual reality goggles, TVs, and weapons.

Soldiers, seen as diplomats and cultural communicators, aren’t solely preparing for combat. Mead also said there are games for treating PTSD and reintegrating into civilian life. Some teach language and cultural cues to foster diplomatic resolutions.

“Politics tend to go out the window for game makers when it comes to anything involving the games they actually make,” Mead says. “They don’t think about consequences, it’s merely the economics of each game.”

David entered radio journalism thanks to a love of storytelling, an obsession with news, and a desire to keep his hair long and play in rock bands. An inveterate political junkie with a passion for pop culture and the romance of radio, David has reported from bases in Washington, London, Los Angeles, and Boston for Monitor Radio and for NPR, and has anchored in-depth public radio documentaries from India, Brazil, and points across the United States and Europe. He is, perhaps, known most widely for his work as host of public radio's Marketplace. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to Texas full-time in 2005, Brown joined the staff of KUT, launching the award-winning cultural journalism unit "Texas Music Matters."