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Sunday, 10 November, 2002, 17:54 GMT
US Army video game draws flak
Boy playing computer game
Some people are worried the game is freely available

A computer game devised by the US Army has come under fire from parents anxious that it glorifies violence.

The army hopes that the game, America's Army, will help it to attract the tens of thousands of young people it needs to join its ranks each year.


Some of my son's class-mates train obsessively on these shooter games

Parent Jack Thompson
The game allows players to go through a virtual army enlistment and basic training.

More controversially, they then go on to more advanced training, including marksmanship.

The shooting part of the game is so realistic, the computer screen even moves in time to the digital soldiers' heavy breathing.

Obsessive trend

That is bothering parents like Jack Thompson.

He is threatening to sue the army if it does not keep the game away from children.

"I'm the father of a 10-year old boy," says Jack Thompson.

"Every day I drop him off at school I know that he's at greater risk because even some of his classmates as well as others in the general population, train obsessively on these shooter games."

Soldiers in video game
Not just another violent video, the army says
And, for many parents, these virtual images of marksmanship are too close to reality for comfort so soon after the terror spread by the recent Washington sniper shootings.

The game has been played more than 24 million times since it was introduced in July. It's the fact that it's so freely available that's worrying some people.

But the army insists it is not just another shoot-em-up video game that glorifies violence.

Not sniper training

According to the army, the game is about all its values, including discipline, players who misbehave or shoot somebody they are not supposed to, get kicked out or end up in virtual military prison.

This is not, the army insists, virtual sniper training.

"The correlation between the ability to manipulate a mouse and the ability to actually fire accurately on a range is quite a bit distinct, otherwise we would not have real soldiers training at real ranges as part of basic training", says Paul Boyce from US Army Public Affairs.

And whatever the flak it is attracted over this game, the key for the army is whether a taste of computerised soldiering will persuade more youngsters to try it for real.

See also:

17 Oct 02 | Americas
17 Aug 02 | Technology
24 Jan 02 | Americas
16 Jul 02 | New Media
20 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
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