I'll bet you think those Army ads that show young cadets zooming over impoverished nations in choppers and earning a degree at the same time are aggressive propaganda. And you probably think that game the Army made is just a cheap way for the military to suck in the bottom ten percent of High School graduates. Well, let me ask you this: If the armed forces weren’t so adept at roping in our youth, where the hell would we get our troop surges from? Huh, smart guy?!
Why do I bring this up? Well, turns out the British analogue to our CIA is now posting recruitment ads in the virtual world. Yes, the GCHQ, a government intelligence “organisation” (fucking Brits) has begun to advertise on digital billboards inside of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent.
Admittedly, ads recruiting web-savvy grad students to play spy is a far cry from the Army, but it’s only a matter of time before we’re seeing ads like these in…well, Far Cry. And from there, I’m expecting WoW servers to be overwhelmed with virtual recruiters within a few weeks.
Aside from the broad implications of in-game advertising—Master Chief chews Bubblicious? Who knew?!—I am sad to say I find one fundamental flaw in the logic behind this strategy, at least from the point of view of the armed forces. Namely, it assumes that gamers are the type of people who should be running long distances carrying live weapons.
Just because S3nator_B33r can consistently snipe people in the head at a hundred yards in Call of Duty 2, that doesn’t mean he can do the same in real life. In fact, all it really means is he is a spawn-camping dick. I also can’t shake the image of an Army recruit, after his first kill in Iraq, running over to a dead insurgent to squat repeatedly above his head. Your shields won’t withstand their rockets, frat boy.
The lesson here? The next time someone in a video game asks you to “undertake a valiant quest to safeguard the liberty of all peoples in this land,” just make sure you don’t sign anything. In the meantime, let us all rejoice at the thought that yet another sphere of our existence is about to be invaded by product placement and obnoxious ads.
I’m just hoping the industry’s got enough juice in it to resist succumbing completely. If not, look forward to rooting through your WWII-era pack to pull out a ration of delicious Chicken McNuggets or equipping your Red Mage with a staff of ReMax.