America’s Digital Army: Games at Work and War

By Robertson Allen

“A rigorous and fascinating glimpse of what is more than just one online game. America’s Digital Army opens up crucial issues about the conflation of war and work, play and drill, pleasure and simulation, as well as the labor involved in the production of the militarized, fear-ridden cultural politics of the contemporary United States.”—Jussi Parikka, professor of technological culture and aesthetics at the University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art

“A compelling account and a critical assessment of a gaming reality and the militarization of society; a groundbreaking ethnography deciphering the illusory separation between the real and the fictional, and the fun and the dead-serious.”—Sverker Finnström, coeditor of Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing

America’s Digital Army is an ethnographic study of the link between interactive entertainment and military power, drawing on Robertson Allen’s fieldwork observing video game developers, military strategists, U.S. Army marketing agencies, and an array of defense contracting companies that worked to produce the official U.S. Army video game, America’s Army. Allen uncovers the methods by which gaming technologies such as America’s Army, with military funding and themes, engage in a militarization of American society that constructs everyone, even nonplayers of games, as virtual soldiers available for deployment.

America’s Digital Army examines the army’s desire for “talented” soldiers capable of high-tech work; beliefs about America’s enemies as reflected in the game’s virtual combatants; tensions over best practices in military recruiting; and the sometimes overlapping cultures of gamers, game developers, and soldiers.

Allen reveals how binary categorizations such as soldier versus civilian, war versus game, work versus play, and virtual versus real become blurred—if not broken down entirely—through games and interactive media that reflect the U.S. military’s ludic imagination of future wars, enemies, and soldiers.

Robertson Allen is an independent scholar and ethnographer who researches digital games, war and violence, and food cultures.

University of Nebraska Press | Anthropology of Contemporary North America | July 2017 | 228pp | 18 photographs, 1 glossary, index | 9781496201911 | Paperback | £24.99*

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