A new book unfolds how the “military-entertainment complex” entices soldiers to war and treats them when they return.
Beginning in 1960 and ending in the 1990s, “the armed forces took the lead in financing, sponsoring, and inventing the specific technology used in video games.” Spacewar!, the title historians consider the first video game, was developed by graduate students at MIT who were funded by the Pentagon. As Mead tells us, the 1962 side project was made on a Programmed Data Processor-1, an early microcomputer. The PDP-1’s manufacturer didn’t have a faux space-battle program in mind—one in which “two players used switches and knobs to maneuver spaceships through the gravity field of a star while firing missiles at each other”—when the hardware was designed, surely. But SpaceWar! gave birth to the navigational controls and monitor-as-sight set-up that would influence all subsequent games.
With the help of clinicians in controlled settings, soldiers are able to confront traumatic memories in a process called exposure therapy.
Later, the original first-person perspectives of 1980’s Battlezone and its successor, 1993’s Doom, showed the potential for 3-D piloting, multiplayer networking, and virtual reality-based training. Through commercial gaming technology, the armed forces could adapt soldiers to the tactics of team fighting and trigger-fast decision making, or conjure tailor-made battle environments for them.
The arrangement has synergy: The Pentagon avoids pitiful, expensive efforts to create their own training simulators, and developers get fat government checks. The symbiosis flourished after the Cold War, as budgetary constraints—the lead unnamed character in this book—privileged tactical games over costly field exercises. But 21st-century warfare and the young people who volunteer for it were changing too.
full story: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/playing-war-how-the-military-uses-video-games/280486/
America has money for war both real and simulated, but not for food stamps, subsidised health or education.