A couple of years ago, we heard Joe Paterno had commissioned EA Sports to make changes to Madden NFL so his incoming freshmen could learn the Penn State <st1playbook.
Brilliant, we thought. After all, most kids play video games and what a great way to help them learn what you need to teach them.
But this is pushing it a bit far. Wired reported a story yesterday about a new video game purchased by the U.S. Army to use in recruiting. The game allows a new recruit to be in the heat of battle and provides confidence to do the same thing in real life.
Missions include planning and executing a night raid on a populated area, and protecting a border and an airstrip in a notional country having problems with its notional neighbor. The game provides terrain maps and data about the strength of the equipment.
The catch is you can’t lose. Which leads us to wonder if this is ethical and if it’s spin at its worse.
According to Wired, gamers on Battlefront give the title good reviews, but “complain about the game being paid for with their taxes.” They also feel it offers “an overly optimistic view of America’s tactical superiority over fictitious enemies.”
So I asked my brother-in-law, who served in Iraq, what he thought. He said, “The idea is to give a recruit the feeling for what it’s like to be in the Army. It’s to help them understand how to control the battlefield, not to understand how to die.”
Okay, we get that. But it’s the job of a PR professional to be worried about false perception. Do you think this can hurt the reputation of the game maker? What about the Army? We do.
With that, we agree what one blogger says:
The point is at the heart of what marketers and PR practitioners do, there is a fundamental difference. Each discipline views the world in its own way. Marketers train to complete transactions. PR practitioners train to explain accurately, protect reputation and complete transactions. Both should reach the same end point if they do their jobs right, but marketing wants to get there more quickly. Given the pressure the Army has to recruit, it will favor marketing’s approach more often.