U.S. Army Unveils Branded Peripherals for Video Games

Line between real and fake combat blurs further

Opening a new front in the battle for recruits and the war of public opinion, the U.S. Army has entered the gaming peripherals business. The Army is supporting popular Call of Duty titles like Modern Warfare 3, among others, with branded, ultra-realistic sniper and assault-rifle controllers and headsets. There's even a backpack so players can lug their consoles through combat zones—or more accurately, through their suburban backyards. The technology, unveiled this week at CES, is powered by CTA Digital, whose CEO Sol Markowitz says, "We're proud and honored that the Army chose to work with us. We're looking forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership." Former Army paratrooper and author D.B. Grady, who recently blasted MW3's ad campaign, took aim at the peripherals move, telling AdFreak, "There is something vulgar about the Army dropping all pretense and stamping its logo on [gaming accessories]. I can't think of a single redeeming aspect to these products, and have to believe them to be some kind of elaborate practical joke. Otherwise even the most cynical of military critics will in some way be proven right." The service branch drew fire a decade ago for its first-person-shooter game America's Army, and more recently for placing high-tech "Experience Centers" in malls. While controversial, those initiatives were transparent as recruiting and PR tools. This CTA effort, by fusing "real" Army gear with name-brand, mainstream digital gaming, further blurs the line between painless, faux-violent play and the bloody business of real warfare. By extension, does it equate the sacrifice of our fighting men and women with the effects-driven scenarios of gameplay? Judging from the initial outcry, the Army will absorb plenty of flak from this particular maneuver.