What business should a popular video game news and review site have commenting on the Arab-Israel conflict?
I would have thought none – stick to the video game news and reviews – but it seems that popular site Kotaku (launched as part of the Gawker Media network) did not get the memo.
Israel is currently testing a new armored vehicle prototype that uses a wide array of modern technology, most notably an Xbox controller that allows soldiers to perform combat functions as if they were playing a video game.
According to The Washington Post, the tank was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which employed the feedback of both active Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers and teenage civilians to develop a system familiar to younger generations. In addition to the Xbox controller, the prototype also features large tablets for displaying information that would be common in any modern first-person shooter, like a map, ammo supplies, and available weaponry.
Kotaku contacted Microsoft for comment but did not hear back before publication.
The only open conflict in which Israel currently finds itself is against the people of Palestine, many of whom are essentially confined to regions run like open-air prisons. They cannot travel freely. They are second-class citizens. Their protests against these conditions are met with overwhelming aggression by the IDF, which even targets children and medics while violently shutting down dissent. When global organizations like the United Nations take steps to curtail Israel’s human rights abuses, the United States is quick to step in and block them.
That’s all to say that we shouldn’t be making it easier or more comfortable to kill someone. The more we make war like Call of Duty, the more removed humans will be from the act of killing. The monitors and controllers that fill these vehicles serve as much as a barrier between the user and the people outside as the vehicles’ armor does. In the Carmel tank, we see the perfect encapsulation of concerns brought up during previous integrations of gaming technology with military equipment: weaponizing the inherent desensitization of video games to turn young men and women into more capable and efficient killers.
As weapons of war have become more sophisticated, so too have the ways in which world governments shield soldiers from the psychological reality of taking another human life. By combining this remove with the familiarity of a video game controller, armies are turning a hobby we love into a de facto training exercise, getting younger generations ready to mow down children or fight in the next world war. We should not be inured to this; we should be horrified.
Among the lies of this piece: Israel is engaged in war against “the people of Palestine” (leaving aside the fact there is no Palestine, but rather palestinian-controlled territories, the IDF fights actual terrorists attempting to harm Israeli civilians); the palestinian Arabs are confined to regions run like open-air prisons (another discredited lie); they are second-class citizens (palestinians are not Israeli citizens for a start, and if he means Arab-Israelis, he is way off base there too – they have full rights); and their protests “against these conditions are met with overwhelming aggression by the IDF, which even targets children and medics while violently shutting down dissent” (also not the truth).
The goal of the piece is to paint Israel out to be a war machine targeting innocent men, women and children. And besides the outright lies in his piece, Kotaku contributor Ian Walker performs a sleight of hand to try accomplish this: he omits a critical part of The Washington Post when citing their report:
Critics of the intersection of gaming and war have pointed to the potential desensitizing effect that games could introduce to an arena with lethal consequences. Seeking to fight potential blurring between video games and real life war, Shabtai’s team opted against a virtual reality system with goggles and for an interface that requires a shared sense of reality with other people.
“When you’re dealing with the battle arena itself, you can’t be alone,” Shabtai said. “You’re not fighting in an aircraft, you’re on the ground, with other forces and another team member, everything needs to be connected.” The AI system also integrates weapon selections based on myriad circumstances, he said, giving the example that it would not present the operator with a missile option to respond to a single enemy shooting a rifle from a populated area.
Fancy that – these “trigger-happy terrorists” are actively fighting the very desensitization Walker claims to be worried about. Not only that, but they have implemented tech to minimize civilian casualties.
The only desensitization going on here is that of Walker to the plight of the Jews living in Israel. Given the dishonesty of his piece, I assume he couldn’t care less about our lives.