Antiwar or Proterrorism?- Rita Raley

Rita Raley’s description of persuasive war games in Tactical Media raises inquiries regarding the extent to which a game can be considered persuasive and political or a threat to national security. She exemplifies antiwar games as a form or persuasive videogames that “advocate for social change” through procedural rhetoric (“they way that a videogame embodies ideology in its computational structure”) that indicates the limits and downfalls of war (Raley 85-86). For instance, the persuasive game September 12 demonstrates that aerial bombing creates more terrorists and enemies as innocent civilians are often killed in the process of eliminating terrorists; friends and family of the innocent victims then become terrorists to fight against those who wrongfully killed their loved ones (Raley 86-87). Due to the fact that the game cannot be won or lost, September 12 evokes a clear antiwar message by indicating that there is no positive end to war, yet more problems are created by engaging in warfare.

In contrast, games such as Battlefield 2 can be juxtaposed against antiwar games such as September 12 in the sense that Battlefield 2 “allows players to switch sides” and portrays the United States as the enemy (Raley 74). Several other controversial games allow players to learn about the various functions of operating aircrafts and eventually let players hijack airplanes (Raley 73).  These games, in contradiction to antiwar games, do not spread an antiwar message but one that is pro war from the point of view of the enemy. Raley indicates that games in which the player acts as the terrorist intend to portray “sympathy and identification” so that the player can identify and sympathize with the opposing party (Raley 78). While the intent of such games may be to evoke sympathy, Raley points out that “Representation, or in this case simulation, paves the way for real experience” (Raley 78). In other words, at what point does the simulation of terrorism become reality?

While persuasive videogames aim to evoke a powerful political message through the use of visual and procedural rhetoric, games in which the player acts as the enemy use procedural rhetoric in the sense that users are actually embodying the terrorists in order to sympathize with the character. However, this form of procedural rhetoric calls into question the extent to which players are sympathizing with the characters or actually thinking as the enemy. If players embody the enemy in thought and action, it poses a threat to our national security. These games seem not to spread a political message but the sympathy of terrorists appears to endorse, condone, and even promote terrorism. It is one thing to promote an antiwar message, yet when a videogame attempts to sympathize with the enemy, at what point is it considered a threat to America?