That’s right, Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater family of private military companies, has entered the video game market with a first-person shooter named after the company that made “war on the Pentagon” a highly profitable business.
Now, I’ve never been big on the console games, so when CNN informs me the game is “designed exclusively for Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360,” I have almost no idea what they’re talking about. But when I hear that it was developed by Zombie Studios in concert with Prince, “a former Navy SEAL,” I do not squee so much as roll my eyes.
Once again we are subjected to the mythology of “Erk Prince, former Navy SEAL.” Prince was in the Navy for three years total, from 1992 until he left service after his father’s death in 1995. Some sources say he was a SEAL until 1996, but I believe that’s only technically correct, since I believe he asked for compassionate discharge after his father’s untimely passing. During that time, he “deployed with SEAL Team 8 to Haiti, the Middle East, and the Balkans,” so yes, he’s been in combat zones. But he’s not Audie Murphy.
He is, however, a grizzled war-weary veteran highly-paid junkets wherein he forms private armies for the likes of the UAE.
My point? Once a SEAL, always a SEAL, sure. But I was a burger-flipper when I was 15 years old. If I wrote a hamburger cookbook, would CNN suck my dick about it?
One thing’s for sure: if you want an experienced military bad-ass, just look at Tom Clancy. He never seems to have wanted to write books to begin with, and as soon as he could manage it, he turned that shit over to a team of lawyers. Similarly, his involvement with the video game industry is downright hostile to the very idea of individual creativity.
Now that Prince has joined Clancy in the point-and-shoot world, will Erik Prince, like Clancy, license his name to create fourth-rate knockoffs of his principle product — in Clancy’s case, military thrillers, in Prince’s case, soul-sucking mercenary outfits? Only time will tell.
Please don’t read my open contempt for Prince as generalized anti-military sentiment, which I do not hold. On the contrary, I believe that groups like Prince’s sap both the dignity and the funds of the realsoldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines — who, if you’ll recall, are public employees, something Prince’s chief patron Donald Rumsfeld openly despises. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney’s philosophy of “hollow government” — a government that has no infrastructure of its own, but jobs everything out to private companies, including military actions — was the chief policy allowing Prince to obtain the valuable government contracts that grew Blackwater from a bunch of Bubbas into a well-equipped force of overpaid war dogs,. Prince, like his cronies in the Bush administration, sought to manipulate and warp public opinion in order to dismantle the federal government for the sole purpose of siphoning off taxpayer funds into private coffers and turning the United States from a democracy into a plutocracy. Hooray for America!
But I digress! Bitching now about CNN getting on the “Erik Prince, Former Navy SealTM bandwagon, which they and everyone have been on since Blackwater first hit the headlines, is like complaining about Prince’s Wikipedia page having been obviously revised, re-revised and re-re-re-revised by his butt-tonguing acolytes until it reads like a fan bio of Ricky Martin. (“Prince enjoyed his time as a SEAL.” How nice for him.)
Anyway…Prince, like the U.S. military, has turned his propaganda engine to modern matters, providing up-to-the-minute zombie-slaying for the anti-Islamic counter-Jihad that the self-described “Libertarian” entrepreneur and his apocalypticist cronies seem so intent on pursuing:
The shooter is set in a fictional North African town overrun by warlords and opposing militia forces. Players enter the fray as team members of Blackwater, the mercenaries-for-hire company that Prince founded in 1997.
Featuring licensed real-world weapons, the game can be played with a traditional controller. But it has been crafted to take advantage of Kinect’s motion controls. Gamers will be able to aim, crouch, and interact with the on-screen action using only body gestures and moves to take out enemies through a series of action-packed missions.
The game has already courted controversy, since Blackwater employees were linked to the deaths of numerous noncombatants and civilians in the Middle East while employed by the U.S. government.
Critics have complained about the game because Blackwater employees take on missions for money, while U.S. soldiers, the focal point of games like “Modern Warfare 3” and “Battlefield 3,” fight for their country.
Nonetheless, you’ve just gotta love whoever managed to slip this ringer in:
Although the game was created with the aid of former Blackwater employees, the gameplay does not put players in situations where civilians or noncombatants are targets.
Prince’s interview with CNN is filled with the sucking sounds of Erik (or, more likely, his private cadre of well-armed publicists) kissing his own ass and everyone else’s, like so:
My father was a brilliant inventor and businessman. He taught me to appreciate the opportunities that America offers to innovators. Working with the brilliant creators in this industry was a logical progression for me…
…The popularity of simulation military shooters today is really no different from the popularity of playing soldier or cops-and-robbers when we were kids. Take timeless themes of courage, good vs. evil and war, and add today’s technology and you get a very popular genre…
Training for any difficult job is essential. Combat being the most difficult, it’s the same reason the Navy started the Top Gun program during Vietnam, because they were losing way too many new pilots during air combat. Top Gun, by giving pilots realistic experiences simulating combat, drastically improved their performance and survivability. With video game simulations, DOD is providing many of the same sights/sounds and system overloading experiences to soldiers before they encounter a real firefight so they are prepared to make good decisions in the middle of all that stress.
Even more interesting to me is the fact that with increasing frequency, First World wars are fought by remote-controlled robots, not by humans getting up close and personal. The more of the wetwork that drones do, the more important videogames like Prince’s are going to be in training the next generation of American (and British, and French, and NATO, and Brazilian, and Israeli, and Russian) combatants. By all accounts, flying a combat drone is very much like playing a video game — albeit, one of the more-technical, less-exciting ones. But, of course, even the most exciting video game doesn’t carry Hellfire missiles.
Interestingly, I am given to understand that drones aren’t just remote control; they have a certain amount of onboard AI determining their actions, because the transit time for signals is too long to trust a drone pilot’s reflexes to compensate for every eventuality. I’m not implying weapons use falls to AIs — but how long can it be?
Right now, it’s mostly close-in air missions that rely on remotely-operated vehicles like drones. But defusing bombs and mines are often turned over to robots. It can’t be all that long before the kind of “training opportunities” the likes of Erik Prince and Tom Clancy see in video games are pretty much all there is to combat, most of the time…if you’re on the “right” side. For the “insurgents,” aka “freedom fighters,” aka “rebels,” aka “terrorists,” aka “civilians” — what group any given person falls into depends on who’s talking, and who they’re talking to — it will still be, and will always remain, another story entirely.