Somewhere Between Predator Drones And Battlefield Have We Lost Sight Of The Horrors Of War?

Somewhere Between Predator Drones And Battlefield Have We Lost Sight Of The Horrors Of War?
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Predator drones and other high-tech weaponry are turning war into video games and making the use of military force a more, perhaps too, palatable option, an Al Jazeera op-ed piece argues.

In The Virtue-less war of the ‘Nintendo bomber’, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a Glasgow-based sociologist and the co-editor of, writes that clinicalising war with the sorts of high-tech weaponry that potentially reduces both the civilian casualties of war and its horrors, people may become more likely to start a war. It is an interesting, albeit very opinionated, piece about the history of war and how leaps in technology may have led to a more willingly war-like society.

But what really caught my interest was Ahmad’s take on video games and the role he thinks they play in this whole issue. Before dipping off into an anti-American fuelled political rant, Ahmad raises a very compelling concern about the increasing popularity of war video games and predator drones.

“Armies worldwide have used ‘basic training’ to wear down recruits’ resistance to killing,” Ahmad writes. “In recent years, there has been much concern that first-person-shooter type computer games are having the same effect, making youth more prone to violence. The virtual reality of the gaming world lets them forget that those on the receiving end are actually human beings just like themselves.

With the advent of the robotics revolution, war itself has become a first-person-shooter. A youth manning the console of a Predator drone from the safety of an air-conditioned compound thousands of miles from the battle-scene can kill with the same degree of unconcern which a computer game demands.”

It’s a frightening notion that as the technology of war races to become more, I hate to say it, casual, and video games about war becomes more complex, that the two might some day soon meet in the middle.

The Virtue-less war of the ‘Nintendo bomber’ [Aljazeera]


  • And then what? Wars will be fought entirely with remote controlled robots, with no loss of human life? What a horrible thought

    • You mean: and then wars will be fought by 2 armies of controlled robots stomping the village of the poor buggers that happen to be on their way, occasionally blowing them up if they happen to carry a baguette that looks like a weapon, etc.

    • You neglect the fact that although a war might not result in a direct loss of life there are longer lasting consequences, destroyed infrastructure and scorched land can lead to famine and disease epidemics, people being displaced from their homes and an increase in refugees, areas becoming irradiated and water supplies poisoned, there are still a staggering number of children being born near Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Leukemia and other early onset cancers.

      Even if wars are fought only with remote machines the fall out for the common people can still be catastrophic.

  • Wrong.

    I laugh along with friends at games because they’re entertainment. But when I’ve youtubed actual combat footage, or witnessed it on the news I’ve been deeply moved by it. Moved by great compassion, concern, and frustration at humanity in general for we have not yet learn to get passed petty differences to just get along with one another.

    I’m sorry that some people don’t have the emotional maturity to understand the difference, or perhaps its just that they lack the experience to have tried them both on some level. Ignorance has always bread hatred, that’s not a modern problem but one as old as the human condition itself.

    • Indeed, I am interested to see what the arguments and opinions are like in 30 years when our generation are the ones writing the papers and calling the shots.
      Will those who have grown up with games say the same things?
      But I am sure by that point there will be some other new facet of society that we will blame for all the worlds evils while the young people listen and say: WTF gramps?

    • +1 dude. I’ve played some horribly violent games and laughed but seeing actual footage from drones and helicopters, even though what I’m seeing is less violent looking than a game, still shocks me.

      I think it was the designer of AvP who said despite the game being intensely gruesome, he’s actually a placid man and I agree.

  • Wow, what a load of BS.
    I thought we had already determined that there was no causal link between games and violence… hadn’t we???
    We know Aljazeera is anti american/western countries, I don’t even, i mean wtf.

    • Uh, no. aljazeera isn’t an anti-western network, just the ‘local’ news network that keeps getting shit sent to them by terrorist groups. Just ’cause our news reports keep stating “the latest footage sent to aljazeera” does not automatically mean that the network supports terrorism.

      On topic, I wouldn’t agree that people with high-tech would kill just as unemotionally as if they were playing a video game, but on the other hand it’s hard to disagree that advancements in ranged weaponry hasn’t also brought with it an increased ‘disconnect’ between cause-and-effect for the operator – this has been a debate that has been raging for years in aviation circles, simply because most airborne weapon systems involve the “looking at the small dot on the screen” type of fighting that this article focuses on. There is a BIG difference between a soldier who has to keep looking down his sights after the trigger pull to see if he hit that other soldier, and an aviator who looks to see if that building-shaped object disappears into a fireball. It’s not a coincidence that AC-130 gunners call their job “the world’s greatest video game”

  • Drones are only as accurate as the intelligence used to direct them. What if that intelligence claims there are WMD’s in Iraq? Robot aircraft will kill someone over a lie just as readily as human piloted aircraft. But it’s more insidious than that. There’s no domestic pressure to restrict anonymous ‘death from above’ because no human pilots are at risk. You only have to look at the UAV attacks on civilians in Pakistan to see that we have met the terrorists and they are us. Moreover, Micro UAV Drones are already in use over American and UK skies by police departments. How long before they are armed? How long before they are fully automated as in the nightmare ‘Skynet’ scenario presented in Terminator? Will we let our love of technology be the nail in our coffin?

  • I have to say I share the same fears. Maybe not for now, but future generations. It’s not that games are desensitising people, but constant exposure is; games just happen to be the current medium.

    But this focus on war, violence and killing could become the norm for children, as they grow, without any real appreciation for what they mean, much the same as you never truly understand what a burn is until you go and put your hand on a stove top.

    I think, at the very least, we need to stop the super solider crap. It glamourises the whole thing, and I worry that this will make people think going out and murdering anyone who tries to stop you breaking into foreign compounds is a good thing, or that getting filled with three times your body weight in bullets is something you walk off after a few seconds.

    It’s all very well to say “separate reality from fantasy”, but that’s has nothing to do with the question at hand; unless you know the differance, you can’t seperate the two.

    I want someone to make an ultra real shooter. You get hit, you die, or end up out of action, unable to do anything but crawl along and slowly bleed. Your squad buddy gets hit, he dies. Enemies will capture you, torture you and stick you in a cell for weeks. When you game-over, your my documents folder is deleted.

    we keep removing people from war, which is good, but I fear we’re also removing the value of war at the same time, and that’ll only lead to worse conflict.

    Alternatively, forced military service. Given the unemployed situation, probably wouldn’t be a bad thing, and having them doing anything in the war torn areas would serve as enough education to allow them to appreciate the senselessness that war ultimately is.

    • I agree with your sentiment entirely.

      A games similar to the ones you are talking about is the ARMA series. Unlike more popular (mainstream?) games it is one shot dead, legs shot crawl.

      To be honest the detachment that UAV and the like remove reasons for not going to war, as stated previously Pakistan is a fantastic ‘case study’ of this point. Those drones are not even being operated by the Military but the CIA…

  • Didn’t Star Trek comment on this, like, 40 years ago? The episode where two civilisations decided real war was wasteful so used a computer to calculate who would’ve died in an attack to determine who dies, and Kirk is all “you’ve taken the humanity out of war” and takes his shirt off and makes out with a hot alien babe. Possibly recalling it wrong.

    • No, no you remembered it quite accurately. haha

      One of my favorite episodes. The alien babe was particularly hot. ;-P

  • Quite liked the linked article, and agree with Seegrey and Commander Jao’s comments. The article itself’s link to video-game condemnation was at best spurious I thought, but had one thing I found interesting. I don’t do the online shooter thing ever, so I gotta ask, when you play CoD or Battlefield, online, is there a significant distinction between “the enemy soldiers”, as a signifier and avatar of an opposing human, or “the enemy” as “the enemy”?

    If it’s the latter, maybe that competitive edge which unintentionally or not de-humanises “the other” in the online sphere is somewhat of a cause for concern, relating back to Ahmad’s article.

    The article also reminded me of the post-modernist philosopher/intellectual Jean Baudrillard’s writing’s regarding hyper-reality and his assertion that the First Gulf War never occurred. Two things everyone who has even a hint of love for pop-culture should read.

  • People said the same thing when long-range firearms were introduced as well as guided missile technology. I don’t think it’s really increased the chances that someone is going to start a war, I think it just has increased the rate at which they can kill people when they *do* start a war.

    The human race has always waged war and has always killed each other for any and all number of reasons since before recorded history. ‘Better’ tools makes us more and more ‘efficient’ at it, but it’s not like suddenly people started wars they wouldn’t have started otherwise *just* because they had the tech laying around.

  • Theres a nonfiction book, “Wired for War”, exploring this very issue. (as well as providing some insights into the history and latest developments of robotics in warfare.)

    Go and borrow it from you local library 😉

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