There couldn't have been a better time for this panel. Tuesday brought the eyebrow-arching news that Lt. Col Oliver North was a special guest celebrity consultant of the next Call of Duty. And Friday, former Kotaku editor-in-chief Brian Crecente was on a panel with a Navy captain at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Crecente, now the news editor of Polygon, used that as an entry to ask Capt Russell Shilling how he felt about "militainment" or the collision of military training simulators and commercialised entertainment such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty. If the video doesn't load directly to the point when the question is asked, it is at the 43:09 mark.
Shilling, consultant at the defence centres of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, advised on the America's Army video game that served as both a recruitment tool and a representation of an actual soldier's role and responsibility in combat. He speaks to the friction between the sometimes competing goals of game development and military training, but doesn't necessarily consider militainment to be a bad or a disrespectful thing, if I'm hearing his reply correctly.
However, "What I'd like to see from professional game community is what you don't see [now]; we don't see psychological health issues," Shilling notes. "Instead of bleeding to death, maybe we could see the effect of forces deploying too much. If we could get professional groups on that platform it would be a big help for us." It may help remove the stigma of seeking psychological help, he said.
Crecente notes last year's story in which the Red Cross pondered asking video game developers to follow international human rights law — the Geneva Convention, to use a more familiar term — in their games. Shilling says that America's Army carried penalties for killing civilians. "But [commercial developers] can make it more realistic, so it is a more thoughtful part of the game," he said. "Now it's just another game outcome."
This and much more in the talk, which is about 90 minutes long. The panel was "Video Games at Work", part of the Smithsonian's exhibition "The Art of Video Games".