The Taipei Game Show, that “other” TGS, is like every other video game show out there. Lots of pretty people, lots of gamers, and games games games galore. However, this year’s Taipei Game Show has something not so normal: within the depths of the game show convention is a recruitment base for Taiwan’s military.
Taiwan, unlike mainland China, has its own government and military. Also unlike the mainland, Taiwan legally allows video game consoles for sale, hence TGS.
For the first time in TGS’ history, the Taiwanese military was invited to exhibit at the game show. The military booth, situated right next to the Logitech booth, was manned by actual armed military servicemen and women as well as a remote-controlled bomb disposal unit. Unfortunately (or luckily), the guys at the show weren’t those really scary special forces guys.
Kotaku caught up with Major Hsu of the Taiwanese Air Force to talk about the reason behind the booth and the situation of video games and the military.
“The purpose of the booth, well, we were invited by the organisers to show up,” said Hsu. “We wanted to show what we’re doing, and to fit in with the expo and to show the taxpayers what we do, we brought along personnel to demonstrate that we train our troops well and that we are using the best equipment.”
Hsu said that game conventions such as TGS have lots of potential recruits, recruits that Hsu says fits what the military is looking for. He says they’re looking to recruit young men who are patriotic, well-educated, and good with technology.
“Recruitment centres are often too intimidating for young people,” said Hsu. “The convention gives us a great relaxed place for young people to come and see what we’re all about.”
Military service in Taiwan is currently mandatory for all young men ages 18 and up.
Recent events in Taiwan, such as the death of a young conscript, have created recruitment problems for the military. Hsu says that these issues only mean that the military must work harder to rebuild the public’s trust, and going to exhibits to show gamers what military service is all about is a good way to do so.
Military recruitment at game conventions isn’t anything new. The US Army was criticised for doing so when it took part in the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2002 to promote the game America’s Army.
Video games and the military have often had a rocky relationship with activists groups and concerned citizens talking about the trivialisation of subject matters such as war. Hsu says that the goal of the military at the game show isn’t to belittle war, but rather to further educate gamers and potential recruits.
According to Hsu, reception by visitors of TGS has been mostly positive with a number of actual enlistments.