|Publisher(s)||United States Army|
|Genre(s)||Tactical first-person shooter|
America's Army (also known as AA or America's Army Game Project) is a series of video games and other media developed by the United States Army and released as a global public relations initiative to help with recruitment. America's Army was conceived by Colonel Casey Wardynski and is managed by the U.S. Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at the United States Military Academy. Wardynski envisioned "using computer game technology to provide the public a virtual Soldier experience that was engaging, informative and entertaining."
The PC version 1.0, subtitled Recon, was first released on July 4, 2002. Since then, there have been over 26 versions released, the most recent being America's Army 3.3. All versions have been developed on the Unreal Engine and use PunkBuster to try to prevent cheating. The game is financed by the U.S. government and distributed by free download.
America's Army has "grown in ways its originators couldn't have imagined". Dozens of government training and simulation applications using the America's Army platform have been developed to train and educate U.S. Army soldiers. America's Army has also been used to deliver virtual soldiering experiences to participants at events, such as air shows, amusement parks, and sporting events around the country. The America's Army series has also been expanded to include versions for Xbox and Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile applications published through licensing arrangements.
The game was developed by Colonel Wardynski who recognized that a video game might be helpful to the U.S. Army in the strategic communication efforts by providing more information to prospective Soldiers and to help reduce the number of recruits who wash out during the nine weeks of basic training. The effort proved successful as more than 9 million copies have been downloaded. One teenager was quoted saying the game "provides great information. This would probably spark an interest. I don't know how I would have found out so much some other way."
With several thousand players online at any one time between 2001 and 2007, it ranked in the top 10 FPS (First Person Shooter) games played online during the period, as tracked by GameSpy.[not in citation given]
The America's Army developers licensed the Unreal game engine as the foundation for its game. It was the first game to feature Unreal Engine 2. America's Army is intended to give a positive impression of the U.S. Army. In the official Frequently Asked Questions page the developers confirmed in a statement that one of the reasons people outside the United States can play the game is "We want the whole world to know how great the U.S. Army is."
America's Army is the first well-known overt use of computer gaming for political aims. Chris Chambers, the former deputy director of development for America's Army, admits it is a recruitment tool, and Chris Morris of CNN/Money states that "the Army readily admits [America's Army] is a propaganda device." The game, considered by the U.S. Army to be a "cost-effective recruitment tool," aims to become part of youth culture's "consideration set" as confirmed by Army Deputy Chief of Personnel Timothy Maude in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
America's Army and its official webpage contain links to the "Go Army" recruitment website, another recruiting tool that, according to the Army Subcommittee Testimony from February 2000, has a higher chance of recruiting than "any other method of contact." Guiding American players to the website is a major goal of the game and it was confirmed that twenty-eight percent of all visitors of America's Army's webpage click through to this recruitment site.
According to Colonel Wardynski, the game generated interest from other U.S. government agencies including the Secret Service resulting in the development of a training version for internal government use only.
America's Army 2 
On November 6, 2003, version 2.0 of America's Army was released, with the full title of America's Army: Special Forces. In a booklet produced by the MOVES Institute an article by Wagner James Au explains that "the Department of Defense want to double the number of Special Forces soldiers, so essential in Afghanistan and northern Iraq; consequently, orders trickled down the chain of command and found application in the current release of America's Army."
As the game became more widely distributed, it generated additional media interest. In December 2003, a The Boston Globe columnist said "... America's Army isn't just a time-wasting shoot-'em-up. It's full of accurate information about military training and tactics, intended to prepare a new generation of potential recruits. Amidst all the shouting drill sergeants and whistling bullets, some real education is going on. America's Army is a 'serious game,' part of a new wave of computer simulations that provide entertaining lessons about real world activities."
After the game proved successful, the lack of the army's acknowledgment for the contribution by the U.S. Navy led to tension and political fights over the project. Eventually, the project was withdrawn from the Naval Postgraduate School due to allegations of mismanagement in March 2004 and the development team was moved to two new locations.
One month after taking over production, the army signed an exclusive long-term contract with Ubisoft to reach a wider and younger audience. America's Army: Rise of a Soldier, a different version of the game for Xbox was produced by Ubisoft in collaboration with the U.S. Army. Despite a 10-year publishing deal, the control over all communication and advertising remains with the army. The Xbox version was released in November, 2005. It was also due to be released on the PlayStation 2 but was later canceled. A version of the game was also made for the mobile phone by Gameloft.
America's Army 3 
It was announced in early 2008 that the next version, America's Army 3, would be released in "fall 2008". Due to technical issues and problems with licenses between the various departments the game, release was delayed and rescheduled for "some time in 2009". America's Army 3 entered beta testing in late 2008 and was released on June 17, 2009. It uses the Unreal 3 Engine and introduces other changes to how a player manages his account. Despite America's Army 3 being an entirely new game engine, there are still a number of similarities between America's Army and America's Army 3 which include the two remade and similar training. This version is said to put emphasis on graphical performance and on graphical flexibility to cover a greater range of PCs, as well as decreased size for the full version download. The game also features fictional weapons for the enemy as opposed to the Soviet and Warsaw Pact based weapons used in the previous versions. Although the game had initial problems with online play it worked well offline. A hotfix was launched shortly after the game's release which addressed several problems. Five days after release, players were allowed to play online due to the authorization servers not being able to register that players had completed training.
One day after the launch the civilian developers team contracted until game release were dismissed. Responsibility for future development of the game was passed on to another office at Redstone Arsenal.
America's Army:Proving Grounds 
As of August 28, 2012, the developers are taking suggestions for a new America's Army game, although it has been specified that the new game will not be called America's Army 4 (The 4th gen has been called " the next version of America's Army " however). It has also been confirmed that the next version will be called "America's Army:Proving Grounds." Development for the next version of America's Army is underway , the development team is soliciting suggestions , and are currently picking new beta testers to test America's Army:Proving Grounds. The beta is assumed to begin Memorial Day.   
America's Army is multiplayer, a round based team tactical shooter game with the player acting as a soldier in the U.S. Army, with combat at squad-level with three fireteams. GameSpot admires the game's authenticity: It's pretty realistic— you take one or two shots and you go limp, you take one more and you're done. Another game review describes America's Army as "the most realistic portrayal of weapons and combat of any game".
America's Army 
America's Army always promoted adherence to the U.S. Army's seven core values. To this extent, the game's main ranking system, "Honor", is named after one.
America's Army also includes optional medical training designed to provide real-world information. In order to assume the role of combat life-saver in the game, players must pass a virtual medical training course based on actual training that soldiers receive with regard to evaluating and prioritizing casualties, controlling bleeding, recognizing and treating shock, and administering aid when victims are not breathing. Two America's Army players have reported using the training they received in-game to save lives in emergency situations; one such account, by Paxton Galvanek, received national media attention.
The game also allows players to train to drive the HMMWV and qualify to use the CROWS system allowing in game use of the Mk 19 grenade launcher and Browning M2. Training is also available for the Javelin missile as well as specialist training such as parachute training, which allows access to the Airborne missions, and Special Forces training which allows access to the Special Forces missions. The round ends when one team completes the objective or eliminates the entire opposing team. In certain circumstances such as when both teams are eliminated or both sides have not completed their objectives when time runs out there will be a tie.
America's Army achieves a high realism level in terms of visual and acoustic representation of combat and firearm usage and mechanics but its critics have alleged that it fails to convey wartime conditions as accurately as it claims. "If you are going to join the Army, you know the risk." says player Bart Koscinski. "In this game you might die eight times in 15 minutes. In real life people know what they are getting themselves into."
America's Army 3 
America's Army 3 was completely remade in Unreal Engine 3 and introduces a number of changes. Individuals with prior accounts can no longer continue using their screen name. Therefore, new accounts must be created even for veteran users. Medical training is now compulsory allowing all players to give basic IFAK treatment. While America's Army had training availability based entirely on previously completed training, America's Army 3 has only basic training available initially and online play is required to unlock more training. In addition, a single map can support multiple mission types, while in America's Army a single map only had one. A new feature in America's Army 3 is the ability to melee enemy combatants in battle using the rifle butt, allowing for a more realistic close combat situation should both sides find themselves out of ammo. America's Army 3 also eliminated the ability for the characters to jump, done to eliminate the practice of bunny hopping-type evasive maneuvers. However players can still climb onto or hurdle over low obstacles. AA3 also streamlined the organization of the fireteams the players were grouped into; the Designated Marksman is now a member of one of the fireteams instead of being a separate two-man shooter/spotter element as would be more fitting of a sniper team as opposed to a Designated Marksman.
Other versions 
America's Army: Rise of a Soldier 
America's Army: Rise of a Soldier was released Xbox on November 2005. According to the press release, the game features "all the action-packed realism that players have come to expect from the America's Army game brand" and "offers the most true-to-life Army experience, allowing players to create a soldier and lead him through the excitement of an Army career".
Mobile game 
In February 2007, Gameloft and the U.S. Army released America's Army: Special Operations for mobile phones. The game features three types of gameplay. Players can pilot a combat helicopter, man an armored vehicle or serve as an infantryman. According to Mobicritic.com, "Gameloft does a great job with this game and the only fault one could find is that the game is too short. It isn't, really: you just won't realize how fast the hours of play have passed, as this game really gives the term 'action packed' a new meaning."
Arcade game 
The arcade version of America's Army was developed by Global VR and released on July 2007. It is billed as a "realistic and engaging game centered on exciting training exercises and includes a significant amount of authentic Army videos".
America's Army: True Soldiers 
America's Army: True Soldiers was released for the Xbox 360 on November 2007. It had both a single-player campaign and multiplayer features on Xbox Live. True Soldiers focused on the army's "core values" by incorporating gameplay based on mission accomplishment, teamwork, leadership, and rules of engagement.
Real Heroes 
The Real Heroes program, launched in September 2006, focuses on specific soldiers who have been recognized for various acts. Described in an article from U.S. News & World Report, the idea of the Real Heroes program "is to tout ordinary people who, when thrust into danger, showed extraordinary courage"
The Real Heroes program uses videos, photo albums and blogs on the Real Heroes website to depict the lives of those featured in the program. Soldiers' likenesses and biographies are incorporated into America's Army and used to create action figures sold at retail and distributed at Army events. Additionally, those featured in the Real Heroes program make media appearances at America's Army events across the country such as the VAE, gaming competitions and Technology Education programs. On January 23, 2007, Real Hero Sergeant Tommy Rieman was recognized by President George W. Bush during his State of the Union address. President Bush affirmed "... and like so many other Americans who have volunteered to defend us, he has earned the respect and the gratitude of our country." Currently, there are eight Real Heroes in the program with other Soldiers being considered for 2009.
|CPT Jason Amerine||Bronze Star w V Device||OEF-A||2006|
|SGT Tommy Rieman||Silver Star||OIF||2006|
|SFC Gerald Wolford||Silver Star||OIF||2006|
|SGT Matthew Zedwick||Silver Star||OIF||2006|
|SPC Jason Mike||Silver Star||OIF||2007|
|SSG Timothy Nein||Distinguished Service Cross||OIF||2007|
|SFC Robert David Groff||Bronze Star w V Device||OIF||2008|
|SSG John Adams||Bronze Star w V Device||OIF||2008|
|SPC Monica Brown||Silver Star||OEF||2009|
- Ranks are accurate as of the time of award.
Government applications 
In 2005, the America's Army developers partnered with the Software Engineering Directorate and the Army's Aviation and Missile Research Development Engineering Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to manage the commercial game development process and use the America's Army platform to create government training and simulations. "America's Army has pushed to reuse the same elements for many purposes," said Colonel Wardynski, originator of the game, "We can build one soldier avatar and use it again and again. When we build something in America's Army, the U.S. government owns it completely ... and [it] can therefore be used for any application or use of the game. So costs keep going down. " After AA went live, requests started coming in to use the game for purposes other than recruiting, such as training.
The partnership with SED, an army software lifecycle management center, allowed the development team to repurpose the commercial software to meet the needs of soldiers preparing for deployment. SED engineers developed customized applications used by many different Army and government organizations including the JFK Special Forces School and the army's Chemical School. They are used to provide training in use of rare equipment such as PackBot robots, CROWS, and Nuclear Biological Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicles.
Virtual Army Experience 
The Virtual Army Experience (VAE) was launched in February 2007. It is a mobile U.S. Army simulator that allows participants to virtually experience certain aspects of soldiering. The core of VAE is America's Army reworked to provide a variety of scenarios. The VAE can be deployed in a full scale rendition or broken down into two smaller versions enabling it to appear at two separate events simultaneously. Since its launch, VAE has hosted over 130,000 participants at more than 100 events.
Army Experience Center 
On August 29, 2008, the U.S. Army opened the Army Experience Center, a facility where visitors can virtually experience many aspects of army life. Located inside the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, the 14,500-square-foot (1,350 m2) facility features a number of interactive simulations and online learning programs to inform visitors about army careers, training and educational opportunities.
Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army, says "Potential recruits are afforded a unique opportunity through the Army Experience Center to learn what it means to be the best-led, best-trained and best-equipped Army in the world by allowing them to virtually experience multiple aspects of the Army." The head of Army Recruiting Command, Major General Thomas Bostick, calls the AEC "a learning laboratory" — but not just for those who are thinking of joining. "It's incumbent upon the American public to know about their Army," Bostick said.
Technology Education Program 
Launched in 2007, the Technology Education Program provides real world applications of classroom learning that augment the curriculum in academic areas including math, physical science, physics, chemistry, technology, computer science, art, animation, graphic design, social studies, anatomy, physiology and psychology. Army experts and Soldiers work with students to teach them about robotics; optics; missiles; video games; and intellectual, emotional and physical development.
In April 2008, Discovery Education featured America's Army in a live webinar in which over 1000 students and educators participated with AA game developers and software engineers.
America's Army has been positively received, up until 2.8. GameSpot states "nothing beats going in and seeing what the Army really does...without actually having to do it" It has a rating of 82 on Metacritic In addition, it has been covered in thousands of media outlet stories around the world and has received many awards.
|Computer Gaming World Magazine||Editor's Choice award (4.5 out of 5 stars)||2002|
|Computer Games Magazine||Best Use of Tax Dollars||2002|
|PC Gamer Magazine||Best Value||2002|
|PC Gamer Magazine||The Best Gaming moments of 2002||2002|
|IGN ActionVault||Debut Game of the Year||2002|
|IGN ActionVault||Biggest Surprise of the Year||2002|
|IGN ActionVault||Multiplayer Game of the Year (Honorable Mention)||2002|
|GameSpot.com||Biggest Surprise on a PC||2002|
|GameSpot.com||Best Multiplayer Game (Runner Up)||2002|
|GameSpot.com||Nominated for Best Sound in a Game||2002|
|GameSpy.com||Best Action Game of E3 (Runner Up)||2002|
|Wargamer.com||Best First Person / Tactical Shooter||2002|
|Computer Gaming World||Multiplayer Game of the Year (Nominated)||2002|
|Clan World Network||Most Realistic Game of the Year||2002|
|Well-Rounded Entertainment.com||Best Game of E3 2003||2003|
|DoubleClick's Insight Awards||Honorable Mention for Best Multi-Channel Marketing||2003|
|Academy for Interactive Arts & Sciences||Finalist for 2003's First Person Action Game||2003|
|GameSpot||Runner up for Best Multiplayer Game of the Year 2003||2003|
|CBS Online||One of the Best Games of 2003||2003|
|GameSpy||Best of 2003 – Best Value||2003|
|PC Gamer||Runner Up for Best Value||2003|
|Computer Games Magazine||Best Free Game||2004|
|Tom's Hardware||The Best of E3America's Army: Special Forces - Most Dedicated Developers||2004|
|Digital Entertainment & Media Excellence Award(DEMX)||Best Advergame of 2005||2005|
|Innovations in American Government Award||Finalist||2006|
|M16 Copywriting and Text||Gold Prize for demonstrating compelling and creative copy||2006|
|Event Design Magazine Awards||Bronze Medal for Best Outdoor Consumer Environment (VAE)||2007|
|Guinness World Records||Largest Traveling Game Simulator (VAE)||2008|
|Guinness World Records||Largest Virtual Army||2008|
|Guinness World Records||Most Downloaded War Game||2008|
Academic references 
America's Army has gained the interest of numerous professionals in the fields of business, economics, and social science. A partial list of published analyses includes:
- "Changing the Game: How Video games are Transforming the Future of Business October, 2008." David Edery, Microsoft Xbox executive and research affiliate of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, and Ethan Mollick, researcher at the MIT Sloan School of Management, investigate the future of video games. They cite the combat medic training received by Paxton Galvanek to save a life as "tangible evidence of the power of games to educate". (p. 97) Furthermore, the book praises America's Army by saying "Far-sighted companies are using games to recruit, train, motivate, and make employees more productive" (p. 97) and includes research that supports this point: "30% of all Americans age 16 to 24 had a more positive impression of the Army because of the game and, even more amazingly, the game had more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined." (p. 141)
- "Watch This, Listen Up, Click Here: Inside the 300 Billion Dollar Business Behind the Media You Constantly Consume April, 2007." David Verklin, CEO of Carat, and Bernice Kanner, marketing expert, test the stability of old, traditional media and find they're collapsing under pressure from online services. Highlights the U.S. Army video game as the 21st century's recruitment poster. "America's Army has proven to be such powerful weaponry that an official game store does brisk business selling collectible action figures, clothes, coffee mugs, and other doodads emblazoned with the logo." (p. 90)
- "Experience the Message: How Experiential Marketing Is Changing the Brand World by Max Lendermann, creative director of GMR Marketing, December, 2005." Cites AA advergaming success and rollout to an experiential marketing campaign. "The America's Army experience is an advergaming juggernaut, an empire that is looked to enviably by the rest of the advergaming nations." (p. 218) "Not only do players get a fun and exciting experience, they also get as close to the real thing of being in the army as possible, without actually getting a buzz cut and general-issue fatigues." (p. 222)
- "Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II, co-founders of Strategic Horizons LLP, September 2007." http://authenticitybook.com/ Published by Harvard Business School Press, this book cites America's Army as one of the most innovative and successful examples of virtual placemaking and Col. Wardynski's efforts in establishing new and better metric analyses. "According to the director of the program, Colonel Casey Wardynski, 20 percent of those matriculating at West Point in 2005 had played America's Army, along with 20 to 40 percent of enlisted soldiers recruited that year." (p. 168) "America's Army director Colonel Wardynski uses the metric 'cost per person hour', estimating in 2005 that the $2.5 million the Army puts into the program each year results in 'a cost per person hour of 10 cents, versus $5 to $8 for TV'." (p. 173)
- "Career Innovation Case Study of the U.S. Army as part of the "Digital Generation Initiative"" Case study analyzed the Army Game Project efforts and concluded the following: First, to reach the Digital Generation, content must be engaging and authentic. Employers will have to adopt a much more open and transparent approach to communicating information and allowing contact with employees than is currently the norm. Second, the Digital Generation will expect to be able to virtually explore and even "test drive" jobs and organizations. The Army's experience shows the potential and importance of virtual tools and capabilities in shaping the brand image of employers. Third, games and simulations can play a role in preparing new hires for the job. And finally, employers should treat investments in games and simulations as a platform to support a wide range of recruiting, learning and performance development activities and goals. Virtual simulators are cheaper than real ones in many instances.
- "The Potential of America's Army as Civilian-Military Public Sphere" extensive February 2004 thesis (149 pages) by graduate student Zhan Li for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - includes ethnographic analysis of Soldiers who play the game during the invasion of Iraq, and interviews with West Point directors of the America's Army project.
- "Social Realism in Gaming academic analysis of AA in terms of "Social realism" by Alexander R. Galloway" a book author and Assistant Professor at New York University. Alexander R. Galloway, an associate professor at New York University notes that, "What is interesting about America's Army, is not the debate over whether it is thinly-veiled propaganda or a legitimate recruitment tool, for it is unabashedly and decisively both, but rather that the central conceit of the game is one of mimetic realism." In his analysis, Galloway concludes that AA, despite being a fairly realistic game, with real-life settings, does not make even the least attempt to achieve narrative realism—that is, accurately representing what serving a tour in the Army would actually be like. Instead, it simply expresses a nationalistic sentiment under the guise of realism, being little more than a "naïve and unmediated or reflective conception of aesthetic construction."
- "Video Games, Manipulation and the U.S. Military: A Comparative Analysis of America's Army and SOCOM II: US Navy SEALs" academic analysis of America's Army and SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs in terms of "Visual Discourse" by Caroline S. Brooks, a PhD candidate at East Carolina University.
- "America's Army PC Game - Vision and Realization," published by the MOVES Institute and the US Army, February 2004, 40 pages.
- Michael Zyda, Alex Mayberry, Jesse McCree, and Margaret Davis “From Viz-Sim to VR to Games: How We Built a Hit Game-Based Simulation,” in W.B. Rouse and K.R. Boff (Eds.) Organizational Simulation: From Modeling & Simulation to Games & Entertainment, New York: Wiley Press, 2005,pp., ISBN 0-471-68163-6.
- Margaret Davis, Russell Shilling, Alex Mayberry, Jesse McCree, Phillip Bossant, Scott Dossett, Christian Buhl, Christopher Chang, Evan Champlin, Travis Wiglesworth and Michael Zyda "Researching America’s Army," in Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, edited by Brenda Laurel, MIT Press, 1 October 2003, ISBN 0-262-12263-4, 268-275.
- Russ Shilling, Michael Zyda and E. Casey Wardynski, "Introducing Emotion into Military Simulation and Videogame Design: America's Army Operations and VIRTE," in the Proceedings of the GameOn Conference, London, 30 November 2002, pp. 151-154.
- Allen, Robertson. 2009. "The Army Rolls Through Indianapolis: Fieldwork at the Virtual Army Experience." Transformative Works and Cultures 2.
- Allen, Robertson. 2011. "The Unreal Enemy of America's Army." Games and Culture 6(1):38-60.
- Allen, Robertson. 2012. "Games Without Tears, Wars Without Frontiers." In War, Technology, Anthropology. Koen Stroken, ed. Critical Interventions: A Forum for Social Analysis, Vol. 13. New York: Berghahn Books. Pp. 83-93.
America's Army has been described as an extension of the military entertainment complex or so-called "militainment" with criticism that it contributes to a militarization of society. Because America's Army focuses on the technological aspect of war rather than the moral, it has been referred to as How We Fight, alluding to the U.S. government's series of films named Why We Fight, which supported the war effort for World War II.
Media theorist David B. Nieborg criticized the game and noted that its mechanics are a careful blend of propaganda, advertising and education.
Use of the game by recruitment and training centers has been criticised and protested against, amongst others by the Veterans for Peace group. Its use in schools as a recruiting tool aimed at children has also been criticised. 
See also 
- Close Combat: First to Fight, video game developed with input from U.S. Marines
- Full Spectrum Warrior
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- Nieborg, David.B (2009). "Digital Material. Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology". Amsterdam University Press.
- gamepolitics.com (2009). "Army's Video Game-Equipped Recruitment Center Fuels Controversy". Retrieved 2011-11-23.
- Eisen, Andrew (2008–09–21). "Move to Bring America's Army Game to High Schools Raises Questions". Retrieved 2011-11-23.
- Downing, Jim (2002). "Army to potential recruits: Wanna play?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2011-11-23.
- Official website
- America's Army Platform for government applications
- The MOVES Institute (former developers)
- "War games in a time of war", MSNBC article (July 18, 2004)
- "The Army Game Project" article for the Army Magazine by Chris Chambers (deputy director of AA), Thomas Sherlock (teacher of political science) and Paul Kucik (economic analyst in the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis), 2002
- Enjoy the video game? Then join the army. by the Christian Science Monitor
- Official PunkBuster site
- America's Army at GameSpot
- Authentication system for America's Army 2.5 (unofficial community project)