U.S. Army recruiting at the mall with video games

The U.S. Army, struggling to ensure it has enough manpower as it fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is wooing young Americans with video games, Google Maps, and simulated attacks on enemy positions from an Apache helicopter, Reuters reports. Departing from the recruiting environment of metal tables and uniformed soldiers in a drab military building, the Army has invested $12 million in a facility that looks like a cross between a hotel lobby and a video arcade. The U.S. Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills shopping mall in northeast Philadelphia has 60 personal computers loaded with military video games, 19 Xbox 360 video game controllers, and a series of interactive screens describing military bases and career options in great detail. The center is the first of its kind and opened in August as part of a two-year experiment. So far, it has signed up 33 full-time soldiers and five reservists–roughly matching the performance of five traditional recruiting centers it replaced. But critics say the use of video games glamorizes war and misleads potential recruits. Jesse Hamilton, a former Army staff sergeant who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, called the center "very deceiving and very far from realistic." "You can’t simulate the loss when you see people getting killed," said Hamilton, who left the Army after his Iraq tour and is now a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "It’s not very likely you are going to get into a firefight. The only way to simulate the heat is holding a blow dryer to your face."

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