Blog Post 4 – Dead-in-Iraq

First off, I would like to commend Joseph DeLappe for Dead-in-Iraq, which is a great starting point for online protests and acts of civil disobedience in video games. As DeLappe points out in David Chan’s chapter, the game America’s Army is a perfect place for this protest, because of the fact that it is produced by the US government with the purpose of increasing military recruitment. I agree with DeLappe’s assertion that the game functions as propaganda, by not only glamorizing and gamifying combat (which many games do), but by also promoting the values and social system of the United States Army. As the reading points out, the placement of Dead-in-Iraq in a military installation is in keeping with many war protests in the past, simply moving to a digital space the army now occupies. As the war in Iraq has faded from the news in the United States, it is necessary for someone or something to keep the population aware of the continued sacrifice made by young men and women overseas.

AEC-protest-march

However, I think that online video game protests can and should be a lot more effective than Dead-in-Iraq. While America’s Army may be the most poignant location for this protest due to its production by the United States government, the audience for this game is small compared to many other military first person shooters. While I agree with Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith that these micro-protests can be effective, I think that not taking the protest to a highly-played game is essentially squandering a potential audience. Why not protest the war in Iraq in Call of Duty or Battlefield? Other games also open the potential for protesting other social issues, as pointed out by Chan with the anti-homophobia protests in World of Warcraft. One problem that I have with DeLappe is that while he is calling attention to the fallen soldiers in Iraq, he is completely ignoring all the innocent civilians who have also been killed in the conflict. Perhaps Call of Duty, with its stereotyping of terrorists, would be a good place for a protest which calls attention to the Iraqi men and women killed by bomb strikes during the War on Terror, reminding the gaming public that the war has not just cost American lives. As we saw in class, online FPS games, such as the Halo and Call of Duty series, are rampant with homophobic language. Perhaps, then, these games would also be a good space for a protest in solidarity with gay rights?

Another problem that I have with DeLappe is that he is only engaging in a one-way communication in his protest. While engaging with online video game players has the potential to invite trolls and escalate quickly, a meaningful dialogue could be the best way to reach some members of his audience. I realize that this would go outside of his artistic goals, but the resulting conversation and social awareness would be of a greater and more lasting cultural importance than performance art.

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About Karlin

Karlin is a graduate of the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, with a degree in Marketing. He wrote his thesis on marketing movies using digital media. Television, and film aficionado, lifelong Portland Trail Blazers fan, recovering comic book nerd.
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4 Responses to Blog Post 4 – Dead-in-Iraq

  1. vhsieh11 says:

    Blog Response #3
    I had similar feelings about DeLappe’s demonstration as dead-in-Iraq. Clearly there was a lot of reasoning on his part for structuring his demonstration the way he did. I think it is a fantastic idea to bring demonstration into video games because there are many games that reflect reality. Though many people play video games to escapes reality, it is sometimes easy to return to reality with the feeling of no responsibility. I think demonstrations serve as a reminder.

    I would also commend DeLappe for his efforts but I don’t believe that his tactics are effective. What particularly bothered me is that when soldier’s families ask for the soldier’s name not to be included, he argued with them that it was essential for everyone in this nation to mourn together. I think that he stepped over some boundaries for including the soldier’s names. I believe that everyone should have their right to a certain level of privacy.

    Demonstrating in America’s Army, brings up a lot of interesting discussion as Karlin bought up. Before doing the reading about America’s Army, I had no idea what it was. However, games like Halo and Call of Duty sparks instant recollection despite the fact that I never played either of the games before. This shows how important it is to think about what audience you are targeting for any demonstration. Though you might want everyone’s attention, the reality is that you will not receive it. I think two key things to think about are location of the demonstration and the method in which the message is delivered.

    In regards to how DeLappe only giving light to American soldiers, I feel that sometimes you can only focus on one thing at a time to really get the message across. I’m interested in seeing if he will begin a different demonstration to put focus on innocent Iraqi civilians. Though I will have a problem with his demonstration if he never considers the possibility of staging another demonstration for Iraqi civilians.

    Since I never played Call of Duty, I did not know that there were such stereotypes about terrorists within the game. I agree with Karlin that it is extremely important to have a demonstration within such games. Such games will only reinforce the idea of racism and stereotypes that are present within our society today.

    My biggest problem with DeLappe’s demonstration is the manner in how he “interacts” with other players. I think that since he does not give any context or interact with other players, he is not delivering the message that he wants. Though Chan talks about how DeLappe has some positive response on the internet, I can’t help to think that that the response are coming from individuals that are aware of the casualties that are happening in Iraq. Therefore I think that he is not truly delivering the message because he is not reaching the intended audience. There is no meaning in having a demonstrating if people are not learning from it.

  2. cstabile says:

    You both seem to agree that Dead in Iraq would have been more effective if DeLappe had interacted with other players. I’d like to hear more about why that’s the case. My sense is that DeLappe wanted players to bear witness — not to interact, not to try to persuade them, but to force them to stop and reflect on the meaning of the game they were playing and the purpose of the organization that had developed it.

  3. coleg2013 says:

    Blog Response 4
    First things first, no protest is perfect. The occupy protests were 99% peaceful (that one hurt a little) but nevertheless, things did not go entirely as planned with regards to peaceful proceedings, uniform execution, and most of all with success. Also, one other thing that needs remembering is that protests are almost never isolated. Sure, the Dead in Iraq protest was put on by an individual but it falls within the category of anti-war protests of which there have been many all around the world in different forms. So I would say that in a way DeLappe did not act alone due to the solidarity I would argue is inherent in the act of protest.
    A few years back I attended the annual protest to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC (an American school that trains soldiers from other nations military tactics especially with regards to counter insurgency, many of the graduates have gone on to violate human rights in many ways and have been involved in thousands of murders), as you can tell by my use of the word ‘annual’ it was not successful in the sense that you seem to allude to with regards to audience and efficiency. It was successful in that it took place in a location that had the most significance (outside the gates at Fort Benning, the home of the S.O.A. which is open to the public every other day of the year), individuals directly involved with the S.O.A. were reminded of the presence of their opposition, civilians were reminded of the issue on the news, and the protesters were emboldened and inspired to continue their resistance as they went their separate ways.
    I think that Prof. Stabile is correct when she notes that Delappe’s intentions were for people to bear witness, rather than to confront or interact. The important thing was for the people most responsible for continuation of the war itself and the propaganda that is America’s Army (the game) as well as those who were consuming said propaganda, heard and were reminded of the cost of the Iraq war.
    With regards to the civilian victims of the Iraq war, I have not the faintest idea where to find the names of those who have died, let alone whether or not that information has even been thoroughly documented (I hope that it has because it is important that such cost is not forgotten). As such I cannot fault DeLappe for not including them, and unfortunate as it may be.
    Generally speaking, I think that protesters, hipsters writing in coffee shops, and people talking on their cell phones in elevators have some things in common. The name of the game is being seen and heard. The hipster does not necessarily care if you like what he is working on (chances are you will never see it) and the person on their cell phone is most likely not even talking to you. The point is though, you saw them and heard them, and hopefully you remember them.

  4. cstabile says:

    Hmm. Not sure about the hipsters and the cell phones. Bearing witness is a politicized act, though — check out Women in Black (http://www.womeninblack.org/en/vigil), whose description reads: “We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.”

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