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.
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.