Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Join the army! - No Thanks

I never really liked the idea of the army. To me it’s always seemed like the moment you join your individuality would be thrown out of the window, you’d become a number and would end up being shouted at and pushed to the edge according to the correct discipline. Never mind the fact that once signing up your kind of stuck until the end of your service which tends to involve you leaving your family behind to go and put your life in danger and to suffer from the guilt of ending it for others. Yet despite this you seem to get a lot of young guys who think it’s a really cool thing to sign up; that being behind the barrel of a gun will make you tough and the uniform/status will impress the ladies.

I’ve never liked those ‘join the army’ adverts. They seem to glamorise it, while not showing any of the negative consequences of being there. For example, there’s the one in the swamp where they’re sneaking through with guns. It makes it look really cool, but in reality it would take years of hard training and being shouted at to even get there, and then once you do, well you’re stood waist deep in a disgusting smelly swamp with the possibility of being shot at (not very glamorous at all in my opinion.) No, I think I’ll stay home and experience it through my games only.

Speaking of which, there was also a time when new recruits were found by using video game to lure them in. Personally I’d class that as manipulative and invasive. I don’t actually blame games or films for glamorising war a little, because they are built for entertainment purposes only, and as long as the audience knows this it’s not a problem, but to use them to target new recruits is just wrong in my opinion. I actually, personally, don’t find war games to be that entertaining anyway. For example, I recently tried out the highly praised Modern Warfare (the first one) after its price had been reduced. It feels like the game is trying to be flashy, but it doesn’t look pleasant to me at all. Everyone looks alike, wears the same stuff and are therefore quite flat and unlikeable as characters. They also boss you about way too much as they lead you through the level like some stupid wooden puppet. I guess in that sense it is quite realistic as I no longer feel like an individual within the game; it’s more about the team as a whole, but it does make for slightly less enjoyable game play. Mind you, I have played team-based games before and enjoyed them, because I’ve still felt like I stand out and get a say. In a war game I’d actually like to see more realistic dialogue between the characters to show their emotions and bonds, and to hint at an actual feeling towards what they are doing, (i.e. wiping out dozens of lives while putting yourself at risk.) They would therefore contain more depth and would show that war is not all about running around with flashy weapons and shooting people (as fun as that is in a virtual sense.)

I also remember when they tried to recruit people from my school. They came round to give a presentation and a lot of the boys and some girls got very excited over the fact that these big army dudes had arrived. I wasn’t too impressed having to sit there and watch them babble on about how joining the army would involve travelling around the world and meeting new people. Once again, it felt a little untruthful to me and our young minds at the time were happy to lap it up. I understand the fact that these things need to be done, otherwise nobody would ever join, but some people I’ve met just seem to be completely deluded about it. When something like that will affect your life in such a big way, I think it’s important for people to know exactly what they’re in for.

I once went out on the town with a couple of other female friends and we ended up being approached by these three guys. They seemed to try to hit on us by telling us they were leaving the country to go Iraq the next day. I don’t know whether this is true or not, if so I got the feeling they’d only joined up because they were too stupid to do anything else. I also don’t know why this was suppose to impress me, I imagine it would actually be quite hard for partners waiting back home while their loved ones go out to war, and preferably I’d like a boyfriend who isn’t into all that stuff (which John isn’t.) Anyway, they ended up asking us what we do and I told them that I was training to be a game developer (they also looked at me quite shocked when I told them I was a fan of Counter Strike). They started going on about how we wouldn’t be able to do those jobs if it weren’t for them protecting us, and that they didn’t mean anything compared to what they were doing. Ok, fair enough, maybe being a game developer isn’t a life saving sort of career, but my other friend said she wanted to be a teacher which I’d say is a pretty important role in society (especially if it keeps more people like that from being released out into the public.) But no, apparently what everybody else does with their lives is pointless and unbeneficial; in that case why even bother laying down your lives for our sakes.

If those guys had been lying it was very disrespectful to the actual genuine people who go out there, if they had been telling the truth then they were obviously in the belief that joining the army would bring them attention and respect. If somebody signs up knowing the danger, because they want to stand up for their loved ones and what they believe in then they do get my respect (in that case war can actually be quite honourable), but people like those guys don’t. I find a lot of young people are like this, and they go out there and die way too young before they’ve even had a chance to experience life. I really don’t think it’s right to encourage this sort of behaviour.

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