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That's the latest come-on from the U.S. Army, which continues to refine its approach toward engaging teens and twentysomethings. Having seen amazing success with recruiting thanks to its America's Army home computer game, the military is now taking the pitch to the mall. Specifically, to the Franklin Mills shopping center in Philadelphia, where it has set up 60 gaming PCs, 19 Xbox 360s, plush couches, and "rock music" for potential recruits to enjoy.
There's even a real Humvee that players can shoot from installed as part of a 15-foot-high projected battle simulation and an Apache helicopter simulator that recruits can fly.
Sounds like a killer gaming setup... but of course there's a not-so-ulterior motive at work. It's all part of a plan to get younger kids interested in signing up for service, thinking that shooting terrorists in active combat is all part of a day's work.
Naturally, critics are out in full force, including a former Army staff sargeant, Jesse Hamltion, who accuses the Army of misleading kids with deceptive, unrealistic scenarios. Hamilton notes that recruits are unlikely to see active combat and that "the only way to simulate the heat is holding a blow dryer to your face."
Still, the move of course comes at a good time for the Army, which has struggled to fill its ranks for several years thanks to some overwhelmingly bad press. But with civilian unemployment skyrocketing and the situation in Iraq looking better than it has in ages (particularly with the prospect of troops coming home), the Army's high-tech mall paradise may actually be more than it needs to woo the young and impressionable.
It reflects a larger Pentagon mandate to use technology to train the video game generation now entering the service.