T Nation

Vietnam and Video Games

I always thought people were full of shit when they said games could influence you. This made me think twice. Interesting.

KIDS TODAY ARE BETTER TRAINED TO KILL

by Loren W. Christensen
This first appeared in The Rap Sheet

When I was in the army in the 1960's and preparing to go to Vietnam, my unit would march and sing cute little ditties, such as, �??I�??m going to go to Vietnam, I�??m going to kill some Vietcong. All the way, all the way . . .�?? And this one. �??I am an Airborne Ranger, live on blood and guts and danger, Airborne, all the way . . .�?? 

Most of our songs and marching chants had something to do with killing North Vietnamese and slicing them to shreds with our bayonets. As a young shaved head, I was a little shocked my first week in boot camp, because I was under the impression we would just be singing things like the �??Star-Spangled Banner�?? and �??America the Beautiful.�?? 

Instead, we were singing about sordid relationships with women, and about brutally killing people who I had never seen and had nothing against.

Although using song and chants to mentally condition soldiers to kill has been done since biblical times, the physical training has evolved and improved over the eons. For example, soldiers who trained for World War I, World War II and the Korean War, mostly shot at bulls-eye targets. 

But by the time Vietnam reared its ugly head, the science of shooting people had evolved into new and innovative courses designed to make Southeast Asia-bound teenagers forget about mom, home and apple pie. The powers that be wanted us to shoot at targets without thought, without conscience; they wanted us to be quick on the trigger. There was even a shooting course called, �??Quick Kill.�??

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman writes about the differences in training in his excellent book, On Killing, published by Little, Brown, and Co. He says that the pop-up, man-shaped targets used for training during the Vietnam era provided soldiers with quick reflexes and immediate gratification. 

They were taught that they had only a split second to engage the target, and if they did it properly, their behavior would be instantly reinforced by seeing the target fall down. If they knocked down enough of them, they got a shiny badge to wear and a couple days off in town. The result was that the Vietnam era soldier developed something called, automaticity, an automatic response to a stimulus in the right manner.

As mentioned, soldiers in other wars this century didn�??t receive this kind of training. When they hit their targets, the paper silhouettes remained mockingly in place no matter how many times they were hit in the 5X. 

A quick look at the shooting statistics in the last few wars clearly show the difference between the two types of training. 

According to the Colonel, studies show that only 15-20 percent of the riflemen in World War II fired their weapons in response to an exposed enemy. In other words, 80 and 85 percent didn�??t fire at all, even to save their lives and the lives of their friends. Studies show these same statistics in other wars this century.

But in Vietnam, where one old sergeant observed, �??The most dangerous person in the world is an 18-year-old with an M-16,�?? an astonishing 90-95 percent of the soldiers fired in the heat of battle.

The difference was the training, that automaticity developed from repetitious practice. 

The pages of the calender flutter by and now a new millennium is upon us. A time when far too many of our kids spend hours playing video games that are as high-tech as they are incredibly violent. They play these games in arcades conveniently located in shopping malls, in so-called �??fun centers�?? around the city and they play them in the privacy of their homes. 

It�??s quite common for the kids to engage these games in a seemingly hypnotic state, eyes glazed, jaws slack or working ferociously on a fist-sized wad of chewing gum.

What are the games? Most are a form of Quick Kill that my generation did in boot camp. With blood in their eyes, today�??s young warriors yank at triggers to down invading space craft and to kill salivating monsters, nasty looking cowboys, tomahawk-wielding Indians, machine gun-toting gangsters, semi-clad karate-fighting coeds, and other perceived enemy who must be killed and killed quickly.

Some of these shootouts are on large screens that resemble the FATS (Firearms Training Simulator) machine, a video training tool used by police departments around the country to teach officers to react quickly and appropriately in fast paced, deadly force situations.

If you haven�??t seen the video games the kids are playing, you should know that the villains don�??t just fall over when shot. Instead, they get huge chunks of flesh blown off of them and their blood sprayed all over the screen. 

In some games, the dying cry out in horror, and their bodies shutter as last gasps of breath wheezes from their bleeding, shattered bodies. Sometimes the villain mocks the kid until several pulls of the triggers blows the taunter to smitherenes

For sure, there are good, relatively nonviolent video games that teach children a number of positive attributes - memorization, decision making, strategy, planning, and so on. But the ones I�??m talking about are the ones that teach kids how to kill with skill, and with automaticity, that mental and physical quality that proved so successful in those hellish jungles not too many years ago. 

I�??d even bet that these kids are better than we were in Vietnam, because their training is better, and they are getting more of it - a lot more. Some of them practice every day, for hours at a time. Do you train that much at the range? 

Today�??s technology is improving at a bewildering rate, technology that includes violent video games. There are virtual reality video games (the word �??game�?? is always a stretch) that places kids literally in the middle of the bloodshed as they view their killing through a magic helmet. 

Armed with a hand-held, space-age looking weapon, the kids spin and shoot, bob and weave and shoot, and squat and shoot, all while shouting and screaming and basking in a kill-crazy endorphin rush. A new shoot-�??em-up game at some arcades plays out on a two-story high screen.

The adrenaline junkies sit in Captain Kirk-type chairs, as heavy metal music pumps up their killer instinct. Then with glee and automaticity, they move up and down the larger than life screen blowing the red guts out of the villains.

Some observers have said that the fighting teenagers in Vietnam were the greatest fighting force the world has known. But today�??s teenagers are getting physical training in a pseudo reality of violent sights and sounds that we didn�??t have 30 years ago. 

The only thing today�??s teenage warriors are not getting is the stench of burnt gunpowder and fresh blood. But don�??t be surprised if that technology is next.

My generation of soldiers used songs and chants to help develop a mind-set to make the enemy killable. Kids today are getting their mental desensitization programming from a steady diet of violence in movies, TV dramas (I watched a little of Xena recently and lost count after the first 50 people were struck down with a battle axe), cartoons, music videos, the Six O�??clock News, The Jerry Springer Show, and all those Fox Network�??s real-life video programs. 

This is
important training, because the desensitization to other�??s suffering is paramount if one is going to be a good soldier.

 While my Vietnam-bound buddies didn�??t get trained until we were 18, kids today are getting theirs as young as six years old. Have you seen the intensity in the faces of these little tykes as they fire their automatic weapons at an invading horde of Nazis? 

Add to all this a couple of absent or indifferent parents, accessible weapons, drugs, alcohol, teenage rage, and confusion, and we have a lot of young soldiers itching for a fight. 

Happily, most young people have the internal constraints not to use their training, constraints learned from good and responsible parents, good schools, religious institutions, and a good selection of friends.

 But what about those who don�??t have these restraints? What about the kids who walk into their schools and open fire on their schoolmates and teachers? There is Kipland Kinkel, who at 15 described in Internet rooms his love of heavy metal music, violent cartoons, TV programs and video games. 

In May of 1997, he killed his parents, then walked into Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, and shot over 20 students, two of them fatally.

There is Mitchell Johnson, who at the age of 14, opened fire at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, killing four students, a teacher, and wounding ten others. He said he had been listening to violent rap music for several months prior to the assault. 

  Barry Loukaitis charged into a classroom in Moses Lake, Washington and killed a teacher and two students with a high-powered rifle. Prosecutors said the 14-year-old loved the violent movie, Natural Born Killers and was inspired by the Pearl Jam music video �??Jeremy�?? that depicts a teen shooting his classmates. 

Sixteen-year-old Clay Logan of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, liked to mark up walls with Marilyn Manson lyrics and favored a song by The Doors called �??This is the End,�?? in which lead singer Jim Morrison sings of killing his parents as they sleep. Logan listened to it over and over, and then shot both of his parents, his mother fatally. 

While students shooting students may be an anomaly (though it seems to be a growing trend), there are thousands upon thousands of other dangerous kids getting the same training, kids whose lifestyle places them in a world of violence. I�??m talking about gang members, angry, disenfranchised kids who wear a warrior uniform and share a belief system that honors respect, revenge and retaliation. 

What makes their training even more dangerous is that they run in pacts with others who have the same mind set, have easy access to weapons and solve conflict with violence.

Then there are those kids who are not gang affected nor have a mind set to open fire in their school hallways, but they still experience all the angst commonplace to the teenage struggle. 

One 15-year-old kid named Jason said after several hours in an arcade - that is, several hours of blood splats, dismemberment, screams of pain and torture, and lots and lots of gunfire - �??I feel like I can deal with my frustrations again.�?? His parents, who are dealing with their own frustrations over money and job problems, have no idea how their unhappy son spends his free time learning to deal with life. And death.

Is this healthy for Jason? Of course not. Can this training push an otherwise normal teenage kid over the edge when he is experiencing an especially low point in his young life. Maybe. 

No one seems to know what to do about the training our youth is getting, especially since the First Amendment allows violent types of entertainment to exist. Parental control of these things is certainly a solution, but in those cases where the parents themselves are a major part of the problem, and there are a lot of those, well, there you are. 

But for those parents who do care, they might want to look into the feasibility of law suits against indifferent, money-hungry enterprises that feed young people violent garbage. People can also picket video arcades, channel block the television, write letters to movie producers, television programs, as well as the sponsors of the TV programs. 

One thing is for sure, each day that passes with nothing being done to combat the problem, is another day of training for the young warriors. 

20th century kids were urbanized and didn’t have to kill and butcher their own food.

All this emphasis on killing is human nature. Same as it ever was.

If the kids don’t have a physical outlet, then I can see the video games becoming a problem. If playing Halo 3 for 5 hours a day and don’t release that pent up aggression, then it can build up and mess with your head.

And another point. There’s a big difference between acting like Master Chief in Halo and being a infantryman in the U.S. Army. The Army will kick that “one man soldier” shit out of you real quick.

Is there any irony between Irish’s avatar and this ‘violent video game’ paste? Far better to try and give another man a concussion than play a video game…

I would recommend the book “On Killing” by Ltcol David Grossman, referenced in the article above. It is an excellent book on the pyscology of military training, combat, and desensitization of civilians to killing from simulated acts of violence in video games and media.

And of course the murder rate among children has gone up significantly in the past 20-30 years…

…or has it?

I honestly don’t know. We should probably find that out before making theories on how video games affect violence.

…Yes, because if you stick the pasty faced nerds and frat boys who dominate the Halo and Counter Strike crowd in Iraq, they’ll most certainly do something other than shit themselves and run away crying hysterically…

yeah… and Barak Obama is the most conservative candidate we’ve ever had, he’ll eliminate the income tax and privatize education if he gets into office.

::rolls eyes::

While they do desensitize kids to violence a bit, I’d say the NEWS has a lot more to do with that than vidya games.

Interesting…

When I was in Marine Corps basic back in '92, we always “killed” and “attacked” everything. Example:

[i][u]Insane vein popping DI:[/u] squads 1,2,3,4 attack my chow hall!

[u]Young dumb and scared Recruits:[/u] squads 1,2,3,4 attack the chow hall! Aye, aye, sir!!

[u]Insane vein popping DI:[/u] reeaadddy,…KILL!!

[u]Young dumb and scared Recruits:[/u]KILL!, AYE, AYE SIR!![/i]

The word kill was used as a command for movement all the time, and we “attacked” everything. I think this mind set is vital for creating a warrior. And the USMC uses this philosophy wherever they can. We were encouraged to eat “warrior” food over fat body food; we were told that we needed to “attack” our problems, whatever they might have been. Our fighting men and women learn to fight and kill. Period. It’s what keeps us free.

The human animal is an aggressive animal by nature, which is why I think that finding an outlet for our aggression is healthy. Marc Denny of Dog Brothers Martial Arts talks very intelligently about the psychology of aggression and I agree with what he has had to say. Personally, I always feel most at peace after a night of heavy sparring. And incidentally, I have alot of respect for the individuals I have traded blows with.

Anyways, interesting discussion.

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
Is there any irony between Irish’s avatar and this ‘violent video game’ paste? Far better to try and give another man a concussion than play a video game…[/quote]

Thank you sheepfucker. Now back to your compound.

It has been a while since I read the book, but Grossman’s main point in On Killing was that video games, movies, news, and other media, did not make people better at killing or even more capable of killing than they were before. The exposure to those things broke down the psycological barriers to killing a person that people have.

After exposure to that violence, perhaps by commiting repeated killings in video games, a young person with means will be more willing to kill in real life without the sense that they are breaking the social taboo of taking a life.

It doesn’t mean that a nerdy kid playing 8 hours of Halo a day will be able to be successful in the military, it means he (or she) will likely be able to kill another person without that mental limiting switch that we all seem to born with kicking in.
I think it has some merit.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Is there any irony between Irish’s avatar and this ‘violent video game’ paste? Far better to try and give another man a concussion than play a video game…

Thank you sheepfucker. Now back to your compound.[/quote]

WTF, I didn’t say shit…oh you meant the other sheepfucker.

buuuuullshit.

http://www.gamerevolution.com/features/violence_and_videogames

violent crime amongst teenagers is at its lowest levels ever. Hell, according to the governments own data, we’re looking at the MOST PEACEFUL generation of Americans ever.

That article makes me want to kill some tangos so bad.

[quote]Ren wrote:
buuuuullshit.

http://www.gamerevolution.com/features/violence_and_videogames

violent crime amongst teenagers is at its lowest levels ever. Hell, according to the governments own data, we’re looking at the MOST PEACEFUL generation of Americans ever.
[/quote]

That’s not quite what he’s saying.

It’s more about the pscyhology of killing.

I thought the part about different fighting skills between WWI and Vietnam was the most intersting- shooting at a stationary target vs. Shooting at a target that pops up,then rewards you by falling.

It’s not that it’s making them angrier or more violent… but that it may be inadvertently training them for wartime situations.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Is there any irony between Irish’s avatar and this ‘violent video game’ paste? Far better to try and give another man a concussion than play a video game…

Thank you sheepfucker. Now back to your compound.[/quote]

Your ‘compound’ is in County Mayo. Those slackers from the south have no morals. Real men come from Donegal and Armagh, shantyboy.

You’ve developed a real passion about martial arts and combat sports. Coming up for trial soon and expecting the worst?

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
FightinIrish26 wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Is there any irony between Irish’s avatar and this ‘violent video game’ paste? Far better to try and give another man a concussion than play a video game…

Thank you sheepfucker. Now back to your compound.

Your ‘compound’ is in County Mayo. Those slackers from the south have no morals. Real men come from Donegal and Armagh, shantyboy.
[/quote]

As if it mattered, the Irish side of my family is from Galway.

Que?

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
FightinIrish26 wrote:
Headhunter wrote:
Is there any irony between Irish’s avatar and this ‘violent video game’ paste? Far better to try and give another man a concussion than play a video game…

Thank you sheepfucker. Now back to your compound.

Your ‘compound’ is in County Mayo. Those slackers from the south have no morals. Real men come from Donegal and Armagh, shantyboy.

As if it mattered, the Irish side of my family is from Galway.

You’ve developed a real passion about martial arts and combat sports. Coming up for trial soon and expecting the worst?

Que?[/quote]

Improvement! Your previous posts to me lacked imagination and wit. Now there’s a possibility that we’re related? Cool! Got any O’Donnells in the family?