Ryan’s zits can barely be discerned in the screen glow from the 20-inch monitor. He peers into it with an intense gaze of concentration; his wrist muscles flexing beneath the carpel tunnel syndrome wrist wraps. There is movement, yes, definitely movement in the left corner, by the door. Ryan shifts in his $4,000 task chair as a little perspiration makes his fingers slippery on the controller gripped in his hands.
“Confirm,” he commands the computer through the little mic attached to a headset, the head of the mic not much larger that a huge zit on his right cheek. As he says it he moves the cursor over the place on the monitor where he detected the movement. A right click on the controller and the cursor turns to a crosshairs. Then another click and the infra red heat sensor changes color.
“Confirmed,” he whispers, “adios m*****f****r.” Whoa baby, cool, dude, C-K’d that one! Confirmed Kill, game over for you, raghead. Not bad for a 17-year old, eh?
Ryan puts the controller down and turns to the keypad and hits F5 and the monitor shows the bot pulling back through the doorway. “Backin’ out Cent-Com, A01-618004V, Backin’ out. Three down, one “collat” at coordinates 000773.2/993005.” Ryan leans back in the task chair that automatically adjusts ergonomically to his position.
Sgt. Brookes comes by. “More nachos, dude? Nice kill, that last one. Yer an Army of one, man, an Army of one.” He slips a tray with a plate of nachos and a big Slurppee from the 7-11 on top of the large CPU beside the desk. “Whyncha relax for a few minutes, have a look at that new animé of Schwartzenegger goin’ back door on Hillary Clinton.”
“Yes sir,” Ryan responds, “anything back on my request to be moved over to stealth bombers? I’ve been practicing on the game and think I’m best in the F111-U.”
You watch the ads for Army recruitment and there are almost always these “soldiers” messing with computers and video screens. The message is that this is not only a modern Army, but that volunteers are leaning skills that will pay off once that are back in the civilian world. Geeks with guns. Well, who knows, maybe these young recruits are hoping that their Army/computer experience will give them some million dollar ideas for a successful video game after Bush and his neo-con buddies call “game over.” Who knows, maybe there’ll be just as many comp-geeks going to Camp Pendleton as to Silicon Valley.
In fact, it may work out that the relationship is reciprocal. Already some aircraft manufacturers are mocking up pilot-less fighters and bombers, and robotic “soldiers” (as if the current ones aren’t looking pretty robotic) are being developed that can go into buildings like the fictional Ryan’s A01-618004V, finding enemy with the aid of heat and movement sensors, through the wall tomography and finishing them off with lasers, nerve gases as well as guns and grenades. The guys (and gals? Hey you girls can get in on the combat now!) who operate these planes, tanks and “sol-bots.”
So what should we make of the concern being voiced in many quarters that video games, rather violent video games, are a scourge on our youth, and addiction taking over their lives, their studies, and producing kids with high body fat, zits, and arrested personalities? Politicians (among the notable Hillary Clinton), clerics, educators, and of course moms and dads, have sounded the alarm.
But not, it seems, the military. I think that they know that these are our next military heroes. In the coming military the ad should say that the Marines need a “few good nerds.” The Army will need a “geek of One,” with 10 gigabytes of computing power. Landing a pilot-less F22X-U on a carrier deck? Piece of cake when you’ve done it hundreds of times in the simulator while eating nachos. Fighting “insurgents in Iraq, resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, Somali warlords, you name it, they will have played the games, whacked those suckahs with cursors and clicks so many times, watched their pixels spray blood and guts, their pixilated body parts fly apart, their buildings and tanks disintegrate, so real that the real thing will be, like routine, dude.
So maybe we should not mess with the current evil rotting the moral fiber of our youth. We may need them in this uncertain world of political instability and global terror. They, and their high-tech weapons and robotics, and their powerful computers, may be our Zit Brigades, and Nacho Warriors of the military future. Sure there will probably still be a need for “boots on the ground,” but there will be more “booting up” of computers, and with high-speed wireless and satellite hook ups, that geeky kid up in his bed unkempt bedroom, with his game controller, might just be keeping the world safe for democracy.
I can hear Ryan now in the WiFi VFW chat rooms some years from now, rapping war stories with his old comrades-in-mouse.
[SavPrivRyan@ArmyO1.mil] “Dudes, I remember the time these three Syrian Migs were on my tail. It felt like that time there were three cops after me in Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas. I joy-sticked over behind the Golan Heights, and came up behind them. Toasted those suckers. Confirm-Com emailed me that one of them came down smack in the middle of Damascus. I thought I didn’t have enough backside RAM to pull that move, but I gotta tell you, Dudes, the new Mac G9’s can really boot ‘n blast.”
[OsamazNighmare@ArmyO1.mil ] Hey, SPR, gotcha, dude. And speaking of joy-sticks, do you remember that little bit of porn R ‘n R they used to have, the one with Schwartzenegger and Hillary?
©2005, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 8.12.2005)