The Coward

Dave Thomas | 20 Sep 2005 12:01
StateCraft - RSS 2.0

In a civil society that has come to be ruled by the boardroom, heroism is just another department in a different corporate division. And more and more, it's someone else's problem.

Uncle Sam Wants You
Since the person I was scheduled to interview about the America's Army game wasn't there, I didn't have much choice. Hurry up and wait. Isn't that the Army motto?

"Sure, I can wait for bit," I cooed to my PR contact.

It's something you learn after years of tromping through the Electronic Entertainment Expo as journalist. Reasonably, you could assume you attend the most important videogame show of the year to see product. But everyone knows while stumbling through the expo's existential torpor waiting for something interesting to happen, the real task is to make friends with product managers and publicists. These are the people that make your journalistic life more like happy or more like hell, depending on the circumstances.

So I waited.

Sitting on the floor in the Army's massive marketing display was an olive drab, radio controlled car, or mini-tank. Maybe it was used to find bombs. Or maybe for fighting midgets. Maybe it was the Army's entry in the BattleBot competition. It looked mean.

"You interested in the Talon?"

"Uh, er, I'm just waiting for my appointment to show."

"Well, let me help you," said the soldier. "Major Bret Wilson," he introduced himself with a friendly handshake. "While you're waiting, maybe we can talk."

Major Bret is a Deputy Director for the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In that role, he is one of the guys behind the America's Army game. And that's what's I'd come to talk about. So, what the hell? Let's talk.

"It's kinda loud in here. You wanna go outside?" he asked.

Huh? Leave the expo? Step outside the sense-deadening audiovisual assault of the show floor? Disarm the marketing machine? Back away from the schwag and porn stars dressed as gaming characters. Leave the Talon? Go outside?

What the hell. It was the most interesting thing that had happened all day.

Out on a convention center loading dock, I squinted in the sunlight and stared at the crates. Wasn't E3 all about the flash and bang of BIG sound, BIG graphics and BIG concepts? If so, it was all news to Major Bret. He just wanted to help me understand why my government had spent millions of dollars to develop a videogame.

"The America's Army game is a way to bring heroes back into the message," he smiled. Confident. Honest. Major Bret wanted me, the civilian citizen, to understand. He wanted me to understand what he knows. And he wants you to understand too.

We need heroes. Real heroes.

Some people think Lance Armstrong is a hero. I do not.

I think Lance is some super freaky human like the Flash or Wolverine. And maybe if he used his powers to battle super villains and malevolent space aliens, I'd change my mind. Maybe if he had a Bat Cave and a boy sidekick, I'd think differently about him. Maybe if he would just break up with Sheryl Crow I'd give the matter some consideration.

But when I look at the facts, I don't see the hero part.

Fact: Lance rides a bike really fast, for a really long time.

Fact: Lance had cancer, got very sick and somehow didn't die but lost some of his manhood in the process.

Fact: Lance sells yellow rubber bracelets to help support cancer research and is generally an inspiration to those afflicted with the disease.

Let's run these facts through the hero analyzer and see what we come out with.

Comments on