Despite the recent shut down of the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, the U.S. Army says its videogame recruitment facility was successful.
The U.S. Army installed a multi-million dollar recruiting facility in Philadelphia called the Army Experience Center two years ago, which was just shut down at the end of July. What made the facility unique, and also garnered it negative attention, was how it brought in kids as young at 13 with the allure of free video games.
The Army Experience Center allowed visitors to sit in recliners while they played war games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, as long as they could prove they were 13 or older first (though presumably gamers younger than 17 had permission to play M-rated games). Apache helicopter, Blackhawk helicopter, and armored combat Humvee simulators were also housed in the facility for a somewhat more realistic look at combat.
Since the center's opening, it created a mass of controversy and was constant target by protesters for shutdown. Protesters such as veteran Staff Sgt. Jesse Hamilton believed using games was an inappropriate way to recruit, saying: "The heat, people screaming, blood, flies, horrible smells, smoke in your eyes stinging, sand - the list goes on and on - and they've taken all of that out."
AEC spokesman denies such allegations, saying: "If you were to ask any one of [AEC's visitors], 'Do you feel as though the Army is going to be like playing with a controller or game?' they're going to smile and say, 'Absolutely not.' It's crazy to even think that." He says that the AEC was shut down according to schedule because its two-year pilot program ended.
Though recruitment rates in the Philadelphia area have remained the same, the AEC attracted 240 recruits with what the Army reports as half the staff. Videogames appear to be a partial component of the Army's recruitment centers for the near future, as two new ones will be replacing the AEC that will also allow free gameplay, but are said to be scaled-down from what the AEC provided.
The Army Experience Center does feel a little bit sneaky, and though I've never been there, it seems it was attaching a component of "fun" to joining the Army. If it had allowed for play of all types of games, like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Guitar Hero, the games could be considered just a way to get kids through the door. The fact that the games were war-based makes me feel like the protesters may have had a point.