Full spectrum recruiting disorder

Mom, Can I Play a Mercenary Invading Venezuela?

Luigino Bracci Roa – Yvke Mundial

Translation: Machetera

Finally, after years of development, controversy and “free” publicity granted by the wire services and videogame websites, “Mercenaries 2” has hit the streets.

Every day, scores of new videogames hit the streets in the United States, but this one has received special attention for its subject: “a videogame of mercenaries going around in Venezuela specifically, where a power-hungry tyrant has taken over the oil supply, provoking an invasion that turns the country into a war-zone.”

The videogame’s first images date from 2005, when there was a great controversy due to the fact that pictures of the La Campiña headquarters of Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) in Caracas could be seen, destroyed in the invasion.

Flames could be seen from the Torre Domus, in Plaza Venezuela, which has been the headquarters for the National Information Technology Center since 2004, and where the web servers for the Venezuelan government websites are located.

According to the game synopsis, an important Venezuelan political figure named Ramón Solano, hires the protagonists (the mercenaries) for a job, but later refuses to pay them.  Solano then launches a coup d’etat in Venezuela, becoming the country’s dictator.  He seizes Venezuelan oil production and uses it to provoke international incidents.

“It is time the Venezuelan people stop paying for the greed of foreign interests, we will make them pay dearly for our oil. From this day forward everybody pays,” says Solano before the beginning of combat in Venezuelans scenes.  Certain scenes from the game, which takes place in 2010, show mercenaries with U.S. accents attacking oil facilities during the bloody coup d’etat.

The game shows scenes from Caracas, Mérida and elsewhere in the country.

No escape for Mérida from the war in Mercenaries 2

One can even launch nuclear bombs in Venezuelan territory.  The armed services who oppose Solano (the “good guys” in other words) have come together in the “PLAV” – People’s Liberation Army of Venezuela.  The logo will doubtless be quite familiar to all Venezuelans: the fist of OTPOR.

OTPOR is the group that has organized student movements to topple the governments of Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and other countries, through so-called “color revolutions.” The Venezuelan student movement, which reversed the fist from black to white, attaching the word “Resistencia,” is another one of the groups receiving advice from OTPOR.

“PLAV” are the good guys in the game.  Using the OTPOR logo, they claim to be leftists who want to topple the “dictator.”

Note the word “Resista” on the helicopter

From Murderers to Heroes

The Tribuna Latina website gives another description of the videogame: “Try to earn money as a mercenary in a war that takes place in Venezuela due to the struggle over Black Gold.  Any resemblance to Iraq is (not) purely coincidental.”

Suddenly, the heroes are the mercenaries (better known in Venezuela and Colombia as “paramilitaries”): people hired by a government for such dirty and illegal work that it can’t be done by regular soldiers.  Colombian paramilitaries (or “mercenaries”) are used to killing their victims in the most ruthless fashion: hacking a person to death in front of their family and other villagers, with the aim of terrorizing the population.  However, these villains are suddenly the heroes and their actions are trivialized.

Videogames Used to Recruit Youth

The game was developed by Pandemic Studios, a business located in Los Angeles, California, and in Australia.  It may seem like an “innocent” videogame business like so many others, but the reality is perhaps not so “innocent.”  “Pandemic’s target market is young men of military recruitment age and indeed this is not Pandemic’s first military adventure,” the Venezuela Solidarity Network explained in 2006.  And it offered evidence:

The portal MSNBC, owned by the NBC news network and Microsoft, wrote an interesting article in October of 2003, titled “Pentagon and CIA Enlist Video Games,” in which it reported that both U.S. organizations are using electronic games to solve two major problems:

  • Declining numbers of young people signing up for military service in their country
  • The necessity of training its soldiers with more economical and widespread technologies, which allow them to learn military tactics and train leaders.

Therefore, the Pentagon and the CIA have increasingly turned to videogame businesses to create “realistic” simulations of soldiers invading other countries.  The videogame players and moreover, computers, allow various young people who live in different cities to get to know one another through the Internet, and play in cooperative “teams,” something that allows these military simulations to be used so that soldiers (or future soldiers) may put together group strategies to defeat their opponents.

MSNBC explains: “’Full Spectrum Warrior’ was created through the Institute for Creative Technologies in Marina Del Rey, Calif., a $45 million endeavor formed by the Army five years ago to connect academics with local entertainment and video game industries. The institute subcontracted game development work to Los Angeles-based Pandemic Studios.”

In other words, Pandemic worked for an institute that worked for the CIA.  This same article, dated 2003, indicates that ICT “has been working…with the CIA for about a year – at a cost of several million dollars – [to] let agency analysts assume the role of terror cell leaders, cell members and operatives.”

Screenshot from Full Spectrum Warrior

Pandemic proudly displays the project on its website: “Full Spectrum Warrior™ / Army Training is a squad-level, dismounted, Light Infantry training simulator created for use by the US Army to be played on a Next-Gen Console. The focus of Full Spectrum Warrior™ is on critical tactical decision making by the Squad Leader. These decisions need to be made while under fire in tactically and politically complex MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) environments.”

The previously mentioned Institute also created another training game solely for military use: “Full Spectrum Command,” in February of 2003.  Set in Eastern Europe (still wonded by the Balkan conflict), it “tests organization, decision-making and the ability to recognize threats” for a leader of 120 peacekeeping troops.

MSNBC also said that “video games are increasingly viewed by top brass as a way to get teenagers interested in enlisting.  Games such as “America’s Army,” developed and published by the Army, and “Guard Force,” which the Army National Guard developed with Alexandria, Va.-based Rival Interactive, can be downloaded or picked up at recruitment offices.”  In the United States, enlistment is voluntary, and it’s no great secret that the Armed Forces have resorted to all sorts of “tricks” (such as offering citizenship to foreigners, or offering education subsidies of thousands of dollars to future combatants) in order to try to raise the level of young people who will volunteeer to go and invade other countries.  Even the Simpsons has parodied this.

But no game surpasses Counter-Strike or Rainbow Six, games that while seen as a form of entertainment in Venezuela, which even encourage teamwork, in the United States, however, have also awakened youth interest in the military.

Why All the Fuss?  It’s Just a Game!

It’s troubling to think that millions of U.S. adolescents are being entertained right now by playing at invading Venezuela.  In 2002, millions of adolescents played “Conflict: Desert Storm,” only months before the invasion of Iraq began.  The game conditioned and accustomed many to the idea that an invasion of that country was imminent and even necessary, despite the fact that later it was determined that it was not true that the Iraqi government had had relations with Al Qaeda or developed nuclear weapons.

Chuck Kaufman, a member of the “Alliance for Global Justice” raised the question of whether this is “just a game.”  He is well acquainted with the Latin American community in the United States.  An old member of the “Nicaraguan Network,” he presently belongs to the “Alliance for Global Justice,” (AFGJ) and is the coordinator of the “Venezuelan Solidarity Network.”

“Why didn’t Pandemic select Dublin or Washington, D.C.? Pandemic is simply capitalizing on negative and inaccurate U.S. press stories about Venezuela and its leader, Hugo Chavez, in order to make a quick buck. It’s another piece of anti-Venezuelan propaganda that serves only the U.S. military, pure and simple,” he said.

Pandemic Studios, until last year, belonged to Elevation Partners, with Bono (the famous member of the U2 rock band) as one of its shareholders.  Various protests against the singer took place around the world; it’s not acknowledged as the reason, but basically, Pandemic was sold last year to the videogame house, Electronic Arts.

Kaufman explaines: “Bono was one of the largest investors in Pandemic and sold his interests in the company.  We also managed to have the designers change the “bad guy” in the game from a figure similar to Chávez, to one of a corrupt businessman.”

Pandemic Defends Itself: It’s Like a James Bond Movie

Just a few days ago, Pandemic’s director, Cameron Brown, downplayed the fact that Venezuela was the terrain where the action of Mercenaries 2 unfolded.

“We think it’s kind of interesting; we’re flattered when anyone pays attention to us. Some of the things they claim, like that we’re in league with the Bush administration, is pretty funny stuff. Our attitude is we’re not out to offend anyone. We regard Mercenaries purely as an action movie. It’s kind of like James Bond in a way; we’ll take a real world place and turn it into an action movie version of that place. It’s very fictionalised. I don’t think anyone should take it too seriously–we certainly don’t.”

But for Kaufman, the allegations are not at all fictitious.  “Bond is a British agent following the era of British imperialism.  The United States has more mercenaries in Iraq than soldiers. The Bush regime quite clearly harasses Venezuela and Chávez.  Pandemic is associated with the war; this is more than ‘fiction.'”

“There’s a difference between watching someone who kills a person and pulling the trigger yourself.  These videogames have become realistic.  Anyway, it’s not true that movies have no problem with gratuitous violence.”

Another Anti-Venezuela Videogame: “Conflict: Denied Ops”

As if Mercenaries 2 were not already enough, in February another first-person combat game (FPS or First Person Shooter) went on sale, titled: “Conflict: Denied Ops” that also takes place in Venezuela as well as Rwanda and Russia.  It has to do with two CIA agents who must enter the country to carry out their special tasks.  It can be played on PCs, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.  Here’s a video.

A summary of the videogame tells of an interventionist plot:

At the beginning of the game we learn about a coup d’etat in Venezuela.  The coup, led by a General Ramírez, provokes a civil war in Venezuela and brings about a large number of civilian casualties.  However, when the U.N begins an intervention, headed by the United States, Ramírez surprises everyone by threatening to use a nuclear weapon which no-one knew he possessed.”

“Due to the impossibility of risking a direct military intervention, help is requested from the CIA’s Division of Special Activities to intervene in missions that will not be recognized at all by the government of the United States.  As a first step, Graves and Lang are sent to the heart of Venezuela so that, through their own methods, they might find proof of Ramírez’s nuclear program.  A piece of the data leads them to start a race against time, across 4 continents, in order to prevent the deadly weapon from falling into the hands of Ramírez.”

Some of General Ramírez’s soldiers wear red berets.

The game was developed by the British firm, Pivotal Games and marketed by Eidos, another British firm that became famous through the games of Lara Croft (Tomb Raider).  In 2005 Elevation Partners (the business with Bono as co-owner) tried to buy Eidos, but failed in its bid.

Are they simple and innocent videogames, or a plan by the U.S. ultra-rightwing to condition its people – in particular, its young people approaching the age to enter into military service – for a future intervention in Venezuela?  Decide for yourself.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

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