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Army using arcades to find new recruits

Jason Dobson

Army Recruiter: "Listen, I see you've been having a lot of fun gunning for bad guys on this here arcade game. But tell you what, how would you like to get shot at for real!"

Wide-eyed youth:
"Boy, mister, would I!"

Conversations similar to the above are likely unfolding at Philadelphia's Franklin Mills Mall, where the Army has setup 'The Army Experience Center,' a $13 million arcade designed to earn the favor of local gamers and persuade them to trade in their quarters for military-issue green. The arcade, a 14,500 square foot vortex of patriotism, is home to three full-scale military vehicle simulators and a host of games -- most of them of the shooty variety.

Entertaining, yes, though the center is also designed to educate visitors about job opportunities in the Army, with recruiters on hand to weave nationalist prose to anyone inclined to listen. Of course, like America's Army before it, the ultimate goal is to get youngsters (though nobody under 17) to sign their name on the dotted line and report for duty.

It's something that has not been panning out exactly as Uncle Sam might hope, with only 35 visitors enlisting since the facility opened in August, a figure the New York Times reports is "slightly below" the rate of the five traditional recruitment centers the arcade replaced. This might -- might -- have something to do with real bullets stinging a smidge more than fake ones. Just a thought.

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