I just found this interesting interview about America’s Army. It’s with Marsha Berry, the game’s software manager. Says Marsha:
“The goal for America’s Army was always to create an innovative and entertaining way to educate the public about the Army. We uphold the strictest standards for our game and make sure it enforces the Army’s Rules of Engagement. Success in the Army’s game depends upon factors such as teamwork, situational awareness, communications, and navigating life challenges by balancing goals, and adherence to Army values. And players always play as the good guy.”
In short, their USP compared to all the other first-person shooters out there is that it’s real. (It’s also free, which helps. Uncle Sam has deep pockets.) But the ‘realness’ of it is a draw. You play and you think it’s cool because this is made by the army, so you’ve got to figure that the designers speak with some authority. (‘Course, a shrapnel-induced sucking chest wound in-game isn’t quite the same as in reality, but it is a recruiting tool, after all.)
That “always play as the good guy” bit is interesting, too. It’s mainly an on-line, multiplayer game. You play against other people who have it. You play a US soldier; so do they. But you’re fighting each other. But being a US soldier fighting other US soldiers isn’t so good from a propaganda point of view. So the game renders your opponents as sort of evil-looking terrorists. They see you the same way. (See some screenshots here.) So no matter when you play, you’ll always be an American soldier taking on . . . bad guys.