Sure. So, my name is Jonathan but I go by Jonny Roadblock online. I live in San Antonio, Texas. I'm originally from Dallas.
I served five years in the U.S. Navy and have been gaming ever since -- wow. The Atari, really. I've been kinda gaming since about three years old, four years old. Kinda grew up with -- my dad had the old TI, Texas Instruments videogame console in the house. I was too young to really play with it then, and then had to have the Atari so I could play Pong and Pac-Man and all those good games. And then my world changed when the Nintendo Entertainment System came out. Ever since then, I've pretty much played videogames as much as possible.
What did you do in the Navy? Did you see combat?
I was a cryptologist and I served in a combat zone. [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] That’s all you can tell me?
That’s all I can tell you. That is simply the nature of being on the tactical side of the intelligence field.
Okay. I have to at least ask. What was your highest rank within the Navy?
When I got out, I was an E5.
And what do you make of this, me reaching out to interview you about your views on videogames?
[Pause.] Well. [Laughs.]
You won't hurt my feelings if you think it's weird or whatever. It's just a good way to throw down the baseline of where we're both at on this.
I think it's nice, kind of understanding our take from the veteran -- and though I'm not active today, 10 years ago I was active and I was still a hardcore videogamer. The media doesn't really pay a lot of attention to us when it comes to that unless we do something stupid or we claim videogames made us go out and do something or some veteran committed suicide because of something that happened in a videogame. They don't ever take a look at the positive outlook and the positive aspects of what videogames do for us. So this is kinda a cool way. When the guys from Operation Supply Drop asked me if I'd be willing to talk to you, I said, "Well, as long as he's not a douche, I'm good."
[Laughs.] I make no promises.
[Laughs.] But I guess, here we are talking, so they must've thought you were a good enough guy to at least put a good perspective on our thoughts and our feelings.
Well, yeah. So, maybe it's an odd place to start, but did videogames at all influence your choice to enlist?
No. Me dropping out of college because I was bored out of my mind was the reason I enlisted. But, my genre of choice is around the more military-style videogames, like first-person shooters. I played a lot of Command & Conquer on the PC when I was growing up. I mean, I have every Command & Conquer videogame ever created. So, military and war-style videogames do definitely appeal to me. I've always been interested in 'em. Maybe in the background it kind of helped, but I think it's more of, "Oh crap, I just dropped out of college. What am I gonna do?" as an influence.
Have you ever played America's Army?
[Laughs.] No. I stayed away from it. In the Navy, I don't play the Army's propaganda recruitment tool.
[Laughs.] Let me take you back, then, because I think the obvious place to start is by asking what you think of military videogames. But, when you weren't out in the field and serving, what non-military videogames were popular with you and the people around you?
Non-military games would have been -- I loved Tiger Woods and Madden back then. Grand Theft Auto.
What did you like about Madden and Tiger Woods?
Well, Tiger Woods is great. I actually hate gold but my dad loves it. My dad was playing Tiger Woods back in the states and I was overseas and I would play it and we would be able to compare scores and he'd be able to tell me how he's doing on his character and I'd be able to say how I'm doing on my character. Even on the videogame side, he did better than me at golf.
But with Madden, I love just getting the guys together and to play and have that electronic camaraderie of playing videogames and just getting us all in the same room, drinking some cold beers, and battling it out. You know, the hometown pride. I was always the Dallas Cowboys and almost everyone else was either some California-based or some New York-, New England-based team. So, that was always fun, just beating each other up electronically. So, that was fun there. But yeah, that's what it was all about. It's just a good way to escape. That was important.
Did you find that different types of stresses in that lifestyle of serving attracted you to different sorts of games?
Maybe. I mean, The simple grotesque violence that was in Grand Theft Auto was awesome because it was so fake that it was fun to play. I mean, that might be an oddball way of saying it, but when it's super-fictional and it's just -- it looks so stupid, that makes it fun. Especially if you're coming from a zone or an area that you're used to seeing the real thing. So, seeing the cartoon version of it as you're jacking a car and rolling around, it gets kinda fun. And, again, it's that whole completely different world and environment and it's just you and your console and your cold beer and you're just having fun and not thinking about real life.
This is broad, but what is your opinion of military or war representation in videogames?
It's gotten a lot better over the years. When I say "better," I mean closer to real life, except for the whole respawning thing, obviously. But recent games have come out, like Rainbow Six: Siege. The game came out just over a year, a year and a half ago now, and it's one of the best -- from a realistic standpoint -- squad-based games. You know, you're working with a team. Me and four friends from all over the country get online and we play. We're calling out what we're seeing, we're givin' orders, we're telling each other where the enemies are. We're kinda spotting everything and that's the closest I've been to a real-life style of videogame. And I think it's gotten better. Call of Duty and -- well, Call of Duty, they've gone way off the deep end with all this space BS that's running on walls and lasers and crap. I mean, it got to the point where I didn't even buy this last installment of the game.
Talkin' about Advanced Warfare?
It's so advanced that it's not believable at all. It's -- I don't know. When you hear some of the kids that jump on these games. You know, they're, like, 10. They're already desensitized to this stuff because they're just pulling their trigger on their controller. They don't have a concept of what this could be like if it was real. So, it's hard because being an adult playing a videogame and hearing a 10-year-old trying to talk trash and keep up with us, it's just hard because I have nieces and nephews that are that age. My hope is that they would never see what this would be like in real life.
There is a desensitization. There is that going on in these. I personally believe that some of it's good, but some of it's removing the innocence of our youth from it. But on the flip side of that coin, if they watch FOX News or NBC or CNN, they're seeing just as graphic stuff. If they're watching any primetime show, they're seeing the same graphical situations. People getting shot. The death and destruction of bombing. Things like that. I don't think I can say that word in the airport. Oops!
[Laughs.] At the end of the day, though, I think that the videogames is just a game. It's a release. And because of the stresses of real life, it's nice to jump into the videogame world and not think about it.
It's funny you say 10-year-olds because I had a question about the 10-year-olds who play these games. I don't know if you read it, but I sent along to Ray to pass onto you -- I had interviewed one of the writers from a couple of these Call of Duty games and one of the main reasons he quit writing those games is because he said 10-year-olds are playing them. He thought the games are fine, they're not too violent, they don't need to change, but he just [didn't want to be a part of helping 10-year-olds be desensitized to these things](www.nodontdie.com/adam-gascoine" target="_blank).
Well, if he thinks his game is the main contributor to it, I would beg to differ.
What do you think is the main contributor?
It all shows up on the same rectangle.
Sure. True. That's very true.
But the difference is mom and dad are sitting in the room with them when they're watching TV and mom and dad are nowhere to be found when they're playing the videogames.
But what do you make of that? That we have 10-year-olds in this country and other countries, too, that play these games and they think that that's what war is really like? I don't know that they always necessarily explore these topics with seriousness or even considering the consequences.
Well, so, I grew up playing shoot-'em-up games.
Yeah. Me too.
I mean, being in war, I don't think I was desensitized.
I know a lot of guys, a lot of friends who if they were desensitized before they left, why is their PTSD so bad today after being out? It's one of those things where every mind is going to accept what they see differently and they're going to deal with it differently. So if parents are buying these games for their kids, I would say that either they know their kids better than they think they do or that we think they do. Or that they don't care because it's a videogame and that's their take on it. "It's just a game," they tell their kids. "It's not real life. It's not real killing. It's gonna be different than what you see on the news."
So, it's not real life, but I think you mentioned you wouldn't want to have your nieces and nephews to have to go to war. I'm curious to hear -- what do you make of the fact that civilian videogame players, they do get burned into their heads gun makes, bullet calibers, etc.? Do you think it's weird that real wars and combat experiences have seeped into our art and entertainment in that way?
It is funny to have some guy that has never joined, never served tell me the specs of my M4 better than I can. And I used to have to field strip and clean the damn thing every night.
[Laughs.] So, I mean, he can better explain twist patterns and twist counts on rifling than some of the gunsmiths that I had in Navy. I mean, it is interesting.
And I think it's good. I honestly think it's good because it puts more of an onus on the real life side of it. Yeah, he saw all this crap on a videogame, but he understands it now and the questions are better than, "Hey, what was it like in this country? What was it like in that country? This ship? That ship?" I mean, it's more like, "Hey, did you have this while you were there and did it actually fire the same way as what they're portraying in the game?" I think the questions are more educated and some of the comments sound a little bit later. But, again, it's coming from an adult. Because I do try to game with people my own age. I'm 34 years old. Wow, I just said that out loud, I'm 34 years old. [Laughs.] Most of my gaming friends are in that 30 to 45-year-old category.
So, yeah, it's weird. But I kinda like the fact that it's more realistic. But I do fear that what is that gonna do in the future when a 10-year-old becomes an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old and wants to go buy one of the real ones and who knows -- I do think that our childrens' minds are not as strong as ours were or our parents' or our grandparents' minds were. And what if there's some kind of mental disability going on and this kid gets a hold of an M4 or an AR-15? He knows all the specs. He knows all the things to -- he knows all the mechanics around how to shoot and now he's going out and pissed off at the world because mom didn't hold him enough or dad didn't show him enough attention growing up and he goes on a rampage?
I mean, I'm not gonna blame the videogame industry for that. But that is a fear. They are -- I mean, when you go through some of these tutorials of these videogames, they're pretty in-depth and some of them are very close to real life when it comes to how to hold and carry your weapon. If you look at videogames today compared to 10 years ago, 15 years ago, they always had the guy with his finger on the trigger. Now it's showing the guys, finger off the trigger, going down range. They're getting more and more lifelike and it's there. You know?
I'm not sure if you were joking about America's Army, but when is a game not just a game and it's actually propaganda?
Well, when the U.S. Army, or any military for that matter, puts out their own videogame that they write in a time when they could not get enough recruits to come in, that is a propaganda tool. I mean, it is what it is.
So, you weren't kidding before.
No, I personally felt that that was a propaganda tool because the U.S. Army was the one who pushed it.
Yeah, I wouldn't disagree.
But I don't blame 'em.
I wouldn't either.
Get the games to get them interested in these things now so you can recruit them. Technology is what's driving our military today. You look at Cyber Command out there. That came out of a videogame. I mean, we talk about these types of things in the Splinter Cell series or the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series. They were in Tom Clancy books and Terminator. We look at, "Yeah, they're fictitious." But fiction's based on some form of non-fiction or reality.
But we have CYBERCOM today. We have drones. We have all kinds of unmanned vehicles. We are able to fight wars from Las Vegas, Nevada area and these drones are down in Afghanistan, in Iraq. They're being flown off aircraft carrier decks. Some of them even smaller than that coming off of smaller ships. Some of them are coming out of backpacks and being thrown in the air and they fly.
I mean, these are things that I think were inspired by some of the crazy tech that shows up in videogames. The kids are the ones playing those. They're the ones that are able to control a device on a screen using two joysticks, four firing buttons, and a D-pad. I mean, come on. That's your people. That's who you need to fight the next massive war.
Yeah, I sent you that thing which I'm sure you saw anyway about drones from December in The Guardian. I can't remember if we emailed about it but I'm sure you know the quote from Reagan back in '89? You know what I'm talking about?
I assumed I wouldn't have to tell you about it. So I guess I should first ask: Why are you laughing? Then I'll ask the question I was gonna ask. [Laughs.]
The '80s were an interesting decade. I mean, if we look, Back to the Future talked about Donald Trump being president. Holy crap.
Oh yeah. I heard that happened.
Yeah, it's nuts.
Self-lacing shoes are there. Star Wars, though it was a complete crack-pipe dream, and his advisors going on that crap really good -- but how much of it was fake? How much of it was something that in the making or in the works? I think -- and this is gonna sound like I'm some kinda conspiracy propaganda theorist guy here but I think that the government tests the concept or the idea of things by putting them in the public like putting them in videogames. I mean, we all know that these videogame developers have contacts with the military and will say it even though no one will probably admit it, DARPA, to get concepts or to consult to make sure that they're being as lifelike as possible.
What's it to say that EA or one of these other massive developers -- Red Storm -- didn't get told, "Hey, try this out. What do you think about this? Hey, run with that. See how it does in your game." And market tests the concept by putting in crazy drones or insane night vision and other weird shit. How do we know that they weren't testing them in the late '80s and early '90s?
I don't think it sounds like conspiracy stuff. I had heard that back in the '60s that Gene Roddenberry had a friend who worked or used to work for the DoD and had snuck out or leaked information about some of the technology they were working on and it showed up in Star Trek. And then years and decades later it's turned into stuff like the iPad. I don't know how crazy or conspiracy that sounds to you, but I've heard about this sort of thing -- that relationship between the armed forces and the entertainment world for a long time. When I see these articles, though, or Reagan saying the things about the air force and how all our kids playing videogames are going to be outstanding pilots -- I mean, do you laugh? I know you just did laugh, but is it overstating the relationship between playing games and fighting wars? How actually similar are they? I know you talked about the D-pad and stuff, but --
Well, let me turn this around. Do you remember that movie, Toys with Robin Williams?
Yeah. [Laughs.] I do.
They were talking about drones and they were having the kids play the videogames who didn't know the difference. They were getting points. A hundred points for a civilian. Two-hundred points for someone in the military. A jet blowing up, a tank blowing up. Things like. I mean, what year did that movie come out?
Maybe '95 or '92?
Really? I was thinking in the early '90s, late '80s. Either way, I think it comes down to -- it makes perfect sense. I mean, look at all the flight simulators out there. I mean, these have been going on since computers could actually run them. So, '97, '98's when the really good flight sims came out. I mean, you now have -- you can get a full set of flight controls for your computer and play pretty real life flight simulations that some pilots even admit are better than what they had when they were going through pilot training.
But, like, do we have navy staff planners or their equivalent who have used Command: Modern Air / Naval Operations for both work and play? Does that happen?
I do. I use some of the same tactics that I was taught. When we squad up and we're playing Rainbow Six or we were playing the Ghost Recon open beta this past weekend -- I mean, we're setting up strategies. We teach each other and work with each other on how to stack up and go through a door. And it's a videogame. But it's realistic enough where you could actually play the tactics that are legit stacking tactics. You know, you have one guy breach a door, you toss a flash in, and then you go in start shooting. You already know where your targets are. You're doing the recon, the intelligence gathering. I mean, it is as close to real life combat situation as you can get without donning a uniform and take the note.
I mean, it's legit to the point where some of the tactics work. [Laughs.] I mean, that's what's fun about this. I mean, or, you go out and you'd have to do some paintballing or airsoft to kind of get that same experience. But now, you can be 450 pounds and sitting on your couch or something, doing the same thing that the guys who are out in the field doing the same type of stuff. You have that same feeling, that same notion without having to leave your couch.
Are there aspects of serving that you wish videogames did a better job of portraying? Just, the lifestyle or what it's like being out there?
So, there's a certain romance about what they're showing in the videogames. You're the hardcore spec ops guy. What they don't show is the real soldiers out there. I mean, I'm not saying the SEALs that chase targets are not the real deal. But they're the few. They're not the Marines who are going in and there's 150 of them trying to take a town. You have the thousand-person brigade coming in behind with the Army who have to occupy the land. It just shows the mission: Okay, you have to take this point. Okay, you got it, you held it for X amount of seconds. Okay, you win. [Laughs.] They don't show that one operation could take a year after the initial attack occurs. They don't show the aftermath of it. They don't show having to take Fallujah twice because the team that was occupying it got overran. They don't show those things. They don't show the downtime where people go bonkers 'cause they're bored. They don't show the adrenaline comedown that happens -- they just don't show that.
I think that's one of the big things that people going into the military are kinda shocked when it hits them: "Holy crap, I'm bored out of my mind. What'm I gonna do? I need to go shoot something. I need to go run. I need to go workout. I have to do something." They're always looking for that constant adrenaline rush and that's the part that they're not showing. That's the part that's tough. Because everyone thinks, "Well, when I get old, I want to join the military. I'm gonna be this badass Navy SEAL or this counter-terrorism force." When, in reality, that's, like, 1 percent of what the military does. You know, it's tough looking at it from that standpoint because in real life the folks that don't get hardly any of the love are the 99 percent that go out there and bust their ass everyday. The only people who get all the attention are the SEAL teams or the Deltas -- the scout snipers, the rangers. You know, those guys, the elite of the elite. They don't ever focus on the average Joe that's in the military.
I talked to James Clark at Task & Purpose. He's an editor there. He told me he felt that war videogames are insulting and dehumanizing, that soldiers basically exist as two-dimensional crosshairs.
I could see that. I never thought of it that way. But yeah. Well, think about it. I go to Rainbow Six. I'll tell you, I've played over 700 hours of Rainbow Six. I'm kinda attuned with that kinda gameplay. But I tell you, the premise, while a lot of people I've played with online, they don't understand it -- it's supposed to be training missions. It's "you're a counter-terrorism unit squad and you're training against another counter-terrorism unit squad." But, yeah. I'm not talking about, "Oh, I got him out of the game." No, it's, "Okay, I killed this son of a bitch. I killed that son of a bitch. Okay, headshot! Boom. Done." If you go to my YouTube channel and look at any of my Rainbow Six gameplay -- I mean, that's what I'm calling out. "Okay, this guy's dead. That guy's dead." I'm guilty of it. I mean, my buddies are all guilty of it. That's what we think about it. They are targets for us to kill. So, yeah. I mean -- [Laughs.] As soon as you put it in that light, it makes sense. Two-dimensional targets are the people in the uniform that's not on your team. Yeah.
What do you think these games do a good job of portraying but don't really get much credit for?
[Pause.] Wow. I don't think they do a good job of portraying anything other than entertainment. Because as soon as you respawn, real life no longer exists. You know, you don't take 40 bullets and some guy comes up and injects some magic potion in a needle and you're good to go and your health's back up to 100 percent. That shit don't happen.
I didn't really imagine you crouching behind a lot of boxes out on the field until your health regenerated.
Or how a cardboard box will stop a bullet.
Yeah. Also that. But, do you think that's irresponsible that those games don't feel the need to do that?
No. Would you play a game that was closer to real life? You get shot in the head and you're done and you don't regenerate? That'd be a boring game. I mean, the biggest part about videogames is it's entertainment. That's all it is. I think the thing that we have to focus on is making sure people truly understand it's a videogame and entertainment and not real life. And I think the one thing that they're horrible at portraying is the real life aspect of what these teams are. I mean, I understand you want to be politically correct and market to the broadest group of people you can, but you have games that are putting women into the Navy SEALs and women into some of these other special ops groups where there are no women and women will never serve in, probably not in my lifetime, unless they go to the Israeli defense force or they're in one of those groups, where having women in a special operations role is common. But I find it's kind of a slap in the face to put this fictitious female character in that role when it won't happen in today's military because there's women who have tried out for explosive ordinance disposal for the Navy and that's as close as they can get.
And they're just as hardcore as any of the men, but they want to be politically and, "Oh yeah, this woman, she's part of the Navy SEAL team." Eh, no. And then they butch her up pretty good. With tats and big-ass biceps and shit. Yeah. [Laughs.] I mean, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the shit out of Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. She looked hot. Had a phenomenal body. But, again, we don't want to see our women coming home in body bags and caskets from a war zone. I don't think -- I know for a fact there are some women in, well, when I was in a decade ago, that could lift me. I'm 6'3" and back then when I was 265 pounds, they could pick me. Me. So, it's not a question of, "Can they pull their weight?" It's a public perception. But we're defying actuality by putting these women in a combat situation in a videogame when in real life it doesn't happen that way.
You mentioned earlier you had played Madden and Tiger Woods. I guess this doesn't make as much sense for golf, but do you think the Madden games, do they do a better job of portraying that team aspect that you're talking about these war games falling short on?
No. I think the wargames by far have the best team aspect of the game of any of the videogame genres out there. I think that you can't get around that. In the football games, the hockey games -- I don't think they can compete with the wargames.
What do you think about -- this is broad, but I'm curious what you make of the messages in some of these games. Like, I'll give you an example. I talked to the head of PR for Call of Duty last month. Just to get a sense of what the people who make these games -- do they stand behind the messages in these games? Are these games just excuses for more shooting? What are they?
I mean, does it surprise you to hear that a game company like that doesn't want to talk about the messages in their games or talk about the violence? That they just want to make sure it's positioned as a product for people to buy?
Well, again, it's entertainment, right? Do you think that they have an actual message other than: what if? Maybe that's the message: "What if your next combat soldiers are running on walls and have jetpacks to have some kind of super-jump-boost crap and they're shooting laser weapons?" Maybe that's what their message is. Maybe they're trying to spawn the curiosity of the next generation. Or maybe they're trying to spawn as much profit margin as they can. Either way, they're putting out a product.
It's a consumable product. And they want to market to the largest base of consumers they can, so they keep it interesting or fresh or whatever. EA or was it DICE? With Battlefield 1, they went the complete opposite way. They went to World War I and started in that direction. That blew my mind. It's one of my favorite things. They went that direction and it's frickin' awesome. It's by far my most favorite Battlefield game in the series. Now, a lot of people are gonna hate me for saying that because everyone thinks Battlefield 4 was the most amazing thing since sliced bread. But, I'll tell you, World War I without a bunch of bogus technology that doesn't exist -- they did it right. I can definitely appreciate how they did that because, again, they went the opposite direction of what Call of Duty went. I mean, Call of Duty literally went to space to fight a war.
I think, again, you were talking about messages. I don't think these videogame companies are trying to push a message or an agenda. I think they're trying to push a product. I mean, let's look at -- you've heard the media talk about how videogames are being made to be addictive. Well, maybe they are. Maybe these videogame developers are just drug dealers of a different type of drug.
There's no mission statement behind what they're trying to do. Just to create something that people want to buy. Maybe that's what their goal is. I mean, some of the storylines are really good stories. They could be movies. But, again, they're complete bullshit fiction. That's what's nice about them, is they're fiction. [Laughs.] So, I don't know if that answers that question or not but that's what that all comes down to. If it's not fiction, then we're just watching the news. Right? We have a lot of fake news out there, too, if you listen to the White House.
I've heard about that, too. I think we used to call it lying.
[Laughs.] Well, come on. Politicians don't lie. And neither do videogame developers.
[Laughs.] I forgot. Well, so, what are some of the good stories in some of these videogames? What stands out to you as memorable and good?
Some of them -- I mean, I like games that bring people together. Battlefield, it kinda does, but not really when you have such a massive group of people. Like, 64 people out on the battlefield. It doesn't quite do it. That's why I think I really do like -- again, I keep going back to that game, but Rainbow Six. It is five on five. You feel the pain when you lose someone. If your best defender goes down in the opening seconds of a round, you feel it. You understand, "Wow, this guy is gone. That sucks. Now we have to work harder."
I mean, those are lessons, right? You're only as strong as your weakest link kinda thing? If you have someone go down early and that's your weakest link, now everyone's trying to play their weight differently and having these reformed tactics and play with that. I think that's great because if you don't even look at it from a war situation, if you look at it from a team situation, and your work environment? If someone's out sick, everyone else has to pull that extra weight. So that sucks. I mean, there's no way around that. It really sucks having to do that. So, from that perspective, I think that part of videogame life is nice. But, I do like the concept of, "What if? What if war goes to space? Do you think it looks like it does in Call of Duty?" Reliving some of the World War I in Battlefield 1 has been awesome. It's been fun. I mean, they did history and we can go back to some of the battles they re-enact and look it up in Wikipedia or go back to the history books and look some of this stuff. It's legit. What they talk about is legit. So, it's almost like you play the game and are given a history lesson without even knowing you're getting a history lesson. So, it's kinda fun that way.
I know you mentioned some disdain for Advanced Warfare, but in the last 15 years we've gone from almost all war videogames being about World War II to going to the future and literally space. Do you think that says something about the relationship between the American game-playing public and our military?
Sure. I mean, again, how much has warfare changed over the years? I mean, we can look at it from -- well, we had Vietnam, which was new tactics from World War II. But not really. We had guerrilla tactics, but it's just a different setting. And then you have that lull. A lot of shit went down that no one really talks about between Vietnam and, really, until Bosnia. We had a little conflict in Somalia which spawn a book and a movie called Black Hawk Down. But you have Bosnia and Kosovo. That was was a long ago conflict. The first Desert Storm it lasted, what, 93 minutes? I mean, we look at these things, but then we have Iraq. It's still going on.
We're still occupying there. Afghanistan, we're still occupying there. But if you look at that, the game Command & Conquer: Generals introduces terrorists. We didn't have any conflicts going on around that timeframe that dealt with terrorism. So, I mean, I think the change in what we're looking at -- I think the videogames, to me, was trying to keep up with it.
Yeah, I wasn't sure the politically correct way of asking this. But another thing taking place in these shifts from these games, we've gone from shooting Nazis to, basically, typically, shooting brown people.
[Laughs.] "Brown people."
You know what I'm referring to.
Why do you think that shift occurred?
Because it's acceptable.
Do you think it's desensitizing us?
Well, it's -- if you ask a kid, "Who's the bad guy of America?" what is he gonna tell you? He's gonna tell you an Arab. He's not gonna tell you it's Putin -- it's the European Union or China or Korea. He's gonna tell you it's the Arabs, it's the terrorists. That's what he's gonna tell you. I mean, I'm not saying he's accurate at all. But that's all we talk about.
So, I mean, kinda looking at it, the media, the news outlets, I should say, they're portraying our enemy are these terrorists and the videogames are kinda going along. I think that's our sentiment across our country. I mean, I do think the American population drives significantly the videogame market. It's a global market.
But you have people in Saudi Arabia playing games where they're killing Arabs and terrorists.
And they don't think twice being against their own people, being portrayed as these horrible bad guys that need to be wiped out. So, I think it's mainly we are desensitized from calling out a specific race because it's okay. No one cares. Right? That's what the sentiment is: "Well, we know that Arabs are terrorists and terrorists are bad." Even if we're not gonna say that to our Arab neighbor who we go to dinner parties with. We're not gonna go through all that. But, by God, in a videogame, yeah. I'm gonna kill the tangos. I'm gonna take out these Arabs. Because it's a videogame and no one gets hurt, right?
I mean, that's kinda the way people look at things. "No one gets hurt." I don't know. I think that's the direction our country has gone and our country as a whole has intensified when it comes to calling terrorists terrorists and calling Arabs terrorists.
Do you -- are you familiar at all with civilian videogame culture?
Like, what do you mean?
Basically, just people who hang out on message boards, people on social media, people in comments on articles. Just sort of the conversations they have about videogames, that's all I mean.
Oh, I mean, I have my nephew. He's 20. I have another nephew. He's 16. They both are gamers.
Definitely both civilians. They never served a day in their life.
So, I do hear them and I do game with them sometimes and they're friends. So, I do hear them talking about it. Honestly, most of my friends did not serve. So, the majority of my friends are civilians.
Do you notice whether they like to talk about different sorts of things with videogames than what you or your friends who have served are interested in?
Yeah. I mean, most of it's around the developer side of it. Like, "Oh, the amazing graphics." Or the soundtracks. Things like that.
But when you're playing a war game or a first-person shooter, it pretty much always goes back to the military side of things. Or the characters. A lot of it's about the characters and how the characters are developed.
You mentioned DARPA before. I interviewed a media theorist two years ago who felt the reason there's so much fighting and arguing on the internet is because it started as a military experiment through it. Do you think there's anything to that notion at all?
People are combative on the internet because people are people. I mean, let's face it. There are people who think their opinion is the best thing out there. No one wants to have a conversation. They just want to spit their own thoughts and feelings and then be done with it. I mean, that's why arguments happen: My opinion is better than your opinion, your opinion is better than this other person's opinion. But no one wants to actually talk and have a discussion to try to have a more positive outlook or a different opinion than they had when they started the conversation. I mean, it's like when my wife and I discuss politics. We don't -- we're not trying to convince people of the rights and wrongs of Trump or Clinton. We're just trying to get people to understand that Johnson was a better candidate. [Laughs.] But it comes across as we are combative in the conversations and I'll tell you, social media makes it a lot easier because I'm a faceless person behind a keyboard. So I can type my own version of propaganda and who cares? Notice, I don't ever give out my full name. That's because I am a corporate professional. If my opinion as the same as a potential employer, that could cause me not to have a better job later on.
So, on my social media, it's never my full name. Even my primary Facebook account, I have generic email accounts just to cover it all up. [Laughs.] Well, there's a reason for that. It's because I like having some form of anonymity to who I am online. I mean, we used to call it privacy or whatever, but let's face it: HR departments scour social media on the people they're about to hire. So, but, yeah. People are just naturally assholes and all of us think our opinions count even though some of them don't. [Laughs.]
What do you think is weird about the way people talk to each other online in general?
I think online, people are more blunt than they are in real life. I warn people that I'm blunt because I try not to have that separation there, that difference.
I've written blogs for a couple years and I'm very blunt in how I put things. I don't want them to meet me in real life and say, "Oh, well, you're a completely different person." So, I'm who I am but I also have the ability to back it all up. You know, if someone comes to me and they have a different opinion, well, we can argue it out. Or if they want to throw down and have a fight about it, then, okay, fine, let's do it.
[Laughs.] But how often has that happened? How often have you actually had to throw down with someone off the internet?
Has that ever happened?
But I don't go into conversations looking to piss people off. I look at it -- if you ask me my opinion on something, you're prepared for whatever that answer might be. I think people on the internet, like Facebook -- I think they take it too seriously and they put too much stock into what people are saying on Facebook. It's not really the person that you're used to talking to on the phone. It's not the person you go and have Starbucks with every morning. It's their online persona. It gives them an outlet to be who they want to be in a non-conformist type of way.
Do videogames help you relax?
[Laughs.] Yes and no. Yes, in the fact that it takes me out of my world. No, because I get pissed off or stressed out when I don't do well. I'm extremely competitive. So, I actually had to take a break from Rainbow Six because my squad was not doing as well as I wanted them to do, so I was getting more and more pissed off at the game. I was like, "Wait a second. This is my want, my desire for my team to be better. It's not their fault that they're not meeting up to my expectations."
So, I had to take a break. [Laughs.] I started playing other videogames that I don't care about. The Division is one of the games where I didn't care about what my score was. I wasn't playing in a situation where it mattered. In Rainbow Six, putting things out on the internet, videos of my gameplay and things like that, if you're sucking, no one's gonna wanna watch. And so, yeah, my extreme competitiveness -- I sit in the complete opposite end of the house to do my videogaming and I can shut my door and my wife still asks me to soundproof the room as much as possible because I get into it. She's shocked that I have friends who listen. I mean, these are headphones that we're all yelling into and talking trash to each other in. I get loud. [Laughs.] So, some games are great stress relievers. But I think other games where it's uber-competitive, it shifts your stress.
Having a bad session on my Rainbow Six, it's a lot easier for me to let go of that stress at the end of the day. I just turn off my system, go take some vape puffs or whatever, and call it a day. Hang out with my wife. It's easier to get rid of that stress than real-life stress. So, I think it's a good conversion tool.
You said that videogames are just products. What annoys you or what do you think is dumb about the way videogames are marketed?
[Laughs.] The Comic-Cons where they go and get these buffed-up dudes and gorgeous, completely fake female models and they put them up in the uniforms and glamorize warfare by having these guys who have probably never seen warfare. The only kind of uniform they've worn is for a cosplay event. They over-glamorize what it is. Or, the biggest thing I hate is the complete and utter garbage that they show as the advertisement of the game. Mobile Strike with Arnold Schwarzenegger? That game is nothing like what they say. It's a boring, garbage game that's they just reskinned another game. So, things like that annoy me. Where they just go and reskin their own previous game and call it something new. They put it in a new setting. They may go from Eastern Europe to the Middle East and that's a new setting of the game. And then they'll change the character names but it's the exact same game. So, it's like, they're not coming up with anything new. Of course, I complain about the space operations from Advanced Warfare or whatever, but I'll say they're trying to be new. They're trying to innovate. Though I bitch about it, I can appreciate that piece of it.
It's a rare videogame where you can shoot robots.
What do you think videogames have accomplished?
They have created multi-billion dollar industries. That's what they've accomplished.
But they've also created a ton of hours of entertainment. And they've created a social setting for people who may not be all that social. I know some folks that are extremely closed off, introverted, if you will, that the only socializing that they actually do is online playing videogames. And I think if it wasn't for videogames and that aspect, I think you'd see more suicides out there. Especially, unfortunately, but especially out of the veteran community. A lot of us connect online and even though the people we're gaming with have no clue they're doing it, but they're saving lives because they're talking to these guys and girls. They're providing an outlet. Some of it -- they're giving purpose to these guys. It sounds crazy that a videogame does it, but the videogame is the catalyst for it.