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  • Master's Thesis: The Potential of America's Army as Civilian Public Sphere

    - Zhan Li
  • This thesis, researched during 2002-03, examines the political life of the America's Army fan community, comparing the activities and identities of three exceptional gamer groups (real life soldiers and veterans; Evangelical Christians; and hackers) to the official understanding of the game's purpose.

    The thesis fieldwork with soldiers and veterans was carried out during the lead-up to, and after the outbreak of second Gulf War, and includes an interview with a new Army recruit attracted to the profession by America's Army. In addition, the West Point officers who conceived the game concept were extensively interviewed about the underlying rationale of the game.

    As the first major government-produced video game culture -- one which asks the player to "Defend Freedom" and "Empower Yourself" -- this thesis looks beyond the controversy to ask what the America's Army community today signifies for the future of political practice in the game medium as a public space. A Habermasian public sphere framework is applied.

    The thesis argues that the exceptional America's Army gamer groups' grassroots activities demonstrate how objections about the presumed triviality and irrelevance of gamespaces as political spaces may be refuted.

    Additional official commentary on the game's development and notes on Zhan Li's veterans research can be found here:

    "The Potential of America's Army as Civilian Public Sphere" by Zhan Li, Master's Thesis, 149 Pages, Word Document / Acrobat PDF


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