Foreign Wars

Army Builds Fantasy Island in Second Life

secondlife

The U.S. Army has scores of bases scattered all across the world. Soon, it’ll be occupying virtual territory in a bid to win recruits.

“Over the next 30 to 45 days you might, if you’re one of them Second Life avatar dudes, that likes to go populate islands within Second Life, you will find an Army island in Second Life,” Gen. William S. Wallace, the commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), said during a presentation at the 26th Army Science Conference.

The Army Second Life effort will actually consist of two virtual islands. One of them, will serve as a “welcome center” with an information kiosk and the means to contact a recruiter, the other will offer, says Wallace, “virtual experiences like jumping out of airplanes, and rappelling off of towers and using a weapon, to see if we can get some kind of recruiting benefit out of this social networking.”

The Army will even offer virtual tchotchkes to woo recruits.  After the presentation, Wallace told me “if you perform well in the activities you get points and those points can be used to buy virtual T-shirts and baseball caps.”

Wallace says he’s a realist when it comes to social networking technologies. He admits they’ve probably been “oversold,” but won’t write them off either. The recruiting possibilities are just too alluring.  He notes, “ there’s about 4 million young people that routinely interface in Second Life. [That's] the age group of the young people who we’re trying to encourage to join the military.”

Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. This post was published in collaboration with Wired.

About the reporter

Nick Turse

Nick Turse

Nick Turse is an investigative reporter, the managing editor of The Nation Institute's TomDispatch, and the co-founder of Dispatch Books.