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Sandbox Symposium 2006, Boston, Massachusetts, July 29–30, 2006.
© 2006 ACM 1-59593-386-7/06/0007 $5.00
Making Things Public: Democracy and Government-
Funded Videogames and Virtual Reality Simulations
University of California, Irvine
Humanities Instructional Building 188
U.C. Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697 USA
This paper discusses two computer graphics-intensive projects at
the University of Southern California that are being developed
with funding from the U.S. military:
, a computer
game designed to accelerate a soldier’s acquisition of spoken
Arabic to assist in volatile tactical situations, and
virtual reality simulation intended to lessen the effects of Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder among combat veterans.
initiatives have received extensive national media coverage and
may serve rhetorical as well as pedagogical or therapeutic ends by
making individual, private digital experiences aimed to effect the
personal education or rehabilitation of military personnel
accessible to a wider public.
This paper examines the debate in
the serious game development community about working on
behalf of government-funded projects that support current military
It also considers the potential for what Bruno Latour has
called “object-oriented democracy” that these games and
simulations could represent.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
Public Policy Issues
Design, Human Factors.
Public Rhetoric, Digital Experience, Virtual Reality, Computer
Game, Foreign Language Learning, Exposure Therapy.
In “Welcome to the Desert of the Unreal” written in the days after
the September 11
, Slavoj i ek expressed his belief that the gap
between "traumatic event" and "symbolic impact” could force
Americans to appreciate the everyday violence and privation of
the rest of the world, from which he claimed the U.S. had been
shielded by an artificial but ideologically comforting socio-
economic, political, and cultural virtual reality environment.
there is any symbolism in the collapse of the WTC towers,”
i ek writes, “it is not so much the old-fashioned notion of the
‘center of financial capitalism,’ but, rather, the notion that the two
WTC towers stood for the center of the VIRTUAL capitalism, of