We have some unfinished posts fisking the World War Three novel Ghost Fleet. We are not fans of the book. And now one of the authors, August Cole, has posted this.
“This” is a paean to Tom Clancy wargame in which there is a smallpox outbreak in New York City, after which society collapses and warlords take over. Or something. You can watch a trailer.
Now, to be fair, Cole has nothing to say about whether a smallpox outbreak in New York would suddenly cause civilization to collapse into dog-eat-dog violence. He just thinks it’s useful to depict scenes of mass human suffering in video games because it will better prepare future soldiers for urban operations:
“But scavenging in the confines of the New York subway system or winding up in a shootout with a local gang reinforces that your own worst enemy is all too familiar: fellow humans. The game lays bare how the odds are stacked against the survivors of such a calamity, and how even functional complex urban environments teeter and sway between chaos and order each day. Just as the novel World War Z by Atlantic Council senior fellow Max Brooks presents this uncomfortable truth through the premise of a zombie outbreak, this video game does so with close-quarters anarchy caused by catastrophic bio-terrorism ... The Division will appeal more broadly to gamers, given its formulaic progression of acquiring skills, weapons, and powers, which big studio games must incorporate in order to entice millions of players. That is also one of its strengths and perhaps greatest forms of utility in the defense realm: broad appeal. Megacity operations, be it relief or combat, will no longer be an abstract concept to young corporals or privates — or their commanding officers.”
I would like to point out here that there is remarkably little evidence that looting and unrest spike in disaster situations. The first paper of which I am aware pointed that out in 1968. A 2004 paper from the CDC reinforced the argument, showing that most looting involved necessary supplies rather than egregious attacks on other people or their property. “In contrast, researchers have found — at least in the immediate aftermath of disasters — that community resilience and unity, strengthening of social ties, selfhelp, heightened initiative, altruism, and prosocial behavior more often prevail. In short, when things are at their worst, disaster-stricken communities tend to rise to the occasion.”
This issue came up again in 2010, when preliminary reports of widespread disorder after the Chilean earthquake proved unfounded. The looting that did occur was easily controlled. No roving gangs taking over whole neighborhoods; for some numbers, we are talking about an increase in armed robberies from 52 in 2009 to 102 in the year of the earthquake. No houses were hit. It was not Mad Max.
And again in the Philippines in 2013. Same general story.
In other words, I think our military would be very ill served if it were to promote training tools that gave soldiers the impression that organized violent gangs were going to be their main problem in post-disaster situations.