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From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games [Paperback]

Ed Halter
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 31, 2006 1560256818 978-1560256816
Part of an industry that now earns more yearly than the Hollywood box office, video games have entered the forefront of the militarization of popular culture. How did this once-innocent pastime become a key player in America’s entry into global warfare? And is this blurring of reality changing the way we think about war?

Stretching from 3000 BC to today, this book investigates how military cultures and the evolution of games have been closely linked, from video gaming’s ancestors like chess and go, to the popularization of the 19th century Kriegspiel, to the development of computers for use during World War II and the invention of video games by Defense Department-funded scientists. Readers will discover how war fantasies played out from the early arcade years to the rise of online gaming, how the military began working with companies like Nintendo, Atari and Microsoft to produce training devices, and how today’s generals hope to sell recruitment to a new generation of joystick warriors.

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Editorial Reviews


"Essential for anyone interested in the future of games, computers, media, culture, war—and peace." -- McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto

"Steeped in a deep history of gaming and simulation…[An] expert tome…" -- The Village Voice

"[A] far-ranging sociological exploration.... he tackles the queasy coupling of the entertainment industry and Warfare Inc. with impressive intellectual rigor." -- Time Out New York

 "An extremely engaging, well researched and fascinating treatise bursting with intriguing ideas about war and gaming..." -- BadLit

About the Author

Ed Halter is a contributing critic for The Village Voice. His writing has appeared in Filmmaker Magazine, Independent Film & Video Monthly, The New York Press, Net Art News, CinemaScope, indieWIRE, Vice, Paper, and other publications. He has organized the New York Underground Film Festival since 1996. Now in its 12th year, the internationally recognized festival continues to present the best in cutting-edge film- and videomaking. Its success has been covered by the New York Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Film Comment, MTV News, NPR, Sundance Channel, and countless other media outlets worldwide.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (May 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560256818
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560256816
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,429,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ed Halter is a critic for The Village Voice and a curator of film and media. His writing has appeared in Cinemascope, the New York Press, Kunstforum, indieWIRE, Filmmaker, Vice, Rhizome, Cinemad, Paper and elsewhere. From 1995 to 2005, he programmed and oversaw the critically-acclaimed New York Underground Film Festival, one of the most important exhibition events for alternative cinema in the US, and has curated for venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, Eyebeam, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Flaherty Film Seminar, and Cinematexas. Halter has appeared on NPR, MSNBC, Sundance Channel, Channel Four (UK), ARTE and MTV Brazil, as well as in a number of documentaries. A graduate of Yale University, he is a visiting professor in the department of Film and Electronic Arts at Bard College, and has lectured at Harvard, NYU, and other schools. From Sun Tzu to Xbox is his first book. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
As a professional in the Modeling and Simulation field I see this book as a great analysis of the mistaken belief that because you can play video games you can fight a war and take on complex social problems. Video games are made for entertainment to satisfy the need for humans to play. If you put the psychology of real human beings into video games, you will not have fun game. Mr. Halter's book give great insight into the problems that have to be overcome to create a "realistic" environment for the training of future soldiers, and what we have so far are not even close. The day we can have a kid walk from the video arcade to a M1 Abrams tank and fight effectively we will have reached our goal. . .but, is that where we want to be?
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting perspective on society and war July 25, 2006
I picked up Halter's book almost by accident. Although I'm a military historian and wargamer I've never been interested in the video game genre. I was just about to put the book back on the shelf when I realized the book isn't really about video games per se but about how computer wargames have been shaped by war and how computer wargames fit into our culture.

Halter argues that from the beginning of the computer age, when primarily military money was used to fund computer research and development, to the present there has been an almost symbiotic relationship between computer games and war. One, in turn, fed the other as experience in war led to more realistic computer games which allowed computer wargames (or simulations, if you prefer) to increase the realism of training. At the same time the knowledge created by the military-industrial complex (to which Halter adds academia) spilled into the entertainment industry. This in turn developed more realistic animation and interactive capabilities that went back into the military's training simulation programs.

The book is easy to read, as you'd expect from a journalist, and certainly causes you to think a bit differently about the development of the computer and the entertainment industry as it relates to wargames. The only (small) issues I had was that its focus on the military aspect of computer R&D does not allow a consideration of NASA's impact on computer development. The other issue was that, as a journalist and not an academic, it is not well foot-noted or sourced so you can't go to the sources to verify or validate the information he uses to support his argument.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, well-researched. November 7, 2006
Mr. Halter's richly informative and highly entertaining exploration of the complex relationship between war and gaming technology sucks you in and doesn't let go until the very last page. War buffs and game enthusiasts alike will find themselves engrossed in this book, but even those of us who approach it with far more limited knowledge will be delighted by the journey into the workings of our own country's war machine.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ok August 21, 2010
By Chris
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Had to read this for a class and it seemed pretty good until the end. It went from well researched to quoting posts from newgrounds. so 2/3 of the book it 4 star and 1/3 is 1 star.
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14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I had bought this book in the hopes that it would explore some of the fascinating and complex links in out society between war and games, espically in video games. I was greatly disappointed in the content of this book. Mr. Halter seems to imply throughout the book that the "Video Game Generation" simply will not amount to much due to time spent during the formative years playing vidoe games. He touches little on the complex social networks that have arisen on the internet and over such services as XBOX live, and merely seems to repeat his belife that the United States Army is manipulating an entire generation through it's sponsorship of a video game. In more than a few instances in this book, he seems to imply the tech savy youth of today are bound for failure due to their passion for and lifelong interaction with, video games. This book ends up being more like a manifesto against video games than it does an objective analysis of conflict and it's presence in our society through the guise of video games. I do not recomend it as either an assessment of the video game generation, nor of the interactions and connections between society and conflict. In fact, I don't reccomend it at all.
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