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America's Army Franchise

Developer/Publisher/Distributor: U.S. Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at the United States Military Academy
Distribution: CD (2.6 and earlier), Online download, DVD (2.7 and up)

America's Army (also known as AA or America's Army Game Project) is a series of video games and other media developed by the United States Army and released as a global public relations initiative to help with recruitment. America's Army was conceived by Colonel Casey Wardynski and is managed by the U.S. Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at the United States Military Academy. Wardynski envisioned "using computer game technology to provide the public a virtual Soldier experience that was engaging, informative and entertaining."

The PC version 1.0, subtitled Recon, was first released on July 4, 2002. Since then, there have been over 26 versions released, the most recent being America's Army 3.3. All versions have been developed on the Unreal Engine and use PunkBuster to try to prevent cheating. The game is financed by the U.S. government and distributed by free download.

America's Army has "grown in ways its originators couldn't have imagined". Dozens of government training and simulation applications using the America's Army platform have been developed to train and educate U.S. Army soldiers. America's Army has also been used to deliver virtual soldiering experiences to participants at events, such as air shows, amusement parks, and sporting events around the country. The America's Army series has also been expanded to include versions for Xbox and Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile applications published through licensing arrangements.

The game was developed by Colonel Wardynski who recognized that a video game might be helpful to the U.S. Army in the strategic communication efforts by providing more information to prospective Soldiers and to help reduce the number of recruits who wash out during the nine weeks of basic training. The effort proved successful as more than 9 million copies have been downloaded. One teenager was quoted saying the game "provides great information. This would probably spark an interest. I don't know how I would have found out so much some other way."

With several thousand players online at any one time between 2001 and 2007, it ranked in the top 10 FPS (First Person Shooter) games played online during the period, as tracked by GameSpy.

The America's Army developers licensed the Unreal game engine as the foundation for its game. It was the first game to feature Unreal Engine 2. America's Army is intended to give a positive impression of the U.S. Army. In the official Frequently Asked Questions page the developers confirmed in a statement that one of the reasons people outside the United States can play the game is "We want the whole world to know how great the U.S. Army is."

America's Army is the first well-known overt use of computer gaming for political aims. Chris Chambers, the former deputy director of development for America's Army, admits it is a recruitment tool, and Chris Morris of CNN/Money states that "the Army readily admits it is a propaganda device." The game, considered by the U.S. Army to be a "cost-effective recruitment tool," aims to become part of youth culture's "consideration set" as confirmed by Army Deputy Chief of Personnel Timothy Maude in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

America's Army and its official webpage contain links to the "Go Army" recruitment website, another recruiting tool that, according to the Army Subcommittee Testimony from February 2000, has a higher chance of recruiting than "any other method of contact." Guiding American players to the website is a major goal of the game and it was confirmed that twenty-eight percent of all visitors of America's Army's webpage click through to this recruitment site.

According to Colonel Wardynski, the game generated interest from other U.S. government agencies including the Secret Service resulting in the development of a training version for internal government use only.