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Army tournament features chainsaw massacre video game
Nick Juliano
Published: Monday July 2, 2007
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The Army is sponsoring a tournament featuring one of the most graphically violent video games every produced. Players will be rewarded tens of thousands of dollars in prizes from the military for chainsaw massacres of opponents, whose deaths are stunningly illustrated.

In Gears of War, a tactical third-person shooter, players battle alien monsters on another planet. The bestselling Xbox 360 title features vivid graphics, and chain-saw kills are accompanied by showers of blood and gore as alien creatures are brutally bisected.

Gears of War is one of a dozen titles in which players can compete for a $200,000 prize pool in the inaugural Army Gaming Championships, set to begin July 4. The venture provides the Army another avenue to reach tech-savvy recruits -- though participants must be willing to be contacted by an Army recruiter -- as it struggles to maintain its ranks in the fifth year of the Iraq war.

"That is where the kids are. It's a venue where we can tell the Army's story," Louise Eaton, a media and Web specialist with the Army, tells RAW STORY. Video Games, especially the Pentagon-produced America's Army, provide "an experience in the simulation world of what the Army's like."

The official Web site for the Army Gaming Championship also encourages Gears of War players to perform a move known as the "curb stomp," which involves characters in the game crushing an opponent's skull with their boot.

"You'll need to get close to the enemy when you down him and then pistol-whip or curb-stomp him to finish the job," the Army site advises. The site also advises players on how to "avoid getting chainsawed."

The "curb stomp" was inspired by the 1998 Edward Norton movie American History X, in which Norton plays a neo-Nazi skinhead who turns against his racist ways in prison. In the movie's most violent scene, Norton "curb stomps" a black man who was trying to steal his car. Norton opens the man's mouth and forces him to bite down on a curb before stomping on his neck, breaking it.

Gears of War is rated M, meaning it is inappropriate for children under age 17, and Web site Double Viking rated it the fourth-most-violent video game ever made, calling the game's gore "as graphic as it comes."

"Enemies limbs are often perforated and torn off by a barrage of machine gun fire and close encounters usually result in a chainsaw to the neck, leaving SOMEBODY headless," Double Viking says. "Otherwise enemies simply explode into bits of blood and bone, with much of the end product splattering all over the camera - and everywhere else."

Researchers have reached different conclusions when evaluating the psychological effects of violent video games. Legislative efforts in recent years have sought to crack down on game producers and more strictly limit children's ability to purchase overly violent games.

Army officials "looked very carefully at the games recommended," Eaton said. While including M-rated games initially "gave us pause," Eaton said they were OK'd because the tournament is only open to players age 17 and up.

Gears of War debuted in November 2006 and was widely celebrated in the gaming community for its stunning graphics and smooth game play. By January of this year, more than 3 million copies of the game had been sold, and it has been honored with dozens of video-game industry awards.

Of the $200,000 tournament purse, $15,000 will be given away to Gears of War players. In its inaugural year, the video game tournament features a dozen games, including America's Army, which the military released as a recruitment tool in 2002.

As well as being a recruitment tool, video gaming serves as a valuable training tool for the military. New recruits will sometimes learn the basics of combat or sharpen their skills in tactical shooting games before heading into combat.

The Army won't be using its upcoming tournament, which is scheduled to run through the end of October, as a preliminary evaluation, tool, Eaton says.

"Winners won't get treated any differently by recruiters than the losers," she said.

The following video, found at YouTube, depicts footage from the game: