Militarization of Police

The Battlefield War Games Series Embraces Police Militarization


The Battlefield series, by Electronic Arts, represents one of the more popular collections of military first-person-shooter war games. Its most recent iteration—Battlefield 4, released last fall—has sold at least 1.6 million copies (and actually probably much more) as of February.

The vice president of the company producing the next iteration of the game has revealed some basic details of what is coming next. They are starting a new series, using the franchise name and bringing the war games to the United States. But America is not under invasion, and players won't be taking on the roles of soldiers. EA and Visceral Games are embracing our militarization of the police department

Battlefield Hardline is cops and robbers, but not the way kids used to play. Here's the promo art:

Roll the "Miami Vice" theme song!
EA Games

Maybe there will be a chapter in the game where the players raid a house and shoot the place up only to find they've gotten the wrong address. Maybe the player will discover that most of these SWAT raids are done simply to search premises and administer warrants and that their violent methods weren't even necessary. Maybe they'll destroy an entirely peaceful medical marijuana dispensary. Maybe somebody will question the violent destruction and threat to human life all for the purpose of preventing somebody from disposing of some drugs. Maybe the player will kill lots and lots of dogs.

Maybe not. The veep's message at EA makes it sound like the designers are merely interested in cops and crime as a setting, not the reality of how it plays out in the United States. The Battlefield games aren't known for their plots and single-player campaigns anyway, if the reviews are to be believed. (I've never played the games because I'm terrible at the shooter genre.) Gamers get Battlefield for the multiplayer action. The game will most likely bring the old cops and robbers game to a virtual space with a militarized twist.

The site for Battlefield Hardline is here, but there's no info as yet. The game will be formally unveilled at the E3 gaming industry conference in Los Angeles in a couple of weeks.

The folks behind Battlefield Hardline might want to check out our Reason-Rupe analysis of poll responses by frequent gamers. We found they're more likely to be concerned about the militarization of the police. From our survey, 70 percent of gamers think it's too much for police forces to have access to military equipment and drones as tools for crime-fighting, compared to 57 percent of non-gamers. And nearly two-thirds of the gamers we polled believe that police officers aren't held accountable for misconduct.

Assuming that the multiplayer scenario allows players to choose either side, it's not out of the realm of possibility that there will be "controversy" over allowing the players to take on the role of the criminals. I suspect fewer people will raise an eyebrow at the idea of civilian police officers being treated like military forces.

(Hat tip to Brad Heath of USA Today.)

UPDATE: Gaming blog Kotaku got its hands on what appears to be an internal trailer for the game, focusing on some completely outrageous multiplayer and a storyline that seems to draw from cop shows. And it looks like there's plenty of police corruption in the storyline, so maybe there's some hope. Calling it "Battlefield" though is still a terrible decision, even if it's for branding reasons.