A Sitting Army?: Narrative, Presence, and Persuasion in the America's Army Computer Game

Date of Graduation

Spring 2004


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Janice Windborne


As new media forms are developed through innovations in technology, an increasing number of multimedia products, such as computer and video games, are employing new combinations of realism, mediated social interaction, and psychological immersion while allowing expanded interactivity. User involvement in many of these new products is raised to the level of participant, as opposed to passive audience member. Construction of a virtual reality is accomplished through complex interactions between players and the game. Representative of these products, the America's Army (AA) computer game is unique in using this media form to recruit users to a career in the U.S. Military. The purpose of this study is to examine AA's persuasive potential using both narrative analysis and concepts found in studies of telepresence, which can be described as "being" in one environment even when one is physically situated in another. Support is found for the following conceptual synthesis: In America's Army, first-person user enactment of the lead-character role, whose actions are prescribed within a progressive narrative framework, may promote presence and encourage learning, rehearsal, and adoption of mental and behavioral constructs and impel real-life enlistment in the U.S. Army. Potential ramifications of AA's persuasive effectiveness, and that of other related future products, include user migration from micro-world to larger, real-life social system. It is suggested that investments of time and effort made by the user, the degree of inclusion, or presence, felt by the user, the user's willingness to adhere to prescribed boundaries, the user's perception of the attractiveness of the created world, and the degree to which the user believes the microcosm accurately mimics the larger system may be of particular importance in any such migration.


narrative, presence, persuasion, computer, game

Subject Categories



© Shawn Maxfield