Army Experience Center gives shoppers a virtual taste of military life

Being in Afghanistan is just like Call of Duty, apparently
Being in Afghanistan is just like Call of Duty, apparently

Fancy a ride in a cutting-edge Apache or Black Hawk helicopter simulator? Or how about taking the wheel of a virtual Armoured Humvee?

Well, get yourself down to Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, where you can try out the US Army's latest digital goodies at its new 14,500 square foot Army Experience Center (AEC), opening today.

The 'non pushy' recruitment base is hoping to dazzle shoppers with three military-grade simulators, running 'authentic battle scenarios' with plenty of gunfire and explosions.

Buy the numbers

A replica command-and-control centre allows potential recruits to pilot drones and missile systems in complex operations, using 20 workstations and 9 large-screen displays.

If that's not enough to get your signature on a tour of duty, there's a bank of 80 custom-made over-clocked Alienware PCs and Xbox 360s hosting Ghost Recon, Call of Duty 3 and America's Army: True Soldiers, the official game of US forces. There's no sign of a virtual water-boarding ride, however.

Special events at the Army Recruitment Centre include multi-player gaming tournaments and demonstrations of Army's robot and other high-tech equipment.

Military marketing

Naturally, there will be plenty of real-life soldiers on hand to explain more about how life in the US Army is basically one big video game with lots of exciting foreign travel.

The Army's chief marketing officer Edward Walters told AP that the AEC is "a marketing and sales experiment" that could be rolled out nationwide. He's hoping that its interactive career centre will encourage recruits into the Army's range of over 175 careers, from 'water purification specialist' (toilet cleaner?) to 'intelligence analyst'.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.