The newly released book Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games looks at the connection between battles fought on screen and those in the real world.

“Pro-war films, military parades, and even fireworks are early symbolic exhibitions of military power,” according to co-editors target=_blank>Nina B. Huntemann, associate professor of Communication and Journalism at Suffolk University, and Matthew Thomas Payne. Yet combining powerful media and play transforms citizens from spectators to participants and “has far-reaching implications for how citizens perceive the role of the military in our society.”

War is an integral theme of the gaming industry and its appeal has seen enormous growth since the invention of the first video game, "Spacewar!" in 1962. Americans spent over $21 billion on games last year, much of it on combat games, which are used not only for entertainment, but also for military recruitment, education, and even as psychotherapy for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Joystick Soldiers, a compilation of essays, presents a balanced look at the history and culture of the military-entertainment complex and offers in-depth studies of players and political activism.

Loyola University of Chicago Professor Steven E. Jones, author of The Meaning of Video Games, calls Joystick Soldiers “an extremely valuable collection" that "provides the richest and most detailed picture yet of what theorists have called the ‘military-entertainment complex,’ while focusing attention on the specific video games that help to manifest that complex in the culture but also, surprisingly, offer a platform for critique and resistance.”