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From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Videogames

From Sun Tzu to Xbox is a definitive history of the longstanding relationship between games and military culture, from wargaming's roots in ancient civilizations, to the Cold War development of computing for battle, to a recent crop of Pentagon-funded shoot-'em-ups, big-budget commercial titles and homemade hacks.
From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Videogames
From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Videogames
This episode is work safe.

Interview with Ed Halter, author of From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Videogames.

We discuss why he wrote From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Videogames and what the book is about; Grand Theft Auto; 9/11; Top Gun; Conflict: Desert Storm, America's Army and Full Spectrum Warrior; writing the initial article for the Village Voice; the history of war games; chess and kriegspiel; H.G. Wells; anti-wargames; Josh On's They Rule; the impact of war game snot steeped in nationalism or based on historical events like Quake, Halo and World of Warcraft; the Vietcong video game; comedian David Cross on violence in video games and rap music; war video games in other countrie; Under Ash; video games as a weapon for cultural wars; what people from the military have said about From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Videogames; the US military's current plans for video games; Counter-Strike; his favorite war based video game; why he chose Xbox over PlayStation in the title of his book.


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And Sun Tzu Then Said: 06.Sep.2006 17:36

this thing here

"Those who become reliant on silicon chips as their new brains, and flat screens and crt's as their special eyes, and robots as best soldiers, will only end up being masters at directing specific ordinance to a specific point in space. But war? No, that is something else entirely..."

"crisis" does not equal "danger" + "opportunity." 06.Sep.2006 23:02


The Chinese historical tradition fails to value war. There are no great literary treatistes about battles, famous warrior heroes, etc. like in Europe or Japan for instance.

Who Sun Tzu (or Sun Zi, who cares how its transliterated into a foreign language, sheesh) really was, or even if he wrote all his "works," is even hard to pinpoint, since books then were mostly eponymous 'administrative how to' writings about army organization, maintaining morale, etc. instead of representative of a popular culture of war.

From the Cambridge History of China, p. 1020

"Military leaders who were literate could call on a number of treatises on strategy or tactics, or on records of omens that spelled out the outcome of a battle. These may be seen in works such as the... Sunzi bing fa (Sunzi's art of war) and Sun Bin bing fa (Sun Bin's art of war), parts of which may possibly be dated to the fifth century, or in texts such as the Yu Liaozi...(or Wei Liaozi) and Liu tao ... (Six quivers) of the warring states period. By the end of the former Han, and the imperial library included 12 items of pre-imperial origins that were classified as Bing quan... (The use of armed force). But although the lessons learned from the warfare of the pre-imperial kingdoms may well have been present in the minds of some of these officers, ***no descriptions of such battles survive, if indeed they were ever composed."***

What is really facinating is European Westerns selectively adopt such stuff as "representative of Chinese wisdom" to justify our own mostly martial culture. However, I'm afraid you're really talking of something very very peripherial and not valued in the Chinese tradition, warmaking.

Instead, what all this "Sun Tzu craze" is really representative of is the West's interests, I would argue. However, when you look at Sun Tzu popularized as "Chinese literature" you are really staring into a "Western Literature popularized as Chinese"--a Western mirror instead of China. All this love of warmaking opportunism is a very tiny part of the Chinese historical writings.

Another example, of not being able to see past the tip of your nose:

The whole priority framework is different. The poppycock arisen in the past several years of "crisis = danger + opportunity" as "Ancient Chinese Wisdom" useful for application to the West. It's nonsense.

That was never even implied by those Chinese pictograms or even meanings.

It's so popular because it fulfills a Western desire to see its own opportunism reflected or "verified as normal" in others.

An interesting page I found, though I hate the way the somewhat pedantic guy wrote about it:

How a misunderstanding about Chinese characters has led many astray

There is a widespread public misperception, particularly among the New Age sector, that the Chinese word for "crisis" is composed of elements that signify "danger" and "opportunity." I first encountered this curious specimen of oriental wisdom about ten years ago at an altitude of 35,000 feet sitting next to an American executive. He was intently studying a bound volume that had adopted this notorious formulation as the basic premise of its method for making increased profits even when the market is falling. At that moment, I didn't have the heart to disappoint my gullible neighbor who was blissfully imbibing what he assumed were the gems of Far Eastern sagacity enshrined within the pages of his workbook. Now, however, the damage from this kind of pseudo-profundity has reached such gross proportions that I feel obliged, as a responsible Sinologist, to take counteraction.

A whole industry of pundits and therapists has grown up around this one grossly inaccurate formulation. A casual search of the Web turns up more than a million references to this spurious proverb. It appears, often complete with Chinese characters, on the covers of books, on advertisements for seminars, on expensive courses for "thinking outside of the box," and practically everywhere one turns in the world of quick-buck business, pop psychology, and orientalist hocus-pocus. This catchy expression (Crisis = Danger + Opportunity) has rapidly become nearly as ubiquitous as The Tao of Pooh and Sun Zi's Art of War for the Board / Bed / Bath / Whichever Room.

The explication of the Chinese word for crisis as made up of two components signifying danger and opportunity is due partly to wishful thinking, but mainly to a fundamental misunderstanding about how terms are formed in Mandarin and other Sinitic languages. For example, one of the most popular websites centered on this mistaken notion about the Chinese word for crisis explains...

While that may be what our Pollyanaish advocates of "crisis" as "danger" plus "opportunity" desire jī to signify, it means something altogether different.

The jī of wēijī, in fact, means something like "incipient moment; crucial point (when something begins or changes)." Thus, a wēijī is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A wēijī indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. In a crisis, one wants above all to save one's skin and neck!

Any would-be guru who advocates opportunism in the face of crisis should be run out of town on a rail, for his / her advice will only compound the danger of the crisis.


If one wishes to wax philosophical about the jī of wēijī, one might elaborate upon it as the dynamic of a situation's unfolding, when many elements are at play. In this sense, jī is neutral. This jī can either turn out for better or for worse, but -- when coupled with wēi -- the possibility of a highly undesirable outcome (whether in life, disease, finance, or war) is uppermost in the mind of the person who invokes this potent term.


Those who purvey the doctrine that the Chinese word for "crisis" is composed of elements meaning "danger" and "opportunity" are engaging in a type of muddled thinking that is a danger to society, for it lulls people into welcoming crises as unstable situations from which they can benefit. Adopting a feel-good attitude toward adversity may not be the most rational, realistic approach to its solution.

Finally, to those who would persist in disseminating the potentially perilous, fundamentally fallacious theory that "crisis" = "danger" + "opportunity," please don't blame it on Chinese!


It's additionally perhaps only Western to see Chinese characters as the equivament of runes or something, I don't know, which leads to attempts to take wisdom or advice from shape of Chinese characters. That sounds like runes to me.

If you want to throw bones or read runes, then throw the bones and read runes. Don't blame the Chinese if you rune read their Chinese characters.

Perhaps you might find some arrangement of runes to justify the same construction of 'advice', though its really like a cargo cult approach to Chinese, don't you think?

Cargo cult
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A cargo cult is any of a group of religious movements that occurred in Melanesia, in the Southwestern Pacific. The Cargo Cults believe that manufactured western goods ('cargo') have been created by ancestral spirits and intended for Melanesian people. White people, however, have unfairly gained control of these objects. Cargo cults thus focus on overcoming what they perceive as undue 'white' influences by conducting rituals similar to the white behavior they have observed, presuming that the ancestors will at last recognize their own and this activity will make cargo come. Thus a characteristic feature of Cargo Cults is the belief that spiritual agents will at some future time give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to the cult members.

* 1 Overview
* 2 History
* 3 Other instances of cargo cults
* 4 Analogues in Western culture
* 5 Sources and further reading
* 6 See also
* 7 External links



Cargo cults have been recorded since the 19th century, but have been continuously growing since World War II.[citation needed] The cult participants generally do not fully understand the significance of manufacturing or commerce. They have limited purchasing ability. Their understanding of western society, religion, and economics may be rudimentary. These cults are a response to the resulting confusion and insecurity. They rationalize their situation by the reference to religious and magical symbols they associate with Christianity and modern western society. Across cultural differences and large geographic areas, there have been instances of the movements independently organizing.

The most famous examples of Cargo Cult behavior have been the airstrips, airports, and radios made out of coconuts and straw. The cult members built them in the belief that the structures would attract transport aircraft full of cargo. Believers stage "drills" and "marches" with twigs for rifles and military-style insignia and "USA" painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers.


Rewriting it only slightly

A cargo cult is any of a group of Western New Age or Corporate Management Strategy movements that occurred in the United States. The Cargo Cults believe that Chinese characters have been created by ancestral spirits and intended for the benefit of Western people. Chinese people, however, have unfairly gained control of these objects. Cargo cults thus focus on overcoming what they perceive as undue 'Chinese' cultural influences by conducting Western readings presuming that the Western knowledge will help clarify "obtuse Chinese" meaning and make Westerners more profitable and religiously centered in their perfected and cleansed version of the meaning of Chinese characters.

Thus a characteristic feature of Cargo Cults is the belief that there is a spiritual agents within Chinese characters that will at some future time give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to the cult members.