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US Army closes $12 million "Experience Center"

Xbox games including Halo and Madden were used to recruit new US soldiers

The US Army is to close a $12 million "Army Experience Center", which made prominent use of Xbox titles such as Halo to entice new recruits.

The centre was the only one of its kind in the US, and intended to be a two-year long experiment to discern the most effective way of attracting visitors. It will close officially on July 31.

Situated in the Franklin Mills Center in Northeast Philadelphia, an earlier Philadelphia City Paper report described the centre as having multiple Xbox consoles running tournaments for games such as Halo, America's Army and Madden NFL.

Bespoke Apache and Black Hawk helicopter simulations were also featured, along with a Humvee simulator housed in a full-size vehicle. The centre also has touchscreen computers which allow visitors to browse potential Army jobs based on salary and location.

Army representatives indicate that some of the installations may be used in other standard recruitment centres or a new experimental site could be set up elsewhere in the country.

Speaking to The Philadelphia Inquirer an Army spokesman indicated that the centre "did what it was supposed to do. It was a success."

"The biggest part of this was using the technology," said the spokesman. "Recruiters have used tricolour brochures, but that doesn't work with the digital generation. We have to keep up with the way people get their information."

The location was chosen because New Jersey, and the Philadelphia metropolitan area in particular, had "the lowest propensity toward military service in the nation." Recruitment has risen 15 per cent since the centre opened, although it's unclear what affect the global recession may also have had on these figures.

A controversial concept from the start, the centre has attracted hundreds of demonstrators in its two years of operation, with objections over the glorification of violence and stereotyping of enemy forces.

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David Jenkins

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