I made myself comfortable in the ejection seat. Quickly lash down the virtual reality glasses, and then you can start: In front of me I see the cockpit of the Bundeswehr fighter jet Tornado. With the help of headphones, a Bundeswehr soldier gives me instructions on which buttons to press, so that the jet is ready to go. In fact, the soldier is right behind me.
Because this is not a VR simulation like many others that will be presented at the Gamescom Games Fair, which takes place this week in Cologne. The ejection seat, on which I sat down, belongs to the Gamescom state of the Bundeswehr, which wants to win gamers as recruits. Because I play a lot myself, I'll just try out how the Bundeswehr tries to appeal to players like me.
At the VR simulation I notice immediately: Compared to the jets from the online shooter Battlefield is the graphics really bad. For that I can operate with my hands every single button in the cockpit. Means for me: hatch closed, engine on, full power ahead ...
What the Bundeswehr lacks are IT specialists. Since there is no compulsory military service, the army has to recruit employees like every other company. The fact that she tries this at Gamescom is obvious at first glance: gamers often spend hours dealing with battle tactics. And they usually know about computers as well.
And so stand at the Bundeswehr stand more than 13 employees in uniform, crammed into a small exhibition space, and try to address the sparsely passing by visitors. In addition to the fighter jet simulator, there is a kind of reaction test in which volunteers have to hit a plastic wall as soon as a light spot appears. There's also a long, camouflaged table with six particularly sturdy laptops that I'm sure will be used in Afghanistan. Among other things, visitors can solve a quiz there - but due to a lack of volunteers, soldiers also click through the questions here.
Already on the way to the exhibition halls, a poster of the Bundeswehr greeted me on the subway, trying to pick up on the player jargon. "Singleplayer or comrade?" stands on it. Hundreds more are hanging in the metropolitan area of Cologne, also with slogans like "Pay2Win vs. Real Skills". With Pay2Win payment content is meant in games that give players and players benefits.
At the last Gamescom the Bundeswehr advertised similar slogans - polarizing it on Twitter and in the media. To belittend it seemed many to link computer games so closely with the service of the weapon. On the stand itself, which at that time was large and equipped with large vehicles in the middle between the game manufacturers, everything was quiet, said observers. Elsewhere, the Bundeswehr came to criticize its presence at events for internet-savvy visitors. Following a controversy in the previous year, the organizers of re: publica 2018 did not allow any more Bundeswehr advertising stands.
Between constitution protection and BKA
At the current Gamescom, it presents itself again - albeit much smaller than in previous years. The stand shrank from 300 square meters of exhibition space to a hundred, and he is no longer in the middle of the Games exhibitors, but in the training area of the fair on the first floor. Between those of universities of applied science, Mercedes-Benz, constitution protection and Federal Criminal Police Office. There is much less public traffic there.
Because the Bundeswehr is looking for new talent in the IT sector, it is part of the Jobs and Careers wing this year, says Kathrin Münker, communication manager of Gamescom. The German Armed Forces are also satisfied with this location on demand. "We are now in 'Jobs and Career' to underline our affiliation," said Lieutenant Nils Feldhoff. It's not his first Gamescom, he's been working on the Bundeswehr booth for several years. "The new location is the better way for legitimation and communication."
It is therefore all the more important to attract attention to those who are getting lost. But while lucky wheels rattle next door and pinball machines are flashing, the Bundeswehr stand with its camouflage nets looks like an unobtrusive gray-green blob on the pink carpet in the hall.
In the fuselighter's VR simulator, where I'm sitting, the turbines are now howling. I want to roll, take off ... and nothing happens. Wait a moment. Can not I even fly in the Bundeswehr flight simulator? That could be the game series Falcon from the eighties better. Disappointed, I get off. The other visitors who look up from the ejection seat after me also look similar. Of course, the Bundeswehr also has simulators that can take off. But she did not bring her.