War games: Documentary shows how US recruited gamers to fly drones into Pakistan

Published: February 2, 2015


Drone, a new documentary on the unmanned aerial vehicles, reveals how the US military recruited young gamers to operate the killing machines to attack targets in Pakistan.

“You never know who you are killing, because you never actually see a face” says Michael Haas, former drone operator for the US Air Force. “You just have silhouettes and it’s easy to have that detachment and that lack of empathy for human life.”

The documentary follows people on both side of this method of warfare – with stories from Waziristan drone victims and the drone operators who struggle to come to terms with what they do.

“I had no idea what I was in for…. I wasn’t even 20 years old at that point,” Haas recalls. “I thought it was the coolest damn thing in the world… play video game all day.

“And then the reality hits you that you may have to kill somebody.”

RELATED: ‘Precise’ drone strikes: 874 killed in US hunt for 24 terrorists in Pakistan

“The military has invested in creating video games that they are using as recruiting tools,” international relations scholar and political scientist PW Singer informs, while former US Navy pilot and aeronautics professor Missy Cummings comments on the changing nature of the job: “We don’t need Top Gun pilots anymore, we need Revenge of the Nerds.”

“I remember watching a wedding,” another former drone operator Brandon Bryant highlights the predicament. “These were people enjoying themselves. These were people celebrating a wedding. But someone in that wedding was a bad person.”

“It was just point and click,” he adds.

A portion of the documentary is available for viewing on The Guardian.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (6)

  • Gradiator
    Feb 2, 2015 - 11:41PM

    Teenage American gamers firing missiles at wedding parties? What a joke has been made of Pakistani lives in our current times. Almost as if they have no worth.


  • John B
    Feb 3, 2015 - 7:39AM

    Whether you fire a missile from F-22 or from a drone, the outcome is the same. Drones make the aerial warfare cost-effective and bring the piloting skill to minimum. The decision to kill or not to kill with F-22 pilot is purely at the judgement of the pilot, whereas drones bring the decision to a team. I will go for drone, if I were a Air force commandant.

    There is always a little drama in reporting how they train the modern soldiers, but in the era of computer, “video game” training is a natural evolution.

    Even the Boeing civil aviation pilots constantly undergo “video game” training. Except, the industry does not call it a video game. It is called simulation. It is still a video game. So, what is wrong in training a drone pilot from a pool of youngsters who are already trained with video game consoles to train them in drone simulation. It would be foolish not to tap these recruits.

    Surely, PAK is at the receiving end of the drone, but is it not what PAK AF also doing in N. Waziristan with F-16s?

    Drones are here to stay, as the police helicopters, surveillance aircrafts, and satellites. Te best way to train a drone pilot is video simulation because the pilot never flies.


  • Shan
    Feb 3, 2015 - 1:31PM

    Keep on shooting 100s for 1, That is how you produce 100 after eliminating 1


  • Stranger
    Feb 3, 2015 - 1:56PM

    The drone the national bird of Pak.


  • Sexton Blake
    Feb 4, 2015 - 2:26AM

    @John B:
    Dear John B ,
    There is a morality issue to consider which you completely ignored, but you are quite right. Drones are here to stay and morality has gone out the window. Similarly, with people defending against invading military forces. They usually do not have drones or F-22s to fight with so they make use of asymmetric warfare, which is up close and personal. When they do they are categorized as terrorists, inhuman monsters and totally immoral even though their killing rate is much less. Double standards I think.


  • kulwant singh
    Feb 4, 2015 - 4:42PM

    Is not it strange that you kill a whole wedding party enjoying the wedding just for one bad person among them is it fair the Americans must be ashamed off for such incidents.


More in Pakistan