In the twenty-first century, warfare has increasingly become pervaded by fictions. Using carefully crafted virtual worlds to train, prepare, and process military engagements, the US military has co-opted and militarized a field that one does not usually associate with war—the field of aesthetics. This essay considers Harun Farocki's installation Serious Games as an index into the emergence of a newfangled military aesthetic regime. Charting the institutional collaborations between the military and the creative industries in the twenty-first century, the essay examines what happens to the notion of “experience” with the emergence of immersive virtual reality technologies. Revisiting central thinkers in philosophical aesthetics as well as a key moment in the history of war and technology, namely, the invention of the modern war game around 1800, the essay outlines the recent merger of war and aesthetics and draws out some of the consequences for our understanding of contemporary warfare.

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