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The U.S. Army wants to add modern gaming visuals in its simulations

Prepare for the next generation of super soldiers, which may end up being video game players. The U.S. Army has created a new project office for the development of gaming technologies.

While the U.S. Army may have started with id Software’s DOOM II as a training tool, it will not rely on modern commercial shooters as the basis for its training. “I haven’t seen a game built for the entertainment industry that fills a training gap,” said Col. Jack Millar, director of the service’s Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Project Office for Gaming, or TPO Gaming.

The America’s Army games were primarily recruitment tools, but TPO Gaming’s main focus is on training tools. Furthermore, according to TSJOnline, TPO Gaming aims to integrate modern game graphics into traditional U.S. Army training concepts. “We will focus on the visualization piece of those technologies, not so much the entertainment piece,” Millar added.

Many simulators for the military thus far are based on shooter games, particularly of the first-person variety, which lends quite well to infantry training. TPO Gaming’s projects, however, look to expand gaming technology’s applicability to other areas.

“While one game might provide excellent battlefield visualization, another might support training bilateral negotiation techniques,” Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey, the Army’s director of training at the Pentagon, said to TSJ in written remarks. “We are finding many uses for games and it is just the beginning. Currently, we are focusing on first-person shooter and real-time strategy games, but there are many other genres of games that have desirable training capabilities. They provide an immersive environment capable of stimulating thought within a given context, thus giving us the ability to exercise cognitive skills along with functional tasks.”

Although games such as Infinity Ward’s brilliant Call of Duty 4 present a visually impressive representation on modern warfare, it may be deemed unsuitable for practical Army use for a number of reasons.

“The difficult part is they have to meet requirements,” said Robert Bowen, civilian chief of TPO Gaming. “Just because someone has the latest and greatest graphics engine, and the gameplay is great, doesn’t mean it meets training requirements.”

Col. Jack Millar said that the training tool must be suitable for custom scenario development, be immersive, scalable, feature an intuitive interface, model behavior at the entity level, contain an after-action review capability and allow easy distribution.

“We would look at that game and determine if it meets a training capability gap. If it can do that without any modification, we may use it to fill that gap,” said Millar. “But I doubt it. I haven’t seen that happen yet.”

Interestingly enough, part of the reason behind the formation of TPO Gaming was to give Army leaders a more official source of video game training, rather than picking up a copy of Call of Duty 4 or Halo 3.

“Units should not have to spend training dollars to purchase training simulations. If Army units are expending training funds to purchase games, there is probably an unfilled training requirement,” Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey said. “We do not want to tell the commanders in the field they cannot spend money and train with games. However, we do want to ensure that commanders get the best training tools and that the Army spends its limited resources wisely in the procurement of those tools.”



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RE: Here's an idea
By Misty Dingos on 12/14/2007 9:19:48 AM , Rating: 2
Keep in mind the Army is trying to train soldiers to communicate under fire. To take commands when stressed. To make reasoned and critical decisions that may affect the outcome of an important mission. Realism of the targets involved is not the issue. The army has been using more realistic human style targets for decades now.

Command and control is the goal here.

While some may say that the games/simulations forward the theory that violent video games make violent kids the way that the Army is going to use this software will not support that. If anything the Army’s use of this software will show that using young men trained to kill and exposing them to this software will not lead to an increase of violent behavior from them as a group. Thus acting as a counter argument to the violent game violent children theory.


RE: Here's an idea
By MightyAA on 12/14/2007 10:54:43 AM , Rating: 2
Not exactly. You personally approach things differently when you are expecting to use it for training versus just doing it for fun. So army boy Joe will learn something completely different than gamer Bill even though they playing the same game. Bill learns that bunny hopping increases his chances for survival.. Joe disgards that notion since it won't help him in real life and will learn that positioning and communication will help him.

Unfortunately, if they run a study, they might relate violence to gaming. 20 year old kid deployed in Iraq has to be more violent than the kid in college.. Whether or not they filter the outside influences (or even acknowledge their presence) will come into question. A lot of studies have ignored these sorts of things and just focused on the gaming/tv alone; example is a violent household.


RE: Here's an idea
By 3kliksphilip on 12/14/2007 11:41:50 AM , Rating: 2
I don't agree with video games = violent people. The people who tend to play games a lot don't seem to be the people causing punch ups in the streets. At least, that's the case in the town where I come from.

If two different people play the same computer game, they'll eventually end up playing to survive the game. Stupid and extreme example : Unreal Tournament will make players bunny hop about the place. Operation Flashpoint on the other hand is realistic and leads to players hiding and sneaking about. It's really fun with a load of friends, all on voice communication. I believe this is how he army people would play the game. If that's so, surely gamers are learning actics used in the army, therefore training them to kill / stay alive? It might not be in a bad sense (and most tactics are just common sense), but it does close the gap between army warfare and what little Billy's playing in his spare time. Wasn't America's Army a game made to get people to join the army?

I remember a soldier thanking the makers of OPFP, claiming that 'he learnt useful tactics which helped him to stay alive' on their simulations. Perhaps the arguement can be turned to say that 'Computer games save the lives we care about'. It's all about how you look at it. But it's still ammo in the tabloid's (metaphorical) guns.


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