In civilian society, debate might still be raging on about whether violence in video games contributes to violent tendencies and actions among children, but the U.S. Army is betting video games can help make a more-prepared soldier: according to Stars & Stripes, the U.S. Army has created its own video game unit, and plans to invest $50 million in it over the next five years to procure and design systems that will help prepare soldiers for combat duty.
According to Lt. Col. Gary Stephens, product manager for air and ground trainers at PEO-STRI (Project Executive Office—Simulation Training and Instrumentation), the Army doesn’t want to compete with commercial game developers, but instead use gaming technology to enhance military training. As part of the initiative, the Army is preparing to deploy a new game, “Game After Ambush,” which will leverage a commercial video game that can be modified by the Army to reflect desired terrain, scenarios, missions, and other factors. Among key features the Army wants in training games are the ability to deploy the games without requiring technicians to run or maintain the games, and a playback function for after-action review and analysis. Trainers will also be able to modify the game during play to change the exercise, add new elements.
The U.S. Army plans to deploy 70 gaming systems in 53 locations in the U.S. and abroad between February and September 2009; each system will have 52 computers compete with accessories like steering wheels, mice, and headsets. The systems will be used to train one platoon at a time, but can also be linked together via the Internet to offer larger coordinated exercises.
[Photo of cadets playing the existing DARWARS-Ambush system by Seth Robson, S&S.]