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Military Simulation Game Training Improves Gaming Skills, Not Soldier Capabilities

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millitary training

Is the Army’s Military Simulation Game Training Effective?

It’s not very surprising that the military has been using video games as a form of training. This form of gamification is very serious, enough so that in 2008 the U.S. Army invested “$50 million over five years on games and gaming systems designed to prepare soldiers for combat.” This investment is so big, it has its own title: the Project Executive Office – Simulation Training and Instrumentation, or PEO – STI, and the Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Homeland Defense are involved as well. These games are basically complex simulations, which have been in use since possibly the 1920’s.

Simulation game training is heavily integrated because it allows for soldiers to experience a virtual reality with realistic combat situations without any of the dangers that would typically accompany such a situation. There has even been research done into using that same simulation technology to remove soldiers from danger entirely, though that is still in development. Gamification when considered as strictly training is experiencing some interesting advances.

One of the criticisms of massive-multiplayer games is that it encourages players to remain inside playing rather than outside exercising. The same can be said of the simulations the military has relied on for so long. While the first person shooter games that the army uses can give the soldiers playing an idea of what a combat situation will look like, it is not an accurate example of that soldier’s particular physical fitness: “It turns out that the virtual training was rewarding gaming skills more than soldierly discipline,” according to the head of the Army’s simulation command, Col. Krogh. The response has been to create realistic avatars that more closely resemble the physical conditions of the players. From a gaming perspective, this is amazing; on the commercial front, these avatars could lead to games with realistic, compounding damage and greater immersion. For the Army, it means that the soldiers they train are getting a realistic idea of what happens physically in a combat situation: the avatars will become tired or stressed in high physical situations. Col. Krogh thinks that this may also lead to a better interaction with the simulated environment, so that the avatars can create different reactions in the environment depending on their actions.

This level of complexity was unheard of in the ‘20’s, but now gamification of training simulations can be used to create an environment that responds to players. It remains to be seen whether accurate representations of players will improve the training capabilities of these simulations but its a start towards total immersion and therefore, improved situation awareness for our troops on the field.

Image by Luke Hayfield Photography

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