GAME ON! In the face of changing demographics and the overwhelming need for innovative training in full spectrum operations, the US Army is venturing into gaming technology in a big way. Col Mark McManigal, TCM Gaming and Major Tom Biedermann, Australian Army, describe the initiative
t is a common military thought that in warfare, the side that learns faster and whose leadership at all levels is more agile than its enemy, generally wins. The US Army wants to learn fast, be agile and win, and hence is developing solutions to help leaders and soldiers learn and adapt in current and future conflict. There are many training challenges and gaming applications for military purposes, and addressing these challenges is becoming more important as part of the learning solution. Gaming technology, traditionally viewed for entertainment only, can make a significant contribution to the creation of a more agile force. The Army recently embarked on an ambitious gaming program for use in training and educating leaders, soldiers, and their organizations. The Army is presently faced with a significant demographic shift: an ever increasing number of Generation Y or
‘Millennial’ soldiers. Traditional classroom methods do not always achieve optimal learning effects with this generation, which gravitates more toward experiential, collaborative learning in a digital space. The Army is simultaneously confronting resource and other training challenges. Units, often short on time and other resources for the much sought after live training, have had to become extremely creative in their efforts to achieve Army standards prior to deployment. Additionally the Army is shifting its training focus from counter insurgency operations to full spectrum operations. Confronted with the above challenges, the Army turned to gaming technology for efficient, effective, and versatile training applications. It stood up a Gaming Program of Record in April 2008 and moved rapidly to select its first official game in December of that year: “Virtual BattleSpace2” (VBS2), contracting with
Commanders make decisions and see the execution of the plan by their subordinates. Image credit: Author.
Laser Shot, Inc. and partners Bohemia Interactive and Calytrix Technologies. Gaming is not completely new to the Army. In fact, the Army owes some of its knowledge of games to its Australian allies, who were among the first to develop VBS 1 and use it for training applications as a first person shooter (FPS) genre game. The Army initially created its own online game, “America’s Army” for recruiting purposes. Also, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a U.S. Department of Defense organization, developed a FPS game called DARWARS AMBUSH!, which has been used in most Army organizations to train small unit tactics, MS&T MAGAZINE • ISSUE 2/2009