Can video games prepares soldiers to real war?

Interesting read in The Washington Post (via elastico .)

“Ctrl+Alt+Del” is as basic as “ABC” for the new video game generation of U.S. soldiers. And video games have transformed the way the military fights wars, as well as soldiers’ ways of killing.


“There’s been a huge change in the way we prepare for war, and the soldiers we’re training now are the children of the digital age who grew up with GameBoys,” says Fred Lewis who now heads the National Training Systems Association. “Live training on the field is still done, of course,” but, he adds, “using simulations to train them is not only natural, it’s necessary.”

The weapons a soldier uses when he plays SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALS, for example, are virtual replicas of the weapons he used as a soldier in Iraq. “The technology in games has facilitated a revolution in the art of warfare,” says David Bartlett, the former chief of operations at the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office.


In the mid-1990s, Bartlett created Marine Doom, the military version of the original Doom. The simulation was conducted in a lab with six PCs networked together. It served as a precursor for highly immersive military simulation centers and PC labs. Some, like the Asymmetric Warfare — Virtual Training Technology, train soldiers how to coordinate complicated missions, a sort of military EverQuest that can be played by multiple people in several places at the same time. With the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer, soldiers train to shoot their weapons by holding a rifle that looks like an M16, except it fires a laser and the target is a giant screen (image above, on the right.)

Comparisons to previous generations of soldiers are problematic. Nonetheless, soldiers today are far more knowledgeable about weaponry than their predecessors, Bartlett feels sure, and have “a basic skills set as to how to use them.”

America’s Army, a free online game is being used by the U.S. military as a recruiting tool. Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and SOCOM are popular with soldiers. A version of America’s Army will be available on cell phones this summer.


Still, many PlayStation-playing soldiers aren’t as battle-ready as they think. Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War, says, “A lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had. When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”

See also
Joint Fires and Effects Trainer System, a simulation environment that combines a sound stage and set with displays rendering computer-generated cities (images above) and Virtual Environment Cultural Training for Operation Readiness, a game that provides cultural training for military forces.


With a different agenda: ganes that simulate violence to denounce real violence, in particular Josh On’s Antiwargame lets you set your budget, send troops overseas and manipulate the media, with the goal of maintaining a popularity high enough to remain president; Play September 12, a “simulation” without possible winners or losers; WarGame, by Joesér Alvarez, lets you tests an impressive arsenal of weapons to defend or attack the world, showing their power but also the consequence of using them.

Water Cooler Games
has a selection of related posts:
Anti-Japan War Online, a propaganda game about the Japanese invasion of China during WWII; Misión de Paz (Peace Mission) a turn-based, isometric strategy game, where you have to allocate resources and help a country under the command of the United Nations; Game and Holograms for Peace in Jerusalem; A Force More Powerful, a game to train people who seek to bring about non-violent revolution through protests, in an effort to affect social, economic, and political change worldwide.

Related: Arenae, a photo-reportage from the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games Quake III, Enemy Territory and Counter Strike.

Miles Kemp wrote a paper about it.