U.S. Army Creates Video Game Squad

Training and Simulation Journal Online reports that the United States Army has established a project office to create and deploy video games for the training of soldiers.

Col. Jack Millar director of the Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Project Office for Gaming, or TPO Gaming, said:

I haven’t seen a game built for the entertainment industry that fills a training gap, We will focus on the visualization piece of those technologies, not so much the entertainment piece.

One thing about the Army, there’s no shortage of abbreviations. Robert Bowen, civilian chief of TPO Gaming, explained the game training concept to TSJO:

Immerse that soldier into a virtual or synthetic environment, then have them conduct a training task, using their SOP [standard operating procedures], and then AAR [after-action review] that capability.

There will be some cool user-side mod ability built in, Bowen added:

We will empower that soldier to build his own scenario rapidly so he can train for his specified task. You can take a leader, chaplain, sergeant major, anyone, and put them in front of two or three laptop screens, and they’re using gaming technology that’s integrated with the constructive simulation… They’re represented in the game. Their icon shows…

Brigadier General Thomas Maffey talked about the kind of games being used:

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.

One reason for the creation of the new gaming office is a concern that units are currently buying commercial games. Said Col. Millar:

If Army units are expending training funds to purchase games, there is probably an unfilled training requirement. 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.

An unnamed simulation consultant, however, felt that creating layers of Army bureaucracy devoted to game development was a waste of tax dollars:

If all they’re looking for is visualization, then they’ve shot themselves in the foot. [Units will buy commercially-available games because they] don’t have to go through umpteen layers of bureaucracy…

An Army officer agreed that soldiers enjoy training with commercial software:

The controls are easy to use to move, shoot, communicate and link things up. They can’t do that now in our normal training venues down at the local sim centers. They basically have to use their barracks and use their personal computers.

Via: Wired

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  1. 0
    auto1 says:

    I just don’t have much to say lately, but such is life. What can I say? I can’t be bothered with anything. I’ve just been staying at home waiting for something to happen. I haven’t been up to much these days, but pfft.


  2. 0
    Austin Lewis ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Obviously, no game can teach you to fire a weapon. No game can teach you how to fire a three shot burst with accuracy, or to hit a target 800M out with a rifle. This is the kind of thing you only learn through hard work.

  3. 0
    broken scope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Once someone finally develops a lightweight wearable display that covers all of your vision and someone makes something that accuratly responds to body movement, things like this could be a fairly useful tool.

    Untill then, these will have limited use and will only be useful for teaching, or explaining the concepts behind something.

    They will not be able to substitute for real training and the experience that comes from field work and simulated exercises.

  4. 0


    Not entirely true. Games can be used in training, and can teach certain things, particularly strategy and tactics. While AA can’t teach you how to shoot a gun, it can help teach some timing techniques, as well as how to coordinate with other soldiers in your squad in a safe environment. Now, at the same time, that doesn’t mean if you play AA you can survive in wartime. *No* amount of training is going to fully prepare anyone for wartime conditions. Anyone in the military can tell you that.

    When I was in the Army, we’d regularly go out into the field (that is, out in tents, living in the woods for a few days, simulating what we’d do in wartime). While in the field, we’d strap on what was called MILES gear (basically, laser tag, using a harness you wear, and some additional components attached to our rifles which shoot a laser that gets picked up by the other person’s harness when a blank is fired), and we’d do some wargames, as well as run scenarios like if we got ambushed, hit with various kinds of attacks (including chemical attacks using CS grenades), etc, how to handle medical situations on the battlefield, etc.

    For all we did there, it was a known factor that exactly none of the training would prepare people for what happens in war. When the lethality of war strikes home, when you come face to face with your own mortality, and that everything you do affects the lives of everyone around you, that raises the level of stress and fear considerably, and people have to very quickly learn to cope or die. Nothing can prepare for that grim reality.

    However, training can help you, as a support to hold yourself together with while reality itself is beating you down. The intelligent leaders will look for more and more effective methods of training to ensure success — training that serves a specific purpose. Video games can help considerably in some areas, like strategy, tactics, communication, and coordination. Hand-eye coordination even is helped, which being able to quickly react to a situation could be the difference between living and dying on the battlefield. As such, there are some commanders which have looked more into using video games as a tool to help train. Not exclusively, but inclusively with other training aids. What video games lack in being able to teach, there are other tools available to use. And when it comes down to it, video games simply become another tool to help with training, nothing more. And, it may be a pretty good and effective tool to use, because of the popularity with the troops, it will draw their interest potentially, rather than being something they feel constantly forced upon them.

  5. 0
    chopperlink ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The Legend of Zelda taught me how to defeat evil people like Ganondorf and Vaati. Trust me, THAT will be an important skill in my career. J/k. 😛

  6. 0
    Internet Hate Machine ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ the honoured Anonymous

    “Hold the line damn you! You will not embarres the Emperor by dying today!”

    Indeed. Good game that DoW.

  7. 0
    Icehawk ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Not true mate. Games teach all kinds of things. The basic shapes square, circle, triangle (Playstation 1-3) the number 1-4 and basic colors (XBox 360), which ways it up, down, left, right, forward and back. All those are useful skills… really…..

    On the otherhand I have played flight and battle sims and having been in a real Apache I can tell you for a fact that the game did not teach me squat on how to fly one. Military sims… interesting thoughts there. Did firefighter training in both formats and I can say with certainty that the heat, smoke, smell and getting dowsed by your buddy to keep you from getting BBQ’d is a BIT different than the game. As mentioned many times, games do NOT teach you have to load, aim, fire and HIT with a rifle/pistol. The lack of recoil alone should be set off major red flags but of course some are just blind to any truth that is not theirs.

    So they are going to try to make a game that is going to teach you how to make and protect (and be protected by) buddies or even how to march. Sorry not going to happen. Maybe they teach how to stow your locker correctly or make a bed but some things just need to be done in reality. All the sims in the world are not going teach what a real experience can.

  8. 0
    Sidewinder says:

    What bugs me about this is that somebody is gonna use this as proof that games are in fact murder simulators.

    I’m also a bit skeptical to armed forces using games as part of the training (with the exception of flight/ship/hovercraft simulators). When Full Spectrum Warrior was released some local game reviewer got some members of the royal guard to play it. The officers said plainly that this kind of game was a bit disturbing because it could give people a wrong impression of how they did things.

    Of course, we don’t have to go recruiting among the populace, conscription and all that (or at least in theory, I haven’t served and I’m both willing and able bodied).

  9. 0
    Weighted Companion Cube ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Yes. However, basic military tactics can be emulated in-game. Sure, it’s no substitute for actual experience, but at least should the guy go to basic, he may recall something he saw from the game as useful.

  10. 0
    Austin Lewis ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    AA was made to get people to come in to recruitment offices (it used to be available only on CD, back when we were suffering through dial-up), so you had to come and see a recruiter. It was meant to spark interest in the military while familiarizing yourself with concepts you would see in basic.

  11. 0
    cppcrusader ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yes and no. America’s Army was developed as a recruiting tool originally. Its been applied to some training programs, but they usually use other tools/simulations instead of AA. Mostly when AA gets tossed around in the training space its just for name recognition.

  12. 0
    cppcrusader ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It does certainly sound that way. After reading through it again it sounds more like they’ve set up an office of scripters/modders for using the tools they already have.

    If it’s the other way though I bet they’re either using America’s Army or Delta3D.

  13. 0
    Bustahwolf says:

    I wonder what aspects of unit training are considered to be lacking in COTS software. At the least, this could give the industry an incentive to include game elements that would’ve been scrapped because they didn’t add to the entertainment value for the public consumer.

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