U.S. Army Uses Strategy Game to Teach Cultural Awareness

The United States Army is testing a new PC strategy game that teaches captains who are being deployed to Afghanistan how to think like local village elders do. The game is called CultureShock: Afghanistan and is being tested at the U.S. Army Engineer School via the captains’ career course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. The purpose of the game, according to its creators is to teach cultural awareness and to show officers what drives the decision making process of local leaders whom U.S. forces will have to encounter and communicate with.

The game was developed by IDS International of Arlington, VA. The whole point of the game is perspective, putting players in situations where they get to see the point of view of a village leader. The game starts with the player taking on the role of the village elder after the previous leader has passed away control of the fictional village is passed down to a son.

Tom Viehe, a research associate at IDS, talked about the game a bit at the recent Association of the United States Army annual conference.

“You enter the game having no influence at all, and you have to build that influence,” Viehe said.

Players log in each day and play the game for five to 15 minutes and make decisions based on events that occur in the daily life of the Afghan village. Most are mundane in nature such as crop and labor issues, while others deal with serious threats to survival like Taliban spring offensives and corruption. Each daily play session represents a week in the life of a village.

According to IDS International, the game is "bound by the real world physical, political and cultural restrictions of Southern Afghanistan." IDS is also working closely with Afghan-Americans to ensure realism, according to Viehe. The game also features a reference a guide called “AfghanPedia” that lets them search for cultural information. At the end of the eight-week class, instructors gather data to see how the students’ analytical and cultural understanding has improved.

Source: National Defense Magazine

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