Cutting Edge “Battle Lab” Opens at U.S. Naval Base

May 4, 2010 -

The Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan is the center of operations for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet and is also now home to a brand new, $6.0 million state-of-the-art “battle lab.”

Set in a formerly abandoned bunker dug into the side of a hill, the facility was launched on Monday according to Stars and Stripes. The inaugural simulation, dubbed Operation Coral Dagger, involved American and Australian forces maneuvering against a fictional foe called the Kamarians, an opposing force used in Australian military training.

The military publication called the exercise “a far more complex game than multinational forces had ever been able to play in Japan before Monday.” The simulator allows multi-national forces from all over the world to participate, whether they are on a ship, sitting in a flight simulator or parked in front of a computer.

The “battle lab” allows training to continue even when ships are docked for maintenance. Japan and other U.S. allies will be able to take part alongside the U.S. in future simulations.

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Latest U.S. Military Interactive Training Methods Detailed

April 8, 2010 -

As the U.S. Military continues to implement interactive training as a means to prepare its members for combat, the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) team hosted a conference call today in order to discuss a pair of new training initiatives.

Clark Lethin, of the Office of Naval Research, began by noting that FITE’s focus was on training small units, or “squads of 10-13 soldiers, marines, sailors or airmen,” with an emphasis on improving team unity, unit cohesion, unit decision making and communication skills. The first new training initiative, which has been completed, revolves around a personal virtually reality system.

Lethin explained, “An individually worn virtual reality system with helmet-mounted display and a weapon with a toggle switch on it that allows you to locomote through the virtual world… then we have sounds tied into that system, as well as a shock device that will receive shock if these men are hit or wounded by any kind of connectict event.”

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Where Videogames & The Military Collide

March 17, 2010 -

It’s not often that a conference features speakers as diverse as Sims creator Will Wright and Joint Forces Command boss General John Mattis, but when the symposium focuses on promoting the use of videogames in the Department of Defense, such an odd pairing makes sense.

Dovetailing nicely with recent news that the U.S. military is planning a larger role for videogames in training, GameTech 2010 takes place in Orlando, Florida from March 29-31 and focuses on “gaming technologies that enhance warfighter training.”

Wright’s keynote subject is Games are Tools for Science and Society, while General Mattis will give a talk on Serving the Training Needs of the Small Unit and Infantry Soldier. An additional keynote from Major General Mel Spiese, USMC Training and Education Command, will discuss The Role of Games in Training Marines.

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U.S. Military Eying Larger Role for Games in Troop Training

March 15, 2010 -

The U.S. Military, already a big practitioner of videogame-based training for its members, plans to spend even more on the technology in the future.

In a bid to cut battlefield casualties the Pentagon has approved an “unspecified” amount of funding towards research on how to further take advantage of the latest videogame technology reports AFP.

General James Mattis, Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, said the initiative would put soldiers through, “as many tactical and ethical challenges as we can before they go into their first firefight.”

He continued, “…I'm convinced, both ethically and casualties-wise, we can reduce the missteps that we are taking on the battlefield, and reduce them significantly.”

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A Soldier’s War with DRM

February 25, 2010 -

As Ubisoft’s recent struggle with DRM technology brings the subject back into the limelight again, the always excellent Ars Technica has an article up exploring how DRM can impact a specific group of gamers—soldiers stationed overseas.

A soldier now stationed in Iraq detailed his experiences with DRM, saying his experiences with the technology have ranged from “annoying to unforgivable,” though he called Valve’s Steam platform “pretty awesome” when it came to working with deployed military personnel in order to ensure that they have access to their games.

The unnamed soldier on his experiences with other companies and services:

I've had hit and miss success with some of the other download companies. Any kind of game that tries to call home, though, is generally more of a problem than it is worth. Especially ones that try to resolve your IP address with your version/purchase location.

On-base Internet connectivity can very spotty and expensive, adding to the headache of playing a game with DRM that phones home constantly. The soldier said that the “government sponsored Internet” features severe bandwidth caps, while civilian Internet is extremely expensive—the soldier pays $150.00 a month for a 192K connection.

Ars added its own thoughts on DRM:

This sort of DRM makes sense for a world where every device is always connected to some magically open and always-on Internet connection. That world is a very long way away, so by requiring an Internet connection at all times to play a game that isn't online itself is simply alienating an audience.

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In a Console World, PCs Remain Military Training Platform of Choice

February 9, 2010 -

As the U.S. military turns more and more to PC-based military simulations as a less expensive solution to real-world exercises, an article on Wired examines whether game consoles might eventually replace PCs as the training platform of choice.

While they can lack horsepower when compared to their PC brethren, consoles are attractive to Army officials for one reason—price. Consoles can cost a couple of hundred dollars, while a high-end PC can run into the thousands.

It seems, though, that Microsoft themselves may have created a roadblock to the more widespread use of Xbox consoles within the military. The Wired article features feedback from the Chief Technology Officer of U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training & Instrumentation, who claims that Microsoft refused to sell him consoles in 2006.

Roger Smith said the Xbox-maker gave him three reasons for the refusal: Microsoft feared a low attach rate for the consoles sold to the military, the military could have drained supplies of the console and Microsoft did not necessarily want their console associated with the Army, as this could “taint its reputation.”

A Microsoft spokesperson answered that the military was free to team up with an existing developer (as was done in the case of THQ’s Full Spectrum Warrior) or they could leverage XNA Game Studio development tools and create their own games.

It turns out that Smith may not even be interested in using the Xbox anymore, as he stated, “Our initial enthusiasm when Xbox and XNA were new products has cooled.” So it appears the PC will remain the training base of choice for at least the near future, leveraging a more open architecture and an ability for greater performance.

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ONR: Gamers Better Terrorist Fighters

January 26, 2010 -

Fighting a war on terror demands that military personnel be able to quickly react and adapt to enemy tactics—traits which improve from playing videogames.

Research currently being undertaken by the Office of Naval Research is showing that videogame training is having “surprising” results in helping military personnel adapt to the challenges of fighting terrorists, according to a story on the Department of Defense website.

Ray Perez, a Program Officer for the Office of Naval Research’s Warfighter Performance department, offered comment on what the group’s research has uncovered so far:

We have discovered that video game players perform 10 to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability than normal people that are non-game players.

Using the term “fluid intelligence” to describe such field adaptability, Perez believes that cognitive advances gleaned from playing games can last for up to two and a half years.

He continued:

We know that video games can increase perceptual abilities and short-term memory. They allow the player to focus longer and expand the player’s field of vision compared to people who don’t play video games.

We think that these games increase your executive control, or your ability to focus and attend to stimuli in the outside world.

Perez’s group is looking to advance the integration of videogames into training, eventually hoping to be able to “blur the distinction between training and operations.”

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CSM: America’s Army Distorts Impressions of War

January 5, 2010 -

While the effectiveness of America’s Army as a recruiting tool is well documented, in light of the U.S. military meeting all of its recruiting goals for the first time in nearly 40 years, a Christian Science Monitor piece explores the consequences of recruitment devices which “ignore the psychological realities of war.”

America’s Army, the Army Experience Center and a relatively new graphic novel put out by the Navy to foster recruiting efforts among high school students, are promotions—which combined with a down economy and lack of jobs— have made joining the armed forces an answer for more and more young people:

The current recruiting tactics aimed at America’s youth are especially concerning. Not only do the very tactics that have been boosting recruitment sanitize war and create false expectations, they prey upon the vulnerable imaginations of children.

The article claims that the suicide rate among soldiers reached a post-Vietnam War high for the fifth year running.

The author concludes:

To be sure, Vets from World War II and Vietnam had shell shock and PTSD without video game recruitment, but targeting teens with video games and graphic novels that ignore the psychological realities of war is not the way to solve the recruitment problem at a time when the psychological health of those who are sent to Afghanistan and Iraq should be a top priority.

GP: More damning than America’ recruitment tools themselves may be a bit in the article where it’s noted that the Army is short some 300 substance abuse counselors and 800 behavioral specialists. Perhaps taxpayers can fund a new game aimed at attracting those types of personnel to the military.

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Snipers Use iPhone App to Target Terrorists

December 29, 2009 -

While an iPhone may not necessarily be the first thing you think of when asked what is need for our soldiers overseas, it turns out that a simple app that costs around $20 is being used quite extensively in Afghanistan.

We knew that soldiers already use modified Xbox 360 controllers to fly unmanned robotic vehicles, but a story in the Mirror details how snipers are using an app called BulletFlight, which takes into account wind and the rotation of the Earth and its affect on the path of a bullet to its target.

The story also talks about PS3 technology being used in supercomputers and radar.

According to Stuart McDougall of BAE Systems, which is developing 3D graphics technology from the PS2 to power the next wave of military engineering designs:

"Historically the military have invested in developing technology to meet their specific requirements. This technology has then filtered down to everyone else. But, increasingly, modern consumer gadgets are so powerful and so highly competitive that they're often ahead of the game - and much cheaper to buy in and adapt."

BulletFlight is available for download by anyone.

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ESA Foundation Backs Scholarships for Military Families Program

November 30, 2009 -

The Entertainment Software Association’s ESA Foundation is continuing its partnership this year with ThanksUSA, in order to help fund scholarships for the children and spouses of U.S. military personnel.

In a bid to raise awareness—and contributions—the pair are once again running an online contest, dubbed Treasure Hunt Five, which serves up American history quizzes, puzzles and anagrams. A series of prizes are available for winners. The game ends on August 15, 2010.

ThanksUSA Executive Director Michele Stork stated:

We are delighted to have the video game industry's continued support in this important endeavor. ThanksUSA has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships to more than 1,850 families across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with a goal of crossing the 2,000 scholarship mark this year. With ESAF's help, this year we will award more than 200 scholarships to the families of America's armed forces.

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IED Detection: One Skill Gaming Does Not Improve

October 29, 2009 -

While gamers might be adept at flying drones and operating other types of high-tech military weaponry, they finish behind two other groups of personnel when it comes to being skilled at detecting improvised explosive devices (IED).

The Los Angeles Times reports that military personnel with hunting backgrounds or those who come from tough urban neighborhoods surpassed gamers when it came to spotting explosive devices.

Why is this the case? Gamers “do not seem to have the depth perception and peripheral vision of the others, even if their eyesight is 20/20” states the article. Army Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett added:

Video game enthusiasts are narrower in their focus, as if the windshield of their Humvee is a computer screen. The gamers are very focused on the screen rather than the whole surrounding.

Sgt. Maj. Burnett said that the best class of soldiers he’s ever seen at detecting IEDs were members of the South Carolina National Guard, nearly all of whom are from rural areas and participated in hunting.

Thanks Sean!

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Iraq War Vet, Halo Gamer Succumbs to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

September 1, 2009 -

…another in an occasional series of reports about gamers who gave their all:

Jacob Blaylock wasn't killed during his tour in Iraq, but a pair of his close buddies were. After he rotated back home, Blaylock, like so many other combat veterans, struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In a moving report, the Indianapolis Star chronicles Blaylock's troubles and eventual suicide:

Blaylock was known as a more than competent soldier in Iraq, a popular guy who smoked three packs of Marlboros a day and played the video game "Halo" to relax between the many missions logged.

After his death, family members came across a blog entry written by Blaylock:

I am well past gone. I don't care what anyone says, cause they just don't know. They don't understand, and I can't expect them to. I want to remember. I want peace. I want to be happy. All I want to do is live.

The New York Times has a much more detailed report on Blaylock's downward spiral, including gut-wrenching video footage.

GP: Why do we cover these stories? Because this generation of gamers has suffered war like none before it. We hope to honor their sacrifice.

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New Book Probes Link Between Video Games, Capitalism, Militarism & Social Control

August 27, 2009 -

We haven't read this one yet, but we plan to.

Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, a new book by Prof. Nick Dyer-Witheford of the University of Western Ontario and Greig de Peuter, a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University, digs into some territory that should prove fascinating to GamePolitics readers.

From the press release:

Games of Empire forcefully connects video games to real-world concerns about globalization, militarism, and exploitation, from the horrors of African mines and Indian e-waste sites that underlie the entire industry, the role of labor in commercial game development, and the synergy between military simulation software and the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan... the urban neoliberalism made playable in Grand Theft Auto, and the emergence of an alternative game culture through activist games and open-source game development.

Rejecting both moral panic and glib enthusiasm, Games of Empire demonstrates how virtual games crystallize the cultural, political, and economic forces of global capital, while also providing a means of resisting them.

The paperback edition is available for $19.95.

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Organizers Expecting Arrests at Army Experience Center Protest

August 25, 2009 -

Organizers of a September 12th protest planned for a video game-filled Army recruiting facility in Philadelphia are apparently expecting some of their group to be arrested.

A message posted yesterday at SHUT DOWN THE ARMY EXPERIENCE CENTER details the somewhat stealthy tactics planned for the demonstration and contains the following:

We’re expecting national television and print coverage this time around, so we want to make sure our presence is formidable...

Meanwhile, folks willing to risk arrest are being asked to begin showing up at the Army Experience Center as early as noon to sample one of the X Box video murder games or one of the killing simulators. It would be excellent to have folks on the inside throughout the day. 

As GamePolitics previously reported, seven protesters were arrested by police during a demonstration at the Army Experience Center on May 2nd.

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Surveying the Use of Video Games as Propaganda

August 24, 2009 -

Bruce on Games takes a look at the video game as propaganda.

While blogger Bruce Everiss concludes that games have generally been ignored for propaganda purposes, he argues this is because government officials are basically old school types:

The reason we have been left alone is quite obvious. Games are just another media, albeit a technically superior media. But the people with all the power, the politicians and journalists, don’t realise this because mostly they just don’t understand video games at all. We see this in the way they blame video games for violence in society when the opposite is true. And now that ignorance is protecting video game players from propaganda.

GP: we're not so sure we agree, given that a new issue-oriented Flash game pops up about once a week on the web.

At any rate, Bruce has identified a list of propaganda games. Among others they include several PC mods produced by Islamic extremists, the Religious Right's Left Behind, and the Defense Department's controversial America's Army, of which Bruce is clearly not a fan:

America’s Army is the big one. A series of games designed to foster the American Army view of the world on an unsuspecting public and also to work as a recruitment tool. This has been a remarkable success at promoting gung ho American militarism.

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America's Army Game Used to Create Machinima About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

August 10, 2009 -

Machinima artist Paolo Pedercini turns the tables on the U.S. Defense Department's controversial America's Army recruiting game in Welcome to the desert of the real.

The 6:37 video uses footage from America's Army to highlight symptions of post-traumatic stress disorder, an increasingly prevalent condition among U.S. service personnel returning from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you're expecting action, however, this is not the machinima for you. Pedercini's work is low-key, almost ponderous. The artist seems to want to capture the feeling of detachment that is typical of those suffering from PTSD.

Via: Betterverse

For a list of PTSD symptoms, click here.

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Another Protest Planned for Army's Video Game Recruitment Center

August 5, 2009 -

In May, GamePolitics provided live coverage of a protest march against the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia. The high-tech recruitment facility employs fast gaming PCs and Xbox 360s as a means of attracting potential recruits.

Seven demonstrators were arrested at the May protest.

It now appears that a second protest at the Army Experience Center is in the planning stages. Details of an action scheduled for September 12th are posted at Shut Down the Army Experience Center.

While the May protest appeared to be coordinated with local authorities, who escorted demonstrators along their line of march, the upcoming event looks to have a more chaotic flavor. From the protest website:

This time, demonstrators are being encouraged to form small affinity groups and enter the mall through one of several locations. Protesters are encouraged to express their outrage in creative, nonviolent ways.
 
At 2:00 pm people will come out of the woodwork and converge on the Army Experience Center.  Organizers feel it may not be wise for participants to congregate into large groups before the demonstration or wear clothing that would suggest participation in the protest... 

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Would-be Game Designer Lost in Afghanistan

August 5, 2009 -

….another in an occasional series of reports about gamers who gave their all:

A U.S. Army soldier killed in Afghanistan last month was a lifelong gamer, reports the Washington Post.

Army Spec. Anthony Lightfoot, 20, of Riverdale, Georgia died along with three comrades in a roadside attack on July 20th in Wardak Province.

According to his family, Lightfoot beat Mario Bros. as a small child and hoped to become a game designer some day:

He was a video game devotee who beat a Mario Bros. game at age 4 and never looked back, his brother said. "Ever since then, you couldn't move him from the TV," his brother said. "Everything he touched he tried to master, and that was an awesome quality about him."

Lightfoot's passion for video games grew into a desire to study animation and design a game. He drew a lot as a youngster and befriended other fans of Japanese animation and video games.

"He was always happy to meet people, befriend people and help people," his brother said. "He was a giving person."

Spec. Lightfoot was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.

GP: Rest in peace, Anthony...

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New Site for Gamers in the Military Drafts Well-known Writer

August 5, 2009 -

As GamePolitics has often noted, a large cross-section of U.S. military personnel are gamers.

A new website, StripesGAMER, hopes to cater to those gamers in uniform. The site, a partnership between Consumer Solutions Gaming, LLC and the military's famed Stars and Stripes newspaper, calls itself "the independent daily news source for the global U.S. military community."

Now, reinforcements have arrived for StripesGAMER with this morning's announcement that Scott Steinberg has been recruited as an ongoing guest columnist. Consumer Solutions Gaming CEO Terry Tognietti comments on StripesGAMER's new squad mate:

Scott’s expertise and knowledge in this realm is a major asset for StripesGAMER.com. Our goal is to be the go-to source for gamers in the armed forces who can’t access mainstream industry news and information as easily as normal consumers, or who don’t have the time to visit multiple gaming sites, so the insight and commentary he brings our audience is indisputably valuable to us and our site’s members.


Army Robot Has Video Games and Vacuum Cleaner in its Family Tree

July 22, 2009 -

At the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the U.S. Army is testing robotic weapon systems, the origins of which can be traced back to the Xbox 360 and the Roomba vacuum cleaner, reports nextgov:

Spec. Ronald Wagle is a 23-year-old video gamer turned grunt... The handheld gizmo he uses to control a robot "is almost exactly the same as an Xbox [360] controller," he said.

Wagle uses the controller to deftly steer the robot, whose camera-equipped head gives it more than a passing resemblance to the R2-D2 robot in Star Wars, to check buildings in the village for weapons, including trip wires that could set off an improvised explosive device.

The robot, built by iRobot Corp., the same company that makes the Roomba vacuum cleaner, features cameras that can see in daylight and dark, has flexible treads that allow it to climb stairs, and radio links...

GP: Note the Xbox 360 controller carried by the soldier in the picture at left. More info on the Army's SUGV program is available on Wikipedia.

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Don't Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em - Army Develops Anti-smoking Game

July 9, 2009 -

The image of the hard-bitten soldier grabbing a post-battle smoke may be a cliche, but it's one that the U.S. Army hopes to change.

To that end, the Texas Medical Center reports that one of its researchers has been awarded $3.7 million grant by the Army to create an anti-smoking video game for military personnel. Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D. describes his project:

The tobacco use rates in the Army are alarming – 38 percent of service members smoke cigarettes and 15 percent use smokeless tobacco... Wars boosted the use of tobacco. Research shows tobacco use in the military increased during World War II. We are going to provide ways to help soldiers kick this destructive addiction or resist it in the first place...

The video game-based education program is anything but boring. It provides a highly interactive, engaging and exciting experience.

When the demands of combat duty increase the soldier’s level of pressure and stress, smoking becomes more tempting to both the former smoker and the soldier who has never smoked. The prevention aspect of the game will address this.

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New Online Gaming Network is For Military Types Only

July 6, 2009 -

There are many gamers serving with U.S. armed forces around the globe and a new online gaming network aims to help them enjoy their down time by gaming online.

As reported by Shacknews, the Military Online Gaming program is being offered by Pro vs GI Joe, a non-profit best known for facilitating online game competitions between troops and athletes. The new network is powered by the GGL Global Gaming platform.

MOG launched over the July 4th weekend with a Call of Duty: WaW tournament between military personnel and members of the Atlanta Falcons. Pro vs GI Joe founder Greg Zinone commented:

We created the MOG exclusively for the hundreds of thousands of military gamers around the world, to serve as a virtual connection among branches and bases, during deployments, and as a source of entertainment. Our partnership with the USO allows troops to play wherever they are serving.

The Xbox 360 will be supported initially as it is apparently the gaming weapon of choice for most military gamers.

Via: Joystiq

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In Congress, Rep. Kucinich Argues Against Army's Video Game-Fueled Recruiting Road Show

June 25, 2009 -

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is no fan of the controversial Virtual Army Experience, a traveling, high-tech, video game-driven military recruiting program.

As GamePolitics reported in March, Kucinich urged the House Armed Services committee to eliminate funding for the project, charging that it "give[s] participants as young as 13 years old a naïve and unrealistic glimpse into the world of soldiering..."

In addition, Kucinich has taken the debate over the VAE to the floor of Congress. A C-SPAN video posted yesterday on YouTube shows the former presidential hopeful once again expressing concern over the recruiting program. Engaging in a colloquy with House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO). Kucinich said:

Children as young as 13-years-old are participating in the Virtual Army Experience, which paints an innaccurate picture of war by glorifying it while sanitizing the real effects. More than a mere video game, it includes interactions with real veterans, who appear to be in perfect health. It also requires that the user, regardless of age, share personal information as a condition of participation...

 

I think we can agree that the Virtual Army Experience video game must be revalidated to ensure that its age-appropriate rating is accurate in the context of how it's being employed; that the Virtual Army Experience content should be reviewed to ensure it accurately reflects the consequences of war; and that there must be increased transparency with regard to how the personal information of the participants, collected during participation, will be used by the Army.

Skelton's response is of interest in that he didn't exactly disagree with Kucinich:

I support the VAE. At the same time, I know it can be improved. And I would be happy, of course, to work with this gentleman to address the issues that you have so aptly raised.

GP: At this point we're not entirely sure when Kucinich made the remarks in the House; given that they just hit YouTube, we assume that they are recent. Any GamePolitics reader input on the timing of Kucinich's comments will be gratefully accepted.

Thanks to: GP correspondent Andrew Eisen...

America's Army Launches New Version, Sacks Developers, Moves HQ

June 20, 2009 -

The launch of America's Army 3.0 this week didn't go smoothly thanks to problems with the game's authentication servers. Laying off the entire development team probably didn't help the situation.

As Shacknews reports, the Emeryville, California-based studio was closed with future work on the series transferred to Alabama's Redstone Arsenal.

A post on the official AA message board (since removed) by an anonymous team member was captured by VE3D and shows the apparent level of frustation felt by developers.

Imagine trying to build a game with an impossible deadline, steadily declining workforce (via firings), A hiring freeze, constantly being fed misinformation, having the "higher ups" completely ignore your weekly plea for either A) more time, or B) more manpower, working a ton of unpaid overtime, pouring your heart and soul into a misadventure only to have the uniformed community scoff at you for uncontrollable variables...

 

In fact, the bureaucracy is so convoluted that you can't even begin to imagine the breadth and scope of B.S. the devs had to deal with daily... imagine being the subcontractor of a subcontractor of a contractor to the government...

 

I'm not sure why i've felt compelled to write this when I'm sure it will get deleted, or even scoffed at further, but I hoped to let the fans know that we tried as hard as we could and are very bummed to see the fruits of our labor shoved at gamers like a heaping pile of crap.

GP: Interestingly, there is a launch event for America's Army 3.0 today at the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, which was the site of a large-scale protest against the game in May.

Partially Via: Blue's News

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Xbox Live's Major Nelson Visiting Troops in Baghdad

June 13, 2009 -

Larry Hyrb, aka Major Nelson, is currently in Baghdad.

The Director of Programming for Xbox Live tipped readers to the surprise 10-day trip in a blog post on June 7th:

I am a few hours away from stepping on a plane for the first leg of my journey to Baghdad, Iraq for the Iroq-Band competition taking place next week. I am honored to be asked to support the event, and I am looking forward to meeting many of service men and women that are Xbox LIVE members...

 

With all of the travel and security involved in this trip, my online time... will be extremely limited... I want to warn you that I’ll be unusually quiet (which I am sure won’t bother some of you) during my radio silence. 

Major Nelson arrived in Iraq on Wednesday. Despite the heavy security of a war zone, he has been providing numerous updates via Twitter. Some of his recent tweets give the flavor of the experience:

It takes you back when the staff where we are staying have sidearms and automatic weapons.

 

Taking a scenic tour of downtown Baghdad aboard a Blackhawk heli.

 

Apparently I slept through a mortar attack last night. No one was injured.

 

Seems like Xbox 360 is everywhere on this base. The only thing they don't have is LIVE due to the poor connectivity.

 

Most popular games on the base? Rock Band, Halo, COD (any of 'em) and all sports games.

The pic at left is from the Major's ride-along with a Blackhawk sortie over Baghdad.

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Six Days in Fallujah Debated on Fox News

June 11, 2009 -

On Fox and Friends this morning the debate over Six Days in Fallujah is back in the news.

Joining host Gretchen Carlson are Atomic Games president Peter Tamte, retired USMC Capt. Read Omohundro, an advisor on the project and Tracy Miller, who lost a son in the Fallujah fighting.

Via: Kotaku

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Steam to Carry New Version of America's Army

June 10, 2009 -

America's Army, the only video game in recent memory to generate a full-blown protest march, is getting an upgrade to v3.0; the new version will be carried by Valve's Steam service.

A press release issued by America's Army's P.R. consultant this morning announced that AA3 will be available as a free Steam download beginning on June 17th. In addition to Steam, fans can download the new version from other locations listed on the AA3 site.

Of the game's availability on Steam, Marsha Berry, senior executive producer for America's Army said:

We are very excited to work with Valve to distribute AA3 on Steam as it gives us access to great distribution technology as well as a tremendous user base. Additionally, we have incorporated Steamworks features such as Achievements and Steam Cloud to create a richer experience for Steam users.

 

Our relationship with Steam will broaden our reach to a new community and it offers our current players a great new way to get the America's Army game and keep it updated. Players will also be able to download AA3 using the America's Army Deploy Client from the Deploy network of providers listed on the America's Army download site.

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America's Army Gets a Graphic Novel

June 5, 2009 -

America's Army, the first-person shooter freely distributed as a recruiting tool, has been supplemented with a graphic novel.

Written by M. Zachary Sherman and inked by Michael Penick and J. Brown, the work spins the tale of the Army's struggle to save innocents in the fictional Democratic Republic of the Ostregals.

The expansion from games to comic books is likely to rile critics who object to the Army's incursion into pop culture for recruitment purposes.

Via: Blue's News

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Fox News on Rendition: Guantanamo

June 4, 2009 -

Fox News offers its take on the cancellation of Rendition: Guantanamo, including an interview with Pete Hegseth of Vets For Freedom.

Hegseth, who served with the U.S. military in Iraq and as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, was also interviewed by conservative newspaper the Washington Times:

[Rendition: Guantanamo] looked like to us a blatant attempt to twist reality and change the perception of the American soldier...

 

We need to keep [pressure] on guys like [former Guantanamo detainee] Moazzam Begg and what they are trying to do in rewriting history at Guantanamo: That our troops are oppressors and that the detainees are all victims.

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U.S. Kids' Lack of Interest in Game Programming is a Security Threat, Says USAF General

June 2, 2009 -

While American kids love to play video games, the former head of the United States Air Force Cyber Command frets that a lack of interest in learning to write the code underlying those games is a threat to national security.

In a report for The Daily Beast author Douglas Rushkoff writes:

[General Elder] has no problem attracting recruits ready to operate robots or fly drones... Hell, they love playing videogames already. His problem is finding high-school graduates with any experience or interest in actually programming all this stuff. Unless something changes radically, Elder told me, the United States will be surpassed in cyberskills within a single generation. The best of our kids design videogames; the Indians, Chinese, and Russians' kids write the code on which those games run.

How could this be? It's because in America we don't value programming. We think of it like bricklaying, farming, or any other seemingly menial skill. We ship our networking jobs to India, China, and other formerly Third World nations...

Rushkoff indirectly points the finger of blame at America's IP enforcement, which discourages tinkering - and thus learning about - digital technology:

In a computing marketplace where altering one's iPhone will "brick" its functionality and where user improvement to programs is treated as an intellectual-property violation, it's no wonder we have adopted the attitude that our technology is finished and inviolable from the minute it has been purchased. Just clicking on "agree" during installation says as much.

Via: GameCulture

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Should 'Hatred' have been removed from Steam Greenlight?:

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Matthew WilsonI hope its released to netflix or amazon12/18/2014 - 12:11am
prh99Basically they've given every tin pot dictator and repressive regime a blue print how to conduct censorship abroad. The hecklers veto wins again. At least when it comes to Sony and the four major theater chains.12/17/2014 - 11:55pm
MaskedPixelante"It's not OUR fault that our game doesn't work, it's YOUR fault for having so many friends."12/17/2014 - 9:48pm
Matthew Wilsonapparently tetris did not work because he has a full friends list12/17/2014 - 9:21pm
WonderkarpSo Sony cancelled the release of the Interview. was it ever confirmed that the Sony hacking was done because of that specific movie?12/17/2014 - 8:54pm
MaskedPixelanteWow, Ubisoft went four for four, I didn't think it was actually possible.12/17/2014 - 8:37pm
MechaTama31Oh, ok, I was mixing up "on Greenlight" and "Greenlit".12/17/2014 - 8:23pm
Matthew Wilson@phx you beat me to it. how do you screw up tetris?! my ubisoft this is just stupid. no one should ever preorder a ubisoft game again! ps people should never preorder any game regardles of dev.12/17/2014 - 6:28pm
PHX Corphttp://www.ign.com/videos/2014/12/17/what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-tetris-ps4 I give up on ubisoft12/17/2014 - 6:01pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://comicbook.com/blog/2014/08/16/exclusive-original-unaltered-cut-of-star-wars-trilogy-to-be-rele/ Yeah, this'll never happen.12/17/2014 - 5:03pm
NeenekoThey have and exercise control over which games are allowed on their privately controlled 'open forum'. Their endorsement is fairly minimal since it is only 'we do not reject this', but it is still an endorsement of sorts.12/17/2014 - 3:58pm
NeenekoHistorically there have been issues with libraries allowing some groups but not others. Perhaps 'endorsement' is too strong a word, but their editorial control IS a preapproval process, even if the standards are pretty minimal.12/17/2014 - 3:56pm
E. Zachary KnightLet's put this a different way. My local library allows any group to reserve and use multipurpose rooms. That does not mean that the Library endorses all events that take place in those rooms.12/17/2014 - 12:54pm
E. Zachary KnightValve's editorial control comes from removing problem games and accepting games to Steam. They make no claim over any games otherwise.12/17/2014 - 12:52pm
E. Zachary KnightNeeneko, It is not at all a form of endorsement. Grenlight is an open forum for game developers to pitch their game to Valve/Steam and Steam users. Does Valve have some editorial control? Yes, but not to the point that they preapprove games.12/17/2014 - 12:51pm
Neeneko@EZK - I disagree. Greenlight is built off Valve's brand. While not an explicit endorsement, it is a form of it, otherwise Greenlight would have no value over other platforms.12/17/2014 - 12:05pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.latino-review.com/news/exclusive-viola-davis-bags-amanda-waller-role-in-suicide-squad Latino Review says Viola Davis will be Amanda Waller. History of Latino Review says "wait for a REAL news site to confirm".12/17/2014 - 10:48am
PHX Corphttp://www.polygon.com/2014/12/17/7407869/assassins-creed-unity-glitch-broken-problems-xbox-one-patch -Facepalm- Screwup means Assassin's Creed Unity's patch is the 40GB full game on Xbox One12/17/2014 - 10:17am
PHX Corphttp://www.theverge.com/2014/12/16/7401769/the-mpaa-wants-to-strike-at-dns-records-piracy-sopa-leaked-documents Sony leaks reveal Hollywood is trying to break DNS, the backbone of the internet12/17/2014 - 10:05am
E. Zachary KnightA Game being on Greenlight is not an endorsement of said game by Valve, Steam or anyone related to Valve or Steam. Greenlight is a combined sales pitch to Steam and its users.12/17/2014 - 9:51am
 

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