[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[infowar.de] WSJ 16.05.03 (Computerspiele&Simulation&Militär) 'America's Army' Is Big Hit, And Not Just With Civilians
Wall Street Journal
May 16, 2003
'America's Army' Is Big Hit, And Not Just With Civilians
Realistic Videogame Is Used In Training for Army Cadets
By Peter Roth, The Wall Street Journal Online
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Here at the U.S. Military Academy, future military
officers are clicking their way through the fog of war.
Under camouflage netting and warm red lights in the computer lab at the
War Fighting Simulation Center, cadets can go through everything from
basic training to simulated combat situations.
The secret weapon: "America's Army: Operations." The videogame,
developed as a recruiting tool to connect with civilian teenagers over
the Internet, has also grown into a valuable resource for training
future officers for battle.
The game is the brainchild of Col. Casey Wardynski, the director of the
Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Assessment. The project began
during a recruiting slump in the late 1990s. With its realistic graphics
and functionality, it was designed to provide a more accurate portrayal
of combat than the shoot-'em-up warfare games available on store
shelves. But during the developmental process, the military quickly
realized its potential as a training tool.
To be sure, no game can replace the stressful environment and physical
conditions of the battlefield. But, military officials say, the game is
useful in teaching elementary concepts to cadets at the early stages of
"Pre-infantry level, we're trying to teach them how to think, not how to
fight," says Capt. Carl Jacquet, director of the War Fighting Simulation
After installing the software, players go through basic-training
exercises like marksmanship testing and an obstacle course. When those
are complete, the players go online and choose a mission involving
various roles in an infantry unit. A typical mission lasts about 10
minutes and involves as many as 24 players on opposing teams. The
scenarios include a combat search-and-rescue mission, seizing an
airfield as part of a paratrooper unit and defeating terrorist groups
Hit With Public
The game has been a smash with the public since the Army released it at
www.americasarmy.com on July 4, 2002. The free program has drawn more
than 1.6 million registered users, one million of whom have completed
virtual basic training and moved on to the online missions. This week an
updated version with new training scenarios and missions was released at
the E3 videogame show in Los Angeles.
While the game was aimed at attracting the next generation of U.S.
soldiers, Col. Wardynski's team concluded early in the development
process that the project was capable of being much more than a marketing
device. The game's sophisticated simulations made it a natural training
The simulations were built by programmers at the Naval Postgraduate
College's Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulations Institute, or
Moves Institute. Granted access to the army units modeled into the game,
the programmers were able to accurately mimic the capabilities of
soldiers and their equipment. When a grenade lands too close to a
soldier, the game sends a ringing sound through the speakers that makes
it hard to hear things like commands and footsteps.
It also adheres to the laws of land warfare and rules of engagement, so
players understand that combat is about more than just shooting the
enemy. And the graphics are so realistic that they surpass many of the
Army's proprietary training simulations, which often "fail to maintain
the interest of soldiers brought up on videogames," said Col. Wardynski.
"America's Army" is also much less expensive and more flexible than many
of the Army's simulators. Every cadet at West Point is issued a laptop
and required to install the software. That means there are almost no
limits on how many people can play at the same time, and cadets can play
from virtually anywhere with a broadband connection. Many of the Army's
other simulators can only accommodate a limited number of people, and
often the soldier or cadet must be in the same place as the hardware and
Capt. Jacquet of the simulation center uses the game to teach cadets
basic combat tactics that he would otherwise have to illustrate with
tools like sand tables, plastic army men and blackboards. The software
is virtually the same version available to the public, including the
same maps and mission briefings.
When the game starts, things can quickly get hairy. "How is someone
shooting at me already?" cried out cadet Amanda Paluch as a bullet
whizzed by in the cold winter air during a recent training session at
the center. A fellow member of Echo Company, Third Regiment, lay down on
his stomach, took out his M16 rifle, and looked through the weapon's
scope for the enemy among the sparse vegetation in the rocky cliffs of
the snow-capped mountains. The crosshairs softly bounced up and down in
time with his breathing, throwing his aim slightly off. Soon, soldiers
all around them were dying, a stalled truck convoy was taken, and
mercifully, the fighting ended.
Cadets who play the game for the first time often make the same mistakes
they make in field training, says Capt. Jacquet. For instance, many
waste all their ammunition quickly before they realize that bullets are
limited, unlike most videogames. Cadets also get a taste of just how
chaotic a battle can be, how quickly a plan can unravel, and how
important it is to be able to maintain focus. The military calls this
type of thinking "situational awareness" -- something that comes only
"It's definitely something that impacts your performance, your
survivability in battle, but also it's something that you don't
necessarily develop, it's not intuitive," said Maj. Christopher Farrell,
an instructor at West Point's Department of Mathematical Sciences who
has done research on using the game in the classroom.
Cadets had good things to say about it, too. "You get to see your plan
come to life," said Louis Park, a freshman at West Point. Stefan
Gerville-Reache, also a first- year cadet, said the simulation is a
valuable time saver. It is "a real important part of our training here,
especially since it takes so long to get ready for field training."
At the end of each game round, Capt. Jacquet gathers the cadets and asks
what they learned. Cadet William Felder responds: "Always be flexible."
Says cadet Brent McNally: "When things break down, people stop talking,
people stop communicating."
The army is looking to expand the game's uses. For example, the Moves
Institute created a new land-navigation course within the game's
environment for a distance- learning experiment that was part of a
military science class. At the end of the class, the cadets' progress
was evaluated, and the added training appears to have helped. As a
result of the experiment, cadets are now starting to learn land
navigation six months earlier than in the past. Next year's incoming
class will start land- navigation training a year earlier.
This week, the Army unveiled its next major update to America's Army at
the E3 show in Los Angeles. Titled "Soldiers," it adds new scenarios
that enable players to advance past the infantry level to take on new
roles and learn specialized skills. The first will be training in combat
medicine: Game players who complete the course will be able to heal
wounded teammates in the virtual field. (The Army also said it plans to
release a version of the game for Macintosh and Linux computers.)
Col. Wardynski hopes that cadets and soldiers will use the simulation
and learn lifesaving skills they can use in actual combat. "By the time
a kid has worked through this he'll know as much as a medic about
battlefield trauma," he said.
HSFK Hessische Stiftung für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
PRIF Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Leimenrode 29 60322 Frankfurt a/M Germany
Tel +49 (0)69 9591 0422 Fax +49 (0)69 5584 81
- hsfk -
Mail an infowar -
- infopeace -
de mit "unsubscribe" im Text.