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[] Army Game Proves U.S. Can't Lose

Killerspiele, anyone?


Army Game Proves U.S. Can't Lose

By Marty Graham
02:00 AM Nov, 27, 2006

A new video game commissioned by the U.S. Army as a recruiting tool
portrays the nation's military in 2015 as an invulnerable high-tech machine.

The new PC title, Future Force Company Commander, or F2C2, is a nifty
God-game that puts players in the driver's seat of 18 systems at the heart
of the military's new net-centric warfare approach. The Army added the
game to its recruiting tool kit last month as a high-tech follow-up to its
successful America's Army shooter.

It's an impressive game, simulating weaponry the military is actually
using or building, gamers say. But the gameplay is designed so it's hard
to lose: The equipment holds up awfully well and the enemy doesn't learn
from experience.

"They didn't ask for hole punchers," says Mark Long, co-CEO of Zombie,
where the game was built under contract. "High tech has all kinds of
low-tech vulnerabilities and they didn't want the vulnerabilities
programmed in."

Defense contractor Science Applications International commissioned the
game for $1.5 million. So far, more than 24,000 copies have been handed
out on disk or downloaded from the websites of the Army and game builder

Missions include planning and executing a night raid on a populated area,
and protecting a border and an airstrip in a notional country having
problems with its notional neighbor. The game provides terrain maps and
data about the strength of the equipment.

Gamers on give the title good reviews, but complain about
the game being paid for with their taxes and offering an overly optimistic
view of America's tactical superiority over fictitious enemies.

Susan Nash, an e-learning expert and associate dean at Excelsior College
in Albany, New York, has played F2C2 and the Army's first recruiting game.
She gives both high marks for fun and for the learning experience. But she
agrees with Long that the new game presents an artificially rosy view of

"It's a great game and a really good training tool that creates conditions
for learning, teaches strategic thinking and tactical thinking, and it's
got really cool weapons," Nash says. "But ethical issues loom."

For example, there's no consideration that military power or technology
could fail or be jammed, she says. And the enemy doesn't learn, in
contrast to a certain real-life conflict where the hallmark of insurgents
is their ability to rapidly gain knowledge and evolve.

"All their use of technology is so off-label, so future-forward," Nash
says. "And you've got to figure the enemy is playing the game too."

Long wanted to see the enemy evolve, based on his own experience in the
Army and defense contracting.

"The first time a UGV toddles in for reconnaissance, insurgents will stare
at it until the air strike follows," he says. "The second time, they'll
throw a blanket over it and run. The third time, they'll immobilize it and
plant an IED because they'll have figured out someone has to recover that
million-dollar piece of equipment."

More than anything else, Nash is bothered by the fantasy the potential
recruits may have that they'll end up the commander riding a joystick
rather than understanding what military life means.

"You don't see the day-to-day boredom, you don't see broken legs and
equipment failure," she says. "You don't see that the military is mostly
grunts and only the grunts on the ground die."

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