The military and video games have had a long history together, going back to flight simulators before WWII. Of course, there’s been America’s Army, but that was a recruitment tool, a way to gloss over the downsides of the Army, namely the permanency of death and having to follow orders.
So where are our “Nintendo soldiers”? Turns out they’re currently working on a suitable training simulation for the US Army. Heck, there’s even a trade magazine devoted to these simulators.
The question isn’t “what are these simulators?”, but “what are they not?” Well, they’re not going to teach you how to shoot and they won’t get you buff. What they will do is provide tactics lessons in a classroom environment that can then be put to use on the training grounds. For more info on the what and why, check out this essay by a training games company, and this paper from the National Defense University. They’re not just random commercial games slapped together, but designed from the ground up to meet training demands.
I’ve played FPS games online since the good ol’ days of Doom II. And with some of the squad-based ones simple tactics can make or break your game. Me? I charge in and promptly die. And then proceed to do it again.
(via DailyTech) (image from renato guerra)
Traditionally, vehicle mounted weapon systems required the operator to be exposed, usually with his head and shoulders sticking out of the top of the vehicle. Obviously this presents an enticing target to the enemy. To overcome this deficiency the US military has developed CROWS (common remotely operated weapon stations). With CROWS, the gunner is inside the vehicle, and observes his surroundings using video cameras with night vision and telephoto capabilities. CROWS also has a laser rangefinder and a stabilization mechanism that allows more accurate fire while the vehicle is moving. But it turns out that the real reason CROWS has been successful is that today’s soldiers grew up playing video games, very similar to the CROWS experience:
Since many troops have years of experience with video games, they take to CROWS quickly, and very effectively. That’s one reason, not often talked about, for the success of CROWS. The guys operating these systems grew up playing video games. They developed skills in operating systems (video games) very similar to the CROWS controls. This was important, because viewing the world around the vehicle via a vidcam is not as enlightening (although a lot safer) than having your head and chest exposed to the elements, and any firepower the enemy sends your way. But experienced video gamers are skilled at whipping that screen view around, and picking up any signs of danger. The army even has a CROWS trainer built into its America’s Army online game.
(Image source: GlobalSecurity.org)
Yesterday was quite a big day for virtual goods. In addition to Valve releasing the Half Life 2 Orange Box online (which Jeremy blogged about earlier), Radiohead released their new album ‘In Rainbows’ via their website. Both mark a considerable move away from the traditional business model in video games and music, offering their content directly to the user at a lower price than would be available in brick and mortar stores.
Happily as well as being delivered in new formats, both products are very very good. Radiohead’s album sparkles and is more accessible than anything I’ve heard since ‘Kid A’. It feels less jagged than previous work and easier without losing that challenging nature that requires 40 listens before you get it. I still feel like I need to listen more but the alienation I felt listening to some of ‘Hail To The Thief’ is not there – I can enjoy listening to ‘In Rainbows’ even when not concentrating on it. I decided to pay £6 for the album, which charges a 47p transaction fee but otherwise lets you pay whatever you want. When it’s as good as this I can imagine most people paying more than expected.
Valve’s Orange Box was also out yesterday on their ‘Steam’ delivery service. the pack contains Half Life 2 and it’s two additional chapters, Episode 1 and the new Episode 2, as well as multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2 and the incredible Portal. The real trick of Valve’s single player work is how it tells a story without cutscenes by creating events that make the gamer want to look in that direction – a very real rendition of ‘Show Don’t Tell’, as many writers are instructed early in their careers. The sheer joy of messing around with momentum using the portal gun in Portal is worth the entry price by itself.
[photo from Valve’s website]