There is no denying the growth of the video game industry, with the market for console and online games alone accounting for around a whopping $50 billion. But the scope of video gaming as a whole has always drawn the extremes of reactions from various sectors of our contemporary society – with some judging them to be the best thing since internet, and some descrying them as the devil’s own coming! And, in between all of the furor and palaver, the military seemed to always have a strong connection with the ambit of virtual imagery and interaction. This perhaps shouldn’t come much of a surprise, since the first video game ever developed – ‘Spacewar!’, was funded by the Pentagon. In that regard, let us take a gander at eight video game applications that military forces use for not only their training but even advanced weapon systems.
*Note – by the term ‘applications’ we not only mean the modern connotation of ‘apps’, but the expansive scope of both the software and its peripherals.
Gaming Simulations –
1) Virtual Battlespace 2 –
The predecessor to Virtual Battlespace (which was developed in 2005), the Virtual Battlespace 2 or VBS2 is a video game from 2007 tailored for only the military. Developed by Bohemia Interactive, in co-operation with United States Marine Corps and Australian Defence Force, the simulator is utilized for what is touted as ‘realistic battlefield scenarios’ covering the multiple terrains of sky, land and sea (with their corresponding vehicles). Driven by an advanced engine called Real Virtuality 2, the game allows the user to create his own terrain and thus provide a myriad of scenarios by which a squad can tackle a mission and achieve the end objective. In essence, the game serves as a progressive squad management system (with expansive multiplayer network sessions) that can be used for imparting lessons in tactics, techniques and even doctrine during offensive, defensive and patrolling maneuvers.
When it comes to sheer numbers, a user can design over 10,000 sq km (3,900 sq miles) of terrain area, and populate the virtual region with over millions of objects that pertain to customized missions. The entire topography can be additionally textured with greater resolution by utilizing real-time satellite or aerial photographs. As for VBS2’s customers, the list does include some high-level clientele like – French Armed Forces, Royal Netherlands Army and even the United States Secret Service.
2) America’s Army Game Project –
A Windows-based video game franchise directly developed by United States Army (and financed by the US government), the free-to-download America’s Army Game Project (or just America’s Army) is touted to have more than 11 million registered users – a fan base that also includes enlisted soldiers who are encouraged to play under their real-unit monikers. The first version of the video game was designed way back in 2002, and in a period of twelve years, the base game had undergone through 41 updates and patches – with all versions showcasing the graphical fidelity of the familiar Unreal Engine.
Interestingly, there some advanced ‘training’ versions of the America’s Army that allows incorporation of real weaponry into the ambit of the game’s software. In other words, potential soldiers can practice holding and firing boisterous weapons (like Javelin antitank missile guns) inside a virtual setting. According to Marsha Berry, executive producer for America’s Army 3, these exercises serve as better introduction to arms and ammunition, before the recruits move on to the next stage of live fire exercises.
3) VIRTSIM –
The ‘virtual reality real-time simulator‘ developed by the efforts of Raytheon (one of the leading manufacturers in defense industry) and Motion Reality (the CGI team behind the movie ‘Avatar‘) boasts of 5,000 sq ft area – that is equal in size to a basketball court. This expansive ‘gaming’ environment allows the military combat trainees (with VR sets) to freely traverse and interact with the space, without intrusion from tethered wires and cords. The entire scope contained within the environment is re-configurable, which allows a host of variant virtual scenarios that the participants can engage in.
According to Motion Reality –
VIRTSIM trainees are fully immersed “head-to-toe” in training scenarios requiring the execution of basic individual maneuvers, complex unit tactics, and mission rehearsals. User-customizable scenarios can be configured within these environments to train individuals in direct action, counter-terrorism, react to contact, or other Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) based on the Current Operating Environment (COE).
4) Dismounted Soldier Training System –
PC Gamer once touted the Dismounted Soldier Training System as the ‘greatest game’ you can never play (watch the ‘in game’ trailer below the post). Powered by CryEngine 3, the very same engine used for the eye-candy first-person shooter Crysis 3, the game project has cost over $57 million to make. Interestingly, the bold endeavor is still in development, and on completion, it will cater only to US Army for advanced infantry training.
Still, a few journalists had been given the opportunity to try out the virtual scope, and some have likened it to the advanced training system used in “Ender’s Game“. To that end, the Dismounted Soldier Training System will boast of far larger environments than the usual flurry of FPSes like Battlefield or CoD. The graphical fidelity of the game is also claimed to be breathtaking, with ultra-realistic firefights and varied yet detailed settings – including scenarios requiring nigh authentic night-vision tech. This ambit of realism will be captured with dedicated peripherals like Virtual reality goggles, motion-tracking sensors and even gun replicas that one has to carry into the virtually rendered modern battlefield.