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Offline Asid

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Article: Wargaming for Military use
« on: January 15, 2015, 05:00:28 PM »
War gaming
Serious games meet military's demand for immersive learning

The U.S. Army's newest training field manual includes a section on gaming that represents a watershed for the training and simulation community. For the first time, gaming is included as a training tool alongside the traditional live, virtual and constructive environments. It's no longer just LVC: Think LVCG.

Gaming helps improve training realism and fills the gaps not covered by virtual and constructive simulations, the Army believes. Therefore, it is included in the new field manual FM 7-0, Training for Full Spectrum Operations, published at the end of 2008.

The Army realized that the new generation, or Generation Y, is a significant percentage of the Army and that it learns more efficiently using a game than with PowerPoint, said Don Toliver, operations director at the National Simulation Center (NSC) at the Army Combined Arms Center and Training at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The other tipping point was technology that enables a gaming engine to be configured to a military environment.

Col. Gary Brown, director at the Combat Training Center Directorate at Leavenworth, said that greater use of blended live, virtual, constructive and gaming training tools will allow the Army to manage limited resources more effectively and efficiently.

It allows trainers to do more with less, Brown said.

Gaming has been an integral part of militaries since armies were first formed. War gaming has become more sophisticated, and modern militaries rely on advanced modeling and simulation technologies to play out their wartime "what ifs."

But the use of so-called serious games in the military is a relatively new phenomenon that's still in its embryonic stages and only recently has been taken seriously by armed forces worldwide. The pace is picking up, however. In the same month as FM 7-0 was published, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), awarded a contract to a team consisting of Australian game development company Bohemia Interactive, U.S. firearms training and simulation company Laser Shot and Australian military training systems developer Calytrix Technologies. The contract gives PEO STRI a license to use and develop Bohemia's Virtual Battlespace 2, or VBS2, gaming engine into an Army training program known as Game After Ambush.

U.K. white paper

The British military is also switching on to gaming. The U.K. Ministry of Defence has commissioned a white paper titled "Serious Games in Defence Education" that reports on the education benefits of computer-based gaming technologies. It recommends "many compelling reasons, and a growing evidence bank, that justifies the adoption of a learning-through-games strategy."

U.K. gaming company Caspian Learning has built a game for the ministry that teaches its military police learning and decision-making skills. The company has also built a 3-D game for the Royal Navy's Maritime Warfare School that goes live in spring and uses models of the Navy's new Type 23 frigate's cabins, command center and gyro rooms. Recruits who have not been on a ship can "play" the game to familiarize themselves with the physics of the ship, so they understand how to get around and appreciate the confined spaces. Then they will be able to advance to free-play mode in which they do inspections as they will do onboard. Because it's game-based, the immersive simulation will introduce problems — perhaps a saboteur — and if the student fails to spot a problem, the game will continue with bad events happening to the ship and to the player.

"It moves from being a familiarization tool to problem-based learning," Caspian Learning CEO Graeme Duncan said. "We have had also requests from the Navy to do such things such as rules of the road at sea."

Caspian was commissioned by the ministry to produce the gaming white paper. Company executives will present details of the key findings during the ITEC 2009 training and simulation conference in Brussels, Belgium, in May, where Games and Role Play is one of this year's ITEC conference themes.

Launched in 2002 by a neuroscientist husband-and-wife partnership who had advised the military on use of games and immersive simulations, Caspian created its Thinking Worlds gaming engine in 2004 and has built more than 50 immersive simulations for the pharmaceutical, education, publishing and financial services sectors. In 2008, Caspian started working with the Ministry of Defence.

"They came to us with a rich heritage in simulation and a desire to take advantage of immersion and to move it down the education food chain," Duncan said.

"Simulation was being kept for the high end, but a lot of what the soldier does is about individual decision-making, such as what to do in hostile territory or how to motivate soldiers in your unit. Ninety percent of what we teach them is not about shooting, driving or flying a plane," he said.

Just as Bohemia has sold its VBS2 engine to defense departments and NATO under multiyear enterprise licenses, Caspian is licensing its engine technology to end-users to develop their own game scenarios. "The military is very interested. Once you have a Type 23 frigate built, there are a myriad of other possibilities for using it. They can create the scenarios themselves," Duncan said.

‘Digital natives'

Duncan said three key things are changing within the military that are pushing the surge of interest in gaming.

"The military is noticing and thinking about how the learner landscape is shifting. Recruits coming through the door are digital natives. They are very digitally aware and they demand a digital engagement. So the military is looking at how to bring huge simulators down to the classroom. They see a demand and an appetite for the gaming experience. They realize that the learning and the learner landscape is changing and they have to catch up," Duncan said.

The NSC's Toliver said he sees similar shifts in how today's new recruits want their learning experiences delivered. "They want experimental training and to train as a group or team," he said. "We have got beyond the negative training issues. PEO STRI has looked at it to ensure that you replicate reality as much as possible."

PEO STRI chief scientist and chief technology officer Roger Smith said there was a natural and inevitable evolution in training technology that has helped bring gaming to the fore.

"Constructive simulations entered the Army's inventory with the advent of affordable computers in the 1970s. These were followed by an explosion of virtual simulators in the 1980s and distributed networks of simulators in the 1990s," Smith said.

"In each case, new technologies and the systems that we created with them expanded and enhanced the kind of training that could be offered to soldiers. None of these previous innovations eliminated the traditional live training. Similarly, we expect serious games like VBS2 to open the doors to new forms of training and to enhance the capabilities of the LVC systems and facilities that we already have."

Another critical enabler to widespread use of gaming in the military is overcoming cultural resistance.

"When the telephone was first introduced, it was treated like a vocal telegraph machine. It was a device that was to be used sparingly," Smith said. "Psychologically, people felt that the telephone should only be used when it was necessary to communicate important information very rapidly. It was not until the 1920s that the mental barrier began to break down and people began to see that it was OK to use the telephone for casual communication."

Similarly, in Europe, especially, the military tends to see games as frivolous and not appropriate for war preparations, Duncan said. "It's purely cultural, not about technology, but as senior officers get younger, these barriers will come down. Some call it an immersive simulation rather than serious games."

The power of entertainment

But gradually, those cultural barriers are crumbling as trainers recognize that games can be a more efficient way to teach young recruits, and also that gaming can add training value beyond what LVC systems can offer.

"These tools bring the power of entertainment to the field of education. Serious games capture the attention, interest and competitive spirit that are an important part of engrossing entertainment. We then focus on education, learning and skill development," Smith said.

It's the engrossing entertainment part that also tends to make gaming a particularly effective mechanism for teaching decision-making skills.

"Gaming companies add all sorts of things to make it exciting and engaging," Duncan said. "And now you have people who understand what good serious games are about. They use reward and recognition, not super powers; they are realistic and contextual. The reward mechanism is important, but you can't get carried away. You must fuse serious games with performance."

The U.S. Army's Brown said it works in leadership development, too. "We have to make leaders comfortable with ambiguity and how to operate in an environment where they don't have all the answers. LVCG allows us to create an operational environment in which to train for that. LVCG will be the baseline now," he said.

Finally, the adoption of commercial off-the-shelf technology by gaming companies has also helped spur the military gaming revolution.

For as long as games could only be played on their stove-piped machines — PlayStation games on PlayStation consoles or Xbox games on Xboxes, for example — then soldiers with laptops could not access them. But over the past few years, games have become cheaper and have more accessible, COTS-based architectures. For example, Caspian is about to launch a commercial version of its Thinking Worlds gaming engine that will cost a developer 1,000 British pounds ($1,400) for one year's use.

COTS technology also allows a soldier to create and modify his own scenarios, which eliminates the bottleneck of a single, specially trained team to create all scenarios, Smith said. "These kinds of editing tools finally make it practical to turn the virtual world over to the soldier. Those tools are just getting started. I think they will become much more powerful and more intuitive in the next few years."

The Ministry of Defence's white paper concludes there is an "almost overwhelming set of case studies, researched arguments and well-thought-through intuitions" pointing to why it should embrace learning through games. "It would be hard to argue against the view that the evidence is already as compelling as that behind the use of traditional computer-based training or e-learning approaches," the document states.

Many in the gaming and military communities believe that the potential for this technology is only just beginning to be tapped and that a wealth of new applications for serious games lie ahead.

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