America's Army: Not Just for Training

In 2002, the U.S. Army released the first-person shooter game America's Army. Though marketed as a video game, America's Army reproduces combat experiences, including the real psychological consequences of each action. Despite controversy regarding its funding and its glorification of violence, America's Army has inspired similar games across other American military branches as well as among military groups in other parts of the world. Read more at How Americas Army Works.

Military Training Goes Digital

Military training across time and cultures has included developing physical strength, endurance, tactical readiness and specialized combat skills. With the technological developments in weapons and warfare, soldiers require an increasing amount of "book learning" as part of military training. With so much for new soldiers to learn, some military groups have used game-inspired technology to make the process easier and more efficient.

Beyond the flight simulators used to train pilots, the U.S. military branches use other virtual reality military applications to put soldiers in virtual war scenarios. For example, the Army's Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) gives each student the sound and feel of the different firearms he or she might use on the job. Beyond practice firing, the EST provides real-life scenarios to help soldiers determine when to shoot and when not to shoot. Another simulator, the Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer (VCOT), puts a team of soldiers in different roles in combat scenarios, training them to communicate and work together.

With an increasing demand for simulator technology, developers have put soldiers in a position to tweak a simulation to fit their needs. One product, "DARWARS Ambush," is in wide usage by the Army today. Soldiers stationed around the world are taught how to add modifications to DARWARS. Then, the soldiers change the simulated scenarios to best fit their current location and mission. Some simulators go beyond combat to create medical scenarios and cultural interaction.

How do soldiers respond to this training? Soldiers who might have a game console at home prefer the military simulators to their home games. The soldiers describe the simulators as fun because they are like a video game, but even better because they often have actual simulated weapons instead of a game controller [source: Chang].