Deadly Serious Games

I have never met a young man who doesn’t enjoy shooter games; at least once they have seen one.  But video games are more than just fun.  You can learn a lot from games.  Games implicitly embed various assumptions and incentive particular actions and behaviors.

The Marines are taking advantage of the possibilities of gaming to help young Marines understand real-life combat situations. I think it will end up saving lives, as Marines will more effectively fight the bad guys and be better able to protect civilians in combat zones.

In this video simulation, Marines get to play both sides.  First they drive a simulated convoy through a dangerous part of Afghanistan.  Next they play the role of the insurgents and compete against their colleagues.  They can respond much more effectively when they see the situation through the eyes of the insurgents. 

We next went into a mock up of a village.  It was like a museum or a scansen. There were actors who played the roles of Afghan civilians and insurgents.  It was a very realistic. They even piped in the smells. I have never been to Afghanistan but I recognized some of them from walking around in Iraqi villages. The most obvious difference I notice was lack of live animals. They had stuffed chickens and goats, but in real life they are running around and getting in the way. I think that probably makes a difference if you are really walking the streets, especially if you are talking about trying to pay attention to subtle movements and sounds around you.

The goal of these simulations is to make sure Marines can encounter these sights and sounds before they see them in the real-life dangerous situations. They even have an RPG simulation, where the rocket passes over your head and slams into a wall. It scared the crap out of me, even though I know it was going to happen. The shock and the smell is something you cannot properly imagine no matter how many times someone tells you about it. Of course, I can only imagine what it is like when it is a real explosive that could hurt or kill you.

I got to do the simulation handling the 50 caliber machine gun on the gun turret. I have been under the gunner on many occasions but it was different seeing it from the top perspective.   Suffice to say that I would not have done a very good job in the real world. I couldn’t keep track of all the things happening around me and I was especially bad about having a 360 degree perspective.   Even in the safety of the simulation, I developed a kind of tunnel vision.   I was also very clumsy on the reloading.  I suppose with practice I would get better, but I don’t think I could ever develop the alacrity of the Marines I knew.