Usually, any mention of “computer-based training” leads to more groans from troops than any GI Party ever could. Not so for these military video games. These games are more like those marathon weekends playing “GoldenEye 64” during the junior high years. Bring out the military equivalent of Funyuns and Mountain Dew (Sunflower seeds and Rip-Its?) and settle in to become the best U.S. troop that ever roamed virtual Earth.
Multi-purpose Arcade Combat Simulator (Super Nintendo)
Developed by the U.S. Army and one of the most prolific developers of Super Nintendo (SNES) games, the Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator (MACS) used a light gun to rate how well a soldier shoots. MACS also aided in learning to zero a rifle and other basic aspects of marksmanship. The light gun isn’t the standard issue SNES weapon, it’s a replica of Jäger AP-74, which is itself styled after the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.
Virtual Reality Combat Training
The VIRTSIM System, created by Raytheon, is an immersive, open space, VR training ground. The basketball court-sized game pad keeps track of a soldier’s movements through the use of a rubber pad and a weapon-mounted controller.
The limitations of the game and the environment allow for the troops to train on responses to incoming fire of different kinds, but they can’t jump for cover and they will never be as tired in the training simulator as they might be after days of dismounted patrols in the real world. The system’s benefit is that it is a way to train for scenarios that the Army cannot recreate and allows for troops to familiarize themselves with the weapons and equipment they’ll carry in a real-world situation.
Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox)
In 2004, game producer THQ and The U.S. Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies dropped “Full Spectrum Warrior.” Recognizing that millennials coming into the military since 2000 grew up playing video games, the Army’s Science and Tech community created this first attempt at leveraging video games for training purposes.
There were two versions of “Full Spectrum Warrior,” the one released to the public, and the one used as a training tool. The Army’s version is unlocked via a static code (HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE) on the code input screen. The player issues orders and directions to virtual fire teams and squad members, over whom he does not directly control. Another version of the game, called “Full Spectrum Command,” would be introduced later for company-level commanders.
Tactical Iraqi (PC)
The “Tactical Iraqi Language and Culture Training System” brought scenario-based PC gameplay to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before their Surge deployment to Iraq in 2007. The game was developed to teach Iraqi situational language and gestures as well as cultural nuances in a virtual world that could be applied to real-world deployments. It brought Marines face-to-face with Iraqis during simulated missions. The game reduced several months of cultural training to 80 hours of computer-based training.
America’s Army (PC, Xbox)
“America’s Army” is not just a game, it’s a series of games. The U.S. Army developed and published this first-person shooter to provide a virtual soldier experience that was “engaging, informative, and entertaining.” Since its initial inception on PC in 2002, it has grown to include iterations on Xbox, Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile apps.
The platform has also extended to other government training platforms to further train troops. The latest iteration, “America’s Army: Real Heroes” featured specific, real-world soldiers who have distinguished themselves in combat. The series has won dozens of awards, including Best Action Game of E3 by GameSpy and Best First Person Shooter from Wargamer.
Virtual Battlespace 2
“Virtual Battlespace 2” (or VBS2) gives instructors the ability to create custom battlefield simulations that engage the players (read: soldiers) from multiple viewpoints. Like “Full Spectrum Warrior,” it also gives soldiers the ability to issue orders to squad members.
As of 2012, the game was still being used for Basic Combat Training scenarios. It teaches land nav, combat scenarios, and platoon-level group strategies. The biggest advantage of using VBS2 is that new soldiers learn from their mistakes more easily and faster, with fewer consequences than say, getting lost in the woods in a land nav exercise.