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August 09, 2006



Hey Darius

Yeah, I heard similar stories from the folks I have talked to: there is definitely a disconnect between the need for accurate modeling and the desire for a compelling (ie entertaining) experience. However, that hasn't stopped some folks from trying to merge the two, in some useful way, on some level. Full Spectrum Warrior, for example, which has gotten flak from people in the military for being too far on the entertainment end and not usefully designed for training. And the way in which the Army is now trying to build training systems on top of the America's Army architecture--the idea being there may be some things that can be trained using that system, if modified properly. The whole ideas of The Institute for Creative Technologies is that this synergy will be useful to all parties--military and entertainment--though this initiative remains "experimental."

And there are also failed projects in this regard. I can't remember the name of the companies right now, but there were at least a couple companies that are primarily defense contractors, creating simulation systems for the military, that tried unsuccessfully to develop commercial games based on their technologies. The games came out clunky and really only appealed to the crunchiest military enthusiasts.

Darius K.

(Warning: tangential story to follow.)

One of the most interesting things I ever heard at the Serious Games Summit in D.C. was a comment by an old-time military simulation programmer. Years ago, he was looking at a modern first person shooter and was very impressed with the technology. He contacted the game developers, who gave him a tour of their studios. While he was there, he would ask questions like, "How do you model bullet trajectories?" And the answer was always, "We don't. We fake it." And this guy's conclusion was that simulations are accountable for human life and death, so they can't fake anything, while video games are entertainment, entirely about the illusion.

Now that was coming from a military simulation point of view. Granted, all simulations have bias inherent in their systems and certainly do not model some kind of "objective" reality. But at least simulations attempt to model some form of empirical consensus reality ("let's simulate this system by using Model A from this study, combined with data that the Army has collected over the last 20 years").

On the other hand, projects like America's Army are far, far from simulation. They are propaganda: their purpose is to paint a picture of a reality that does not exist by any empirical measure. Which is what video games do!

So I guess my point is that the entertainment industry is not working so much hand-in-hand with the "military simulation" sector as you say, but rather is working with the military propagandists.

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