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Aug 23, 2004

Comments

1.

I’m working to organize this year’s Accelerating Change conference (a link can be found on the left side of this page, in the “Upcoming Conferences” category), and would like to mention a couple of people we have speaking on this general topic. There Inc.’s Robert Gehorsam (VP of Strategic Initiatives, mentioned in the NY Times excerpt above) will be speaking on the subject of developing There’s massively multiplayer military training sim, its purposes and potential. Also, Keith Halper (CEO of Kuma Reality Games) will describe his experience of operating a reality-based military game (Kuma\War—a series of downloadable missions based on actual news events that Halper has referred to as “a highly interactive alternative to CNN”). He will also suggest possible scenarios for the future direction of reality gaming.

Let me quickly make clear that the focus of Accelerating Change 2004 is NOT military sims. Rather, the focus will be on the accelerating integration of a variety of digital and physical systems. Massively multiplayer games and environments will be well represented within that focus, with keynote presentations by Will Wright (creator of The Sims) and Cory Ondrejka (from Linden Lab/Second Life, and regular contributor to this blog). I hope that some of you who regularly read and post to Terra Nova will make the trip to Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, this November 5-7 to contribute your valuable VW insights and expertise to a wider audience of technologists, forecasters and business leaders.

Cheers.

2.

Greg > I think America's Army is a more interesting phenomenon than this.

I’d go with differently interesting. I found the idea that There is a space in which to role play fascinating. The example given is one of a road block, where all actors are human i.e. no AI or NPCs:

    Each player was equipped with a headset microphone, so when he spoke, you could hear their voices in the game. ''I need to get through to my wife!'' one of the Iraqis shouted. ''I need to get through to the marketplace!'' ''Back up, sir,'' the squad leader said. ''This way is closed. You'll have to find another route.'' The Iraqi was furious. ''You Americans! You come in here, and you just make stuff up!'' Soon, several other cars had pulled up, and nobody was retreating. The atmosphere turned palpably tense. ''You've got 10 seconds,'' the leader warned, training his gun on the cars.

This is exactly the kind of situation that the US gets criticised for, according to the popular media when the US military are involved things appear to escalate and someone gets killed. So this kind of scenario training could be invaluable.

An underlying question is whether the US use the wrong tactics which are simply being more effectively re-enforced using these tools if US military are playing both sides then one has one of the classic problems from Organisational Learning i.e. that an organisation can learn the wrong thing as easily as the right one.

But technology could provide insights – why not find people in Iraq to play the Iraqis? They can simply log into the server from there. In this way, just like in MMOs you could foster some amazing cross cultural dialog.

Yeh, yeh, I know there are issues, but look on the positive side for a moment people, if games like this do help one less person to be shot through misunderstanding, then yay – go game!

3.

Ren,

I thought that was really interesting too -- but, like I said, wargaming and role-play have been around for a long time in the Army as training exercises. The virtual reality just adds a twist. Did you ever see The Dirty Dozen? Great movie with some nice scenes of WWII non-virtual wargaming...

America's Army, on the other hand, is something entirely new.

Also -- I updated the post with a link to some news -- Forterra found $14m in further funding and Gerhorsham is now CEO of what used to be There.

Btw, it seems that Will Harvey of There has been up to some neat stuff that it also seems nobody can talk about because of NDA's. :-)

4.

I can remember role-playing scenarios during Basic Training that were similar to the described road-block. Drill Sergeants took on the role of someone approaching a guard post while recruits challenged them and responded to their actions. One recruit was too passive, resulting in the DS disarming him. Other recruits then quickly adapted their actions to prevent the same thing from happening to them.

It was a pretty effective training exercise and didn't require a virtual world to be so.

Other scenarios, however, are much more complicated and difficult. It isn't a matter so much of not being able to role-play them in real life as it is of being able to do so in a cost/benefit effective way. The Army has MOUT cities where soldiers can practice urban warfare tactics, but an infantry soldier might only get one chance to train this way during a four-year enlistment. Something like Full Spectrum Warrior can give that same soldier many more opportunities to learn a lot of basic principles, making the MOUT city training more meaningful and beneficial as he builds on what he already understands.

--Phin

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