Started by bayonetbrant, September 19, 2013, 03:44:28 PM
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QuoteThe military's interest in the kinds of video games popular today dates to 1980, when Atari released its groundbreaking Battlezone. Not only did Battlezone evoke a three-dimensional world, as opposed to the two-dimensional worlds of such previous arcade hits as Asteroids and Tempest, but players viewed the action from a first-person perspective, as if they themselves were tank gunners peering through their periscopes at the battlefield outside — in this case, a spare moonscape with mountains and an erupting volcano in the distance. This first-person element made Battlezone a direct ancestor of today's enormously popular first-person shooters.Soon after Battlezone took off, the army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) requested Atari's help in building a modified version of the game that could be used as a training device for the then-new Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. General Donn Starry, the head of TRADOC at the time, had recognized early on that soldiers would be more responsive to electronic training methods than to print-and lecture-based ones. "[Today's soldiers have] learned to learn in a different world," Starry told a TRADOC commanders' conference in 1981, "a world of television, electronic toys and games, computers, and a host of other electronic devices. They belong to a TV and technology generation . . . [so] how is it that our soldiers are still sitting in classrooms, still listening to lectures, still depending on books and other paper reading materials, when possibly new and better methods have been available for many years?" Yet while Army Battlezone (also known as Bradley Trainer) was eventually produced, the game was never used to train any actual soldiers.The military's digital efforts took a major step forward with DARPA's construction of SIMNET, a real-time distributed networking project for combat simulation. Until the 1980s, simulators had been built as stand-alone systems that focused on such specific tasks as piloting a tank and landing a jet on an aircraft carrier. Each of these systems cost tens of millions of dollars — often twice the amount of the real systems for which the soldiers were training. To rectify this expensive and unwieldy practice, in 1982 DARPA drafted the help of air force captain Jack A. Thorpe, who years earlier had floated the idea that simulators did not need to physically replicate the full vehicles they were representing but could simply be used to enhance the training for these vehicles. Take aircraft: there was no need to use simulators to teach an air force pilot everything he needed to know about flying; simulators could train him only in things that he couldn't learn from flying during peacetime. Why not, Thorpe asked, determine first which training functions were needed and then base the simulator hardware on that?Thorpe's experience with simulators began in 1976, when he worked as a research scientist in flight training at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. Tasked with improving the state of flight simulators, which at the time were three-story mechanical contraptions in which pilots were shaken around like leaves, he looked for a way to change these single-pilot machines into ones that could teach group skills. "Group interactions are the most complicated combat operations," he says. "They also tend to be the ones in which the costs of screwing up are the highest. Yet because it is so difficult and expensive to organize groups, pilots get very little training in collective skills. They have to learn these skills on the job, during combat, which makes casualties disproportionately high during the first few missions."To rectify the situation, Thorpe conceived of a network — anything from dozens to hundreds of individual simulators all interacting with each other. He thought it was wasteful for simulator training devices to focus on individual service members; the network he envisioned would allow for a collective training experience centered on entire crews and units.
Quote"[Today's soldiers have] learned to learn in a different world," Starry told a TRADOC commanders' conference in 1981, "a world of television, electronic toys and games, computers, and a host of other electronic devices. They belong to a TV and technology generation . . . [so] how is it that our soldiers are still sitting in classrooms, still listening to lectures, still depending on books and other paper reading materials, when possibly new and better methods have been available for many years?"
QuoteThe game had another, equally significant, rationale. "Kids who join the Marines today grew up with TV, videogames, and computers," Barnett reasons. "So we thought, how can we educate them, how can we engage them and make them want to learn?"