In a press release sent out yesterday, controversial attorney Jack Thompson claims he has found a correlation between the gaming industry and the US Department of Defense, who, he adds, are using videogames to teach “an entire generation of kids that war is glamorous, cool, desirable, and consequence-free.”
The release cites the gaming habits of recent youth-shooting perpetrators (Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc.), as well as “a formal working relationship between the Department of Defense and the game industry at the Institute for Creative Technologies on the campus of the University of Southern California” as evidence for his claims.
The aim of the release is to notify the media of Thompson’s new goal: proving the existence of collusion between the gaming industry and the Department of Defense in an effort to train more efficient killers.
Game|Life contacted Mr. Thompson for further clarification on the issue and were directed to this web site, which details the ways in which the military has used videogames and game-like simulations to train their recruits for the rigors of real world battle.
While the linked site does reveal (already public) information regarding the use of gaming in the various branches of the military, it specifically states that the games used as training tools are not the same ones you’d find on the shelves of your local Wal-Mart.
Jim Blank, the head of the modeling and simulation division of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, says that commercial games don’t meet the demand of the military, adding, “first-person shooter games really don’t apply in this environment.”
Blank’s point (and the main thrust of the piece) is that game-like simulations are a valuable tool for training soldiers in situations that would be too expensive to simulate in reality. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on training troops with antiquated methods that “are too costly and take too long to plan,” he feels that these simulations provide an adequate, and less costly, alternative.
Ben Sawyer, creator of the Serious Games Summit, is also quoted in the article as saying commercial games are simply incompatible with this sort of military training due to their focus on being entertaining and lucrative. “We have not yet perfected that hybrid version of game-simulation,” he says.
Instead, these military contractors are looking for “something “game-like,” a simulation that looks and feels like a game, but does not necessarily play like a game.”
So if these simulations aren’t supposed to be games, why is there a (proven) connection between the DoD and the gaming industry?
According to Sawyer, “game development studios are the closest thing we have to steady simulation talent.”
I agree with Thompson’s statement that there is a link between the Department of Defense and the game’s industry, if only because I just detailed a large amount of public information that proves as much.
However, Thompson’s claim that the military is working with the same companies who design the games you play on your Xbox 360 or PS3 to pre-emptively train perfect soldiers for future use in the military is directly contradicted by the information Jack himself sent my way.
If he can produce evidence showing a direct technological correlation between commercial games and military simulations — or even evidence of future plans to that end — I think it would warrant a huge public outcry. As it stands currently, he doesn’t seem to have any evidence for his claims — or at least no evidence that, after careful reading, doesn’t state the opposite of what he purports. Wired