Recruiting Game Geeks for War

March 23, 2006: Big, or at least amusing, news in South Korea, where it was announced that the South Korean Air Force is taking draftees, who have extensive computer gaming experience (some are professional players), and putting them in a special unit. There, the gamers will help develop training simulations and other computer game related stuff. China is apparently doing the same thing, and has been adapting commercial computer games to military use for years. The U.S. Air Force began recruiting commercial wargame designers, and other with extensive wargame experience, back in the early 1990s. The U.S. Army was doing the same thing in the same thing in the late 1970s. This included bringing in the game-geek teenage sons of army officers, to help out and advise on the development of wargames. The U.S. Marine Corps and Navy followed suit shortly thereafter.

For about a decade, the United States military has been using commercial game engines for developing training simulations and wargames. That means that these army training games look very much like commercial games that use the same engine. Other countries have picked up on this, as their young men have also been spending many hours with computer and console games. The United States has led the way in merging the games with warfare. Not only do the military versions provide more effective, and painless, training, but gaming skill has proved directly transferable to many electronic equipment and computer controlled weapons.

All this is very reminiscent of the American experience during World War II. In the two decades before World War II, radios and automobiles became widely used products. The young men going into the American armed forces in the early 1940s had grown up mesmerized by radio and automobiles. Many of them had learned how to tinker with radios and automobiles, and transferred this experience to their military duties. This gave the American armed forces a major advantage, as the U.S. forces were able to use lots more technology, very efficiently, in combat.


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