Wednesday, May 25

Full Spectrum Warrior debate

Some people are criticizing the US Army's involvement with the computer game Full Spectrum Warrior. Although I was not involved in any way in the project other than doing a case study for LBD, I take the attacks very personally as attacks on necessary innovation.

The US military had always been good at building accurate simulations around pieces of equipment. The goal of FSW was to develop two new capabilities:
  • Using simulations to train softer skills
  • Add "game elements" to a simulation to increase voluntary participation.
Both were accomplished in spades. The commercial success of FSW both proved the second point, and also probably served as a great advertisement for the US Military. Further, FSW can be deployed using a $150 off the shelf Xbox, instead of $10 million dedicated hardware (which took some negotiating, as Microsoft loses money with each Xbox sold).

Game elements will always be controversial. Simulations by themselves are really boring. An accurate military simulation would have a soldier standing around, with no action, for days, weeks, or months, before something "happened." Just cutting right to the action is a game element.

Game elements are controversial even when they surround the simulation elements, because they consume resources, but more so when they selectively subvert the accuracy of the simulation, such as making bigger things happen sooner than real life.

Traditionalists will far too quickly damn an entire program for not getting the mix of simulation, game, and pedagogical elements right the first time (the only acceptable sin for them is too much pedagogy). I, for one, support the people willing to take risks.

3 comments:

jay said...

Clark, the critics you link to are people who complain about how tax dollars are allocated. I don't know if they really have common sense, having never heard of them before. Are others protesting Full Spectrum Warrior?

Also, I can't imagine more people protesting the Army's game than are already protesting our activities in Iraq.

Clark Aldrich said...

ABC News also did a critical piece. However, there will be another story on ABC News, this time positive, about the use of FSW in rehabilitation.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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