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Military utilizes unconventional video games

The Army and Air Force ROTC programs on campus use video games to train their cadets, but not the kind you can play on Xbox.

Hollywood has made lucrative profits from Army-influenced shooting games such as Call of Duty, Halo and Battlefield, but these game scenarios aren’t exactly what real-life military is like, said Nathan Anderson, military science instructor for the University Army ROTC program. Some ROTC programs, including the University’s, don’t use the commercial games themselves as a form of training.

Anderson said the Army ROTC visits Camp Perry in Sandusky, Ohio, to practice shooting using advanced simulators.

“It’s basically a video game, but it’s not something you can just go and buy off the shelf,” Anderson said. “It’s almost like the real thing.”

Anderson said the camp has a weapon simulator with recoiling effects and loading effects that create an almost real life loading experience. The camp also has a Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer where cadets sit in a vehicle with screens on all sides. Some of the more elaborate training camp vehicles have 3D screens. The United States Army and government design these simulators.

“It’s kind of like a little taste of what we use in the military,” Anderson said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Capt. Emerson Goncus, the recruiting flight commander for the University’s Air Force program, said the department has a computer based shooting range for students. The game, Air Force Exercise, is computer simulated to train users as close to real life situations as possible and can take up to a couple of days to finish. Air Force Exercise requires users to complete offline objectives before the actual computer game missions can start.

“It’s as long as a mission would take in real life,” Goncus said. “It’s a really complex game but it’s good training if you put the time into it.”

Mike Zickar, chair of the department of psychology, said the military has used virtual reality simulators for a long time. While these video games are realistic, they’re not as stressful as real combat, he said.

“It makes sense from a safety perspective and from a cost perspective that this could be used for entry level training,” Zickar said. “You can get people to learn lots of issues related to equipment without having to jeopardize people’s lives.”

While these simulators and video games prepare cadets for real life situations, they by no means reflect what the military is like.

“A video game can simulate that experience cheaper and more effectively, but nothing beats the real thing,” Anderson said. “Nothing beats the actual experience.”

Goncus said with ROTC training they use these games and simulators as a replacement when they don’t have room for a full shooting range or can’t fire weapons, such as on a college campus.

“There is some worry about the disconnect with reality especially with [the Unmanned Attack Drones] that are out there,” Goncus said.

Zickar agreed and said it’s hard to prepare someone for war and in some ways there isn’t any preparation to have someone psychologically ready for combat.

“That’s an inherently stressful situation in itself,” Zickar said. “There is not going to be any single solution.”

While the cadets love the simulators, there are some who try these simulators at the training camps once and there are some cadets who want to commission to become officers that attend all of the events, Anderson said.

One thing is for sure; playing Xbox games is not a part of the curriculum in ROTC programs at the University.

“It’s not like we use those games for practice,” Anderson said. “In video games, you kind of get lost in the moment and have to deal with controls, but in real life, we simulate it as best as we can.”

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