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Serious Games Summit: Defense dept. games

Kyle Orland

While high-profile games like America's Army and Full Spectrum Warrior show the potential of collaboration between the game industry and the defense industry, there can be some friction when these two very different worlds collide. Department of Defense (DoD) analyst Brian Williams and game designer Bob Bates have been researching this very issue, and discussed some of the their findings during a session at today's Serious Games Summit.

Among the problems they discussed:

  • While there are hundreds of games being developed by various parts of the DoD, there is no centralized area of the department governing all these projects.
  • Despite hundreds of studies that prove the efficacy of games for education and training, the defense department is still wary to put them forth as a solution to a problem. When they do use games, they are often portrayed as a panacea solution to every problem.
  • There is no organized repository where buyers in defense and sellers in game development can connect easily.
  • The DoD has no rigorous evaluation process to determine whether a game actually succeeds at its goals. Many game projects go forward based on how cool they look rather than how good they are.
  • The game industry has problem working through the mess of contracting regulations and acronyms DoD requires. Small companies don't have the resources to handle the accountability load the military places on them.
  • While military officers are used to having their orders followed to the letter, game developers are used to questioning directions and looking for different ways to do things.
Despite all these problems, Williams and Bates agreed that games would be an increasingly important part of the way the defense department does training in the future. "Games are a part of the common language these soldiers speak, and that language can be used to teach," Bates said.

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