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Serious Games Summit: A military takeover of serious games

Kyle Orland

Things have come a long way since the U.S. Armed Forces got into the video game business with Marine Doom in the early '90s. Just ask Roger Smith, an analyst who presented on the past, present and future of military involvement in games at the Serious Games Summit. In the dozen or so years since their shallow, graphical Doom II mod, Smith said the military has integrated full-fledged training simulations for all sorts of different positions and situations. Right now most of that training goes to the "trigger pullers" -- the people risking their lives on the front lines -- but Smith said lower-cost technology solutions would allow for simulations geared towards medical, logistical, maintenance, and other troops who currently don't have many other training options.

While recent military sims like America's Army and Full Spectrum Warrior have crossed over into the commercial market, Smith said he sees this trend slowing in the future, with the military developing narrowly targeted simulations suited specifically for military use, not living room use. As this trend continues, Smith sees the military developing internal game development resources to create its games, rather than buying off-the-shelf parts and talent from outside game companies.

Smith also talked excitedly about the military's interest in developing for the Xbox 360 through the XNA program. While there were too many roadblocks to developing military trainers for the original Xbox, Smith said a simulation designed for powerful, affordable hardware like the 360 had the potential to open up training to every soldier, rather than just those in units with access to expensive, high-end PCs.

Also see: Serious Games Summit: Defense dept. games

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