Speaking to UK newspaper The Guardian, technical team leader Andrew Poulter ran down a brief history of the UK's past with simulators, and detailed the current predicament he believes the MoD is facing. "Back in the 1980s and 1990s, defence was far out in front in terms of quality of simulation. Military-built simulators were state of the art. But now, for £50 [$77], you can buy a commercial game that will be far more realistic than the sorts of tools we were using."
The MoD has been employing a simulator known as "Virtual Battlespace 2," which, strictly from a sequels perspective, is way behind pretty much every video game that exists. The simulator was originally created by Operation Flashpoint dev Bohemia Interactive, which itself is not exactly considered at the forefront of game development. According to Poulter, that'll be changing in the coming months, with a reinvestment in his team from the MoD to bring in new technology from more modern shooters.
"The weapons need to be credible. If they fire a rifle and the bullet travels three and a half miles, then that is not right. If they are steering a vehicle, then that has to be right too. Realism is more important than entertainment. Levels of immersion are very important," he said. And it definitely doesn't hurt that the soldiers tend to be more engaged with virtual simulations than paperwork. "It is certainly a lot more fun than going through lists of checks and box-ticking. We want them to think 'I would quite like to do a bit more of that kind of thing'. So they might spend 10 minutes [on a simulation] after reading papers in the morning, or in their spare time."
And let's be fair, wouldn't soldiers be playing games like these in their spare time anyway? Why not direct that attention to something that could potentially save their lives? Poulter seemed to agree, as he concluded, "It has been invaluable. It is being taken seriously. It's not just a game." We feel the same way about our Battlefield 3 sessions, but don't tell anyone.