The notion that a computer game can help teach soldiers how to
make tactical decisions on-the-fly may seem farfetched to traditional
military planners. But even skeptics must acknowledge that PC games
today are more “real” than ever.
During the past several years, the military services have taken
advantage of the high-quality graphics and the realism in video
games, and have used them to develop training tools. Some games
are sophisticated enough—they are played with real-world tactics
and codes of conduct—that they are being turned into training
aids for the elite U.S. special operations forces.
The company that develops Tom Clancy’s video games recently
licensed the so-called “game engine” of Clancy’s
popular Rainbow Six Rogue Spear to a Defense Department contractor,
who will develop training systems for U.S. special operations and
conventional forces. Clancy’s latest game is called Ghost
Recon. Unlike Rainbow Six, which emphasized top-secret counter-terrorism,
Ghost Recon focuses on covert military strikes and international
peacekeeping missions that do not always go as planned.
The best-selling author of military thrillers founded Red Storm
Entertainment about three years ago. The company recently was acquired
by Ubi Soft Entertainment, based in San Francisco.
Ubi Soft signed an agreement that allows LB&B Associates Inc.,
a Pentagon contractor, to use the game engine from Rainbow Six Rogue
Spear to develop urban-warfare training games for U.S. military
“They are going to use that [technology] to build simulations
to train special operations forces,” said Marcus Beer, a spokesman
for Ubi Soft Entertainment. He explained that a game engine could
be described as “the codes that make the game tick.”
It determines how the graphics look and how the computer thinks.
The engine, however, will not be used for weapons training. Instead,
“the government wants to use the high-tech system to help
hone decision-making skills at the small-unit level,” he said.
“We’ve looked at all of the first-person shooters on
the market, and no game engine comes close to the realism of Tom
Clancy’s Rainbow Six Rogue Spear,” said Michael S. Bradshaw,
division manager at LB&B Associates. “We need to train
the elements of the small-unit on how to prepare for a mission,
how to work as a team during mission execution, and how to conduct
after-action debriefs, and this engine will let us do that and more.”
The engine will be modified to conform to the maps and scenarios
requested by the military, said Ubi Soft representatives. They expect
that military personnel will begin training within six months. LB&B
Associates will have this technology on display later this month
at the annual I/ITSEC simulation and training conference, in Orlando,
In Ghost Recon, players take command of ‘The Ghosts,’
an elite military squad. The scenario chosen is classic Clancy:
Russia has fallen under the control of ultra nationalistic politicians
intent on rebuilding the Iron Curtain. This leads to conflict with
NATO as Russia attempts to reclaim the breakaway Republic of Georgia
and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As the war
escalates, casualties mount, hostages are taken, and the Ghosts
are sent in.
The squad conducts extensive missions on foot, but occasionally
gets assistance from troops in tanks, helicopters and close air
support. In many cases, they work with international military forces
and NATO to fight against rising dictators and rebel groups. The
Ghosts must scope out the defenses of the enemy, blow up bridges
to stop an advance, raid rebel bases and rescue an American pilot
who gets shot down deep in enemy territory.
The Ghosts also are the guinea pig squad for testing the Army’s
latest equipment and weaponry while under fire. They carry M-16
assault rifles with the M203 grenade launcher mounted underneath,
but the commander also may opt to use the next-generation rifle,
the Objective Individual Combat Weapon. To destroy tanks, the Ghosts
have M-136 rockets.
The producer of Ghost Recon, Darren Chukitus, conducted the research
for the game at Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the U.S. Army special
The soldier systems designed for Ghost Recon, for example, picked
up many of the features of Land Warrior, the U.S. Army’s modernization
program for dismounted infantry. “We went with artists and
our chief designer to see Land Warrior,” he said. The problem
with using the system in its current configuration is that it’s
too bulky, because of the large battery packs, said Chukitus.
“Land Warrior has a lot of good ideas, but it’s going
to take some time” to make them come to fruition, he said.
The most significant technology that Ghost Recon picked up from
Land Warrior was the visual command interface, which allows the
soldier to look into his eyepiece and see the location of his squad
members. “We wanted to simplify that look,” said Chukitus.
“Our command interface is our version of what the heads-up
display might look like. What information it might provide.”
The game also simulates futuristic “bio-medical” technology.
Sensors embedded in the soldier’s uniform transmit data about
his physical conditions. If someone gets injured or killed, the
soldiers in the squad can see who was killed or injured, and where
the injury occurred.
The reality of today’s simulation-based games, however remarkable,
should not be overestimated, said Ernest L. Lewis, a former naval
aviator who now works for a company that develops fight simulators
and other training systems.
Games are “very compelling,” he said, but they tend
to be “fantasy-based simulations.” When it comes to
training professionals, such as military commanders or firefighters,
simulations must be exactly like the real world, he said. “When
you put a firefighter in a simulator and the fire doesn’t
behave the way real fires behave, the professional begins to discount
the value [of the simulation] and begins to distrust everything
else.” That phenomenon is known as “negative training.”
The lack of credibility and confidence in the simulation, said Lewis,
“spreads out into everything.”
Maintaining that confidence is the biggest challenge in reality-based
simulation, he said. “If I present one transaction that is
terribly wrong, the firefighter or the soldier sees that simulation
and wonders what else in there is not real.”