Computer Game Puts Army Officers in Shoes of Afghan Village Elders

By Stew Magnuson
The Army is testing a strategy video game that teaches captains who are being sent to Afghanistan how to think like a local village elder.
“CultureShock: Afghanistan” is currently being tested at the U.S. Army Engineer School captains career course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The purpose of the game is to teach cultural awareness and show officers what drives the decisions of local leaders whom U.S. forces may encounter.
IDS International of Arlington, Va. designed the game to be played from the point of view of a village leader. It begins when the previous leader has passed away and control of the village has been passed down to a son, Tom Viehe, a research associate at IDS, said on the sidelines of the Association of the United States Army annual conference.
“You enter the game having no influence at all, and you have to build that influence,” Viehe said.
Students log in each day and play the game for five to 15 minutes. They make decisions based on events that occur in the daily life of an Afghan village. Some are relatively mundane such as crop and labor issues. Others deal with Taliban spring offensives and corruption. Each daily login represents about a week in the life of a village.
The game is “bound by the real world physical, political and cultural restrictions of Southern Afghanistan,” company literature stated. IDS works with Afghan-Americans to ensure realism, Viehe added.
Students can access a reference a guide called “AfghanPedia” in order to make queries about cultural points, Viehe said. At the end of the eight-week class, instructors gather data to see how the students’ analytical and cultural understanding improved.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, ComputerBased Training, Videogames

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