Thursday, July 24, 2008

Virtual environment for distributed seminar-style wargames

Wired's defense blog, the Danger Room, has an interesting post about the Army wanting a virtual reality space for conducting distributed seminar-style wargames (where participants are not in the same geographic location) to complement its collection of training video games:

What's missing, according to Major Kyle Burley, a staffer at the Army War College, is a game that simulates decision-making at strategic levels -– something to help make better generals. He calls it "a first-person thinker."

Today Burley uses a moderated, text-based game that simulates top command during an imaginary Second Korean War. Essentially, the game is just a series of chat rooms where colonels hash out potential command decisions, and a moderator decides whether they’re good decisions or not. What Burley wants is an "immersive" game with a live 3D environment and avatars for the players. "Ideally, we would have a virtual, online, Web-access roleplaying environment which allows students to be an avatar [that] probably looks much like the student, and they're given a skin like in Second Life that is equivalent to their position, and they go into different moderated rooms and talk to fellow roleplayers that are in that scenario."

It's unclear from the post whether the actual conduct and structure of the game would change much, but if this makes strategic-level gaming more accessible or the necessary suspension of disbelief easier to achieve, that could be a big step forward for this sort of distributed game.

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