Monday, 15 June 2009

Metal Gear: Real Life?

Okay, I’m not necessary talking about giant, bi-pedal nuclear robots that spell our doom (but…) but rather the way that soldiers are trained using VR missions. For those who do not know, in the Metal Gear Solid series, some soldiers are trained through virtual reality missions, basically, war as a video game.

The British Army has started an interesting project on their army jobs website titled, 'Start Thinking Soldier'. It is basically a flash game designed to test your common sense and decision making skills to give you an indication of whether or not you are cut out for army life.

The two levels so far test things such as how you would proceed in investigating a potential bomb factory (my choice of an air strike was not received well), memorising instructions, how to deal with a suspicious vehicle and more, everyday military tasks.

I doubt that it is intended as a serious training tool, but it is bound to rope in some arm chair army men who will play the game, get 95% of it right, and decide that they are the real Solid Snake. It is put together quite well, with the 'gamey' bits spliced in nicely with footage of military personel.

Thinking morally for a second, is it right to sell army life as a videogame? The fact that this is on the army jobs website for a start is an indication that this is to help people decide if they are army material or not. Where's the bit that tells you to get off your comfy computer chair and run three miles, do 50 press ups and throw up on your hands before doing it again?

Games and war are starting to get a tiny bit closer than just Call of Duty these days. The US army has started using modified XBOX 360 controllers to control some of their unmanned drones. This could have been done for the convenience of not having to design their own universal controller, or maybe Microsoft offered them a good deal. Maybe even the drone control training software is run on a 360? It does make sense to have something as familiar as a game controller to help today's generation of soldier in the field, but does it also sell war as a game itself? It isn't quite that extreme, but it is a push in that direction.

Some war games are now starting to strive for ultra realism and military precision. Just look at Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, where you don't have a health bar, but instead can bleed to death from a wound that most other games would shrug off, as long as you duck behind cover, and only leave when your vision isn't grey or blurry.

I think that games or virtual simulations could possibly be of use to the military in some aspects, such as tactical descision training, like mortar placement (also asked of you in Start Thinking Soldier). I just think that it might be a bit of a dodgy line to tread if you intergrate it too far.


Unknown said...

You make a valid point. It's great that the army is using something so universal to appeal to everyone, but the ads and promotions don't convey the death, danger and hardships you see in the likes of Ross Kemp documentaries.

Unfortunately, all I could think of as I read your article was The Last Starfighter

Anthony said...

Always happy to inspire 1980's video game space battle film nostalgia!