Tell me a story

It is only natural, in James Skurka's view, that the military should turn to the entertainment industry for help because simulation is really about the art of storytelling and making that story real and emotionally compelling.

A story provides a sense of context that makes it easier to learn new ideas and information, said Skurka, program manager for the Joint Simulation System. "What we want to do with virtual training is to tell really good stories. If we can get people emotionally involved, they remember their training very, very well," Skurka said.

One oft-told story in the simulation community is that the Army's efforts to modernize the service with cutting-edge information technologies began when the Army's then-chief of staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan sat in a simulator in the early 1990s and saw the power of information sharing between every soldier and commander on the battlefield.

Sullivan, for his part, asked that the service simulate so-called situational awareness because most of the U.S. casualties in Desert Storm were caused by friendly fire due to the sheer confusion and chaos of combat. "I don't know which came first, the chicken or the egg," he said.

Another story common among military simulation experts is of an aspiring Navy pilot who aced his flight training by modifying an off-the-shelf video game to mimic the training airfield.

The tales of two simulators will likely survive because they are good stories.

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