Training gets Serious

User-generated content in video game-like programs can enhance training for troops and form a knowledge base of user experiences, a panel said.

Darwars Ambush!

At the Serious Games Summit in Arlington, Va., today, a government panel discussed how user-generated content can help enhance training for warfighters and form a knowledge base of user experiences in training games.

The games are a part of a burgeoning genre of training simulations that use video game interfaces and environments. By allowing users to modify content, the games allow trainees to add their own perspectives and situations to the game, enhancing training for future players.

One such serious game that allows user-generated content is Darwars Ambush!, a 3-D game based on an existing commercial entertainment game engine. Ambush! simulates convoy and patrol attacks in Iraq and teaches players how to respond quickly to the crisis.

“What we want with serious games is to have everyone build their own games and game levels,” said Ralph Chatham, a program manager at the Defense Sciences Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He was co-chairman of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Training Superiority and Training Surprise, which developed Ambush!.

Chatham said user-created content also adds to the shelf life of the training game.

There are problems with user modifications, however. For example, because the user who creates the content owns it, the game’s producer and contractors cannot claim ownership and charge for the modifications.

But Chatham emphasized the potential benefits of creativity. For example, one soldier simulated a natural disaster situation by first recreating his military base in painstaking detail before destroying buildings and overturning vehicles, Chatham said. The soldier then used a virtual helicopter to provide a bird’s-eye view for an incident commander to practice how to set up a base of operations for disaster response.

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