US Army, America’s Army video game

GS_Stories1sBusiness problems:
Communication
Education
Engagement

Games used:
Video game, first-person shooter

In the US Army’s ongoing attempt to recruit and then train smarter soldiers, video games have been one of the most effective tools ever. Due in large part to the changing, complex role the modern soldier is expected to carry out, the Army for the first time is interested in teaching their future recruits not just what to think, but how to think.

Exhibit A: America’s Army, the name of a video game franchise created by and for the US Army. For gamers used to playing “first person shooters,” America’s Army looks at first like very familiar territory. As they play further, however, they find that, rather than just presenting a series of uncoordinated battles, America’s Army starts them right where a real soldier would begin, boot camp.

The US Army’s stated intent for America’s Army is to use it as both an educational tool, teaching potential recruits what they would face in a real military career, and as a branding vehicle, to help people better understand how the Army deals with the threats it faces. Although the Army downplays this aspect of the game, America’s Army is also a recruiting tool, as evidenced by the link to the GoArmy recruitment site, prominently visible throughout the America’s Army site. (An impressive 28% of America’s Army players click through the link to the GoArmy site.) According to Army Subcommittee Testimony from February 2000, GoArmy has a higher success rate at recruitment than other methods.

Since its first release in 2002, there have been over 41 versions and updates to the original game. The newest version, America’s Army: Proving Grounds is in public beta. America’s Army provided technology used in other government training and simulation projects, as well as outreach projects, such as running the game at fairs, air shows, and other public events. Other government agencies, such as the Secret Service, have used the success of America’s Army as justification for building their own training simulations. While America’s Army was not the first video game that the US military has created (see also the Full Spectrum Warrior and Close Combat: First To Fight projects), it has certainly been the one played by the largest number of people, both inside and outside the military.

The America’s Army web site
An MIT master’s thesis on America’s Army
Washington Post article from 2005 on America’s Army
A critical academic review of America’s Army

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