NEWS - Thursday, May 15, 2003

U.S. Army Creates Video Game

U.S. Army Creates Video Game to Train Soldiers LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has found a powerful new weapon in training soldiers for the dirty and dangerous business of urban warfare: video games. For the past year, the Army has been handing out free games as part of its recruiting efforts, but in the coming months it will also turn to a video game to train squad leaders in real-life combat tactics. "If you enroll in the army of the future, you’ll get your helmet, your gun and one of these discs," said Wil Stahl, a game designer at Pandemic Studios who led the three-year project to develop the game based on the Army’s requirements. "You have an Xbox -- they assume -- at home," he said. The combat simulator, which Santa Monica, California-based Pandemic showed off for reporters at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this week, puts players at the head of two light-infantry teams locked in a running firefight in a vaguely Middle Eastern city. The "bad guys" pop out from behind walls and pull up in pickup trucks with automatic-weapons mounted on the beds. When shot, they fall with a burst of blood from the head. In developing the game, which is now being spun off as a mass-market release titled "Full Spectrum Warrior, Pandemic said it was careful to fictionalize details of the game’s setting and to make sure that the U.S. soldiers acted with discipline and professionalism. As for the digital battleground, the look shifted from Bosnia-like terrain to a more Arab-looking street during the course of development, he said. "We can’t ignore the fact that we are in Afghanistan. We are in Iraq," said Stahl. The commercial version of "Full Spectrum Warrior" will be published by Calabasas, California-based THQ Inc. in early 2004 for Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox game console. The project is not without its critics, especially among experts who question the relationship between video games and violence among children. "It seems to me that they’re using the Army’s involvement to legitimize the violence," said Joanne Cantor, a professor who researches issues concerning violent games at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Separately, the U.S. Army said that more than 1.1 million people have gone through "basic training" in its "America’s Army" personal computer game, which debuted at the Expo in Los Angeles last year. (With additional reporting by Ben Berkowitz)


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