United States teaches spies how to think using video games

April 25, 2008

Possibly giving new legs to the old knee jerk press chestnut that “video games are the root of all evil” due to violence, it has come to light that the United States plans to use custom video games to train its spies and soldiers how to think. In the wake of bungles like the Iraq war and questionable treatment of prisoners, the hope is that video games will reach the young generation of new soldiers and spies in ways a traditional classroom can’t.

The spy training is centered around three games custom created for the military. With names like Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust they sound more like porn titles than video games, and in fact they “play” much differently than games like Call of Duty 4 for Playstation 3 or Halo 3 for the XBox 360.

Instead of random, haphazard killing and shooting, the games place the young DIA agent character in various situations designed to teach them how to think under pressure, how to reason, and how to use violence only as a last resort. Described by people who have played the games as a mix of the mundane and surreal, the DIA agent does everything from meet gurus and learn enlightenment to avoiding conjecture in combat situations.

The DIA isn’t the only agency using video games. The military is using them for its soldiers as well. The military is using them to teach its interrogators (or as they are more creepily called by the Army “human collectors”) how to interrogate with a variety of techniques that are more effective and humane than traditional tactics, at least in theory. In typical Army fashion, their video game has an unnecessarily long title: Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer Human Intelligence Control Cell. It is based on first person shooter Far Cry.

At first glance, I was not happy to hear that the government was using something as frivolous as a video game to teach soldiers and spies how to be better at handling the human aspect of their jobs. The more I think about it, and the more I read the full analysis of the plans for their use, the more I realize that current methods just aren’t working. Maybe video games are the answer that will help us avoid the current situation, violence overkill.

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