MoD improves its war games to cater for Xbox generation
Computerised war simulations for British troops have been radically improved to cater for recruits who are used to playing high-quality video games on their Xboxes, according to a Ministry of Defence scientist.
Thousands of soldiers sent to Afghanistan have been trained on Virtual Battlespace2, a spin-off from a commercial game that can test how they react in situations such as coming under mortar fire from insurgents.
Officials stress that such games only supplement conventional methods but with tightening budgets they are a relatively cheap way to give personnel a taste of a warzone.
Staff at the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Portsdown, Hampshire, are trying to keep up with the technology used in games such as Battlefield 3, Killzone 3 and the Call of Duty series.
Andrew Poulter, who leads a nine-strong technical team, told The Guardian: “Back in the 1980s and 1990s, defence was far out in terms of quality simulation. Military-built simulators were state of the art.
“But now, for £50, you can buy a commercial game that will be far more realistic than the sorts of tools we were using.
“Certainly, there is a level of computer games experience in recruits. So the plots have to be realistic and the image generation has to be high quality.”
Mr Poulter stressed an important difference was that while commercial games may look “graphically beautiful” they were made to be “entertaining rather than realisitic”.
The MoD training software produced by his team was adapted to make sure the simulated weapons used would be “credible” and perform as they would do in combat.
Mr Poulter said a commander who came back from Afghanistan told him that he was sure the Virtual Battlespace2 training had saved the lives of two of his soldiers when they came under fire.
“It has been invaluable. It is being taken seriously. It’s not just a game,” he said.
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