Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Video Game Offers Young Recruits a Peek at Military Life

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Video Game Offers Young Recruits a Peek at Military Life

Article excerpt

Daniel Dodd is just what the US Army wants. He recently turned 18, and he's interested in serving his country. Most important, he's very good at working on a computer. And it is his near-obsession with computer games that recently brought the United States Army across the personal radar screen of Mr. Dodd, whose college major is computer programming.

This past week, he made the trip from his hometown of Paducah, Ky., to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the annual video-game trade show in Los Angeles. There he found the showcase for the Army's latest gambit: a video game that shows young men and women what Army life is really like.

"I would definitely consider giving my skills to the Army," says the short-haired blond as he plays through a simulated battle scene. "But if nothing else, when I get back, I'll go to the website and download the game and play it just for fun."

This is music to the ears of Lt. Col. Casey Wardynski, who has brought "America's Army" to the Internet. "We look for ways to pay for our tanks," says the career officer, who teaches at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

In recent years, he says, Army recruiters have complained that with the passing of a generation of veterans who've seen active duty in wartime, recruiters have fewer resources with which to communicate about Army life with a younger generation.

Enter the hands-on experience of the college professor. "We noticed that the kids were going to the Internet for their information," Professor Wardynski says. "If we want to communicate with this generation, that's where we have to be."

Scheduled for summer release online, the game is the Army's shortcut to reaching the computer-literate recruits it needs to run its increasingly high-tech weaponry.

The PC software has two parts. "Operations" is a first-person shooting game that actually simulates battle and strategic-warfare situations. "Soldiers" simulates daily life in the military.

"From the barracks to the battlefield" is the way the game developers describe what they've created.

"This is the forward-thinking Army," says Brian Ball, lead designer for the software development team. …

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