"Do You Want to Play a Game?"
Target Practice and Toilet Paper

Greg Tito | 6 Dec 2005 11:05
"Do You Want to Play a Game?" - RSS 2.0

"People that played videogames did have better SA," Capt. Lehto explained. SA means "situational awareness," a military term which could correspond to a driver being aware of the other cars around him. "They were trained to multi-task two and three things at a time and process different levels of information. That is one improvement."

Capt. Otis Lehto is a fighter pilot, so the games he knows best are those that involve flying huge machines. "I played TIE Fighter, those games were fun, I don't think they taught me any tactics. People are smart and are going to maximize the game's abilities. So if it's different at all from the regular world, then they are going to learn different tactics." It's possible that one might even learn bad habits based on the game's poor physics engine, habits which would result in a failed mission or a fatality. "Like in Crimson Skies, with a tough plane, I would just ram the guy. That's not gonna help you in real life unless you are a kamikaze."

But there are definitely techniques used in flying that are found and improved upon in games. Capt Lehto said, "what [games] did help was gun aiming technique; getting in plane, having low aspect shots to help and shooting in front of the guy and letting him go through the bullets. I would have to say someone that played Crimson Skies a lot would be better at shooting the gun in the Viper."

So, playing videogames could actually make you a better fighter? Otis offers this one example, "I had a buddy in Korea, he would play Falcon 4.0 all the time, and he was one of the best pilots I knew. He definitely had a leg up from playing that game all the time. I just didn't like it, I thought it was boring."

Using games to simulate wars and battles is an ancient idea, just look at a chessboard for proof. Technology has brought war games beyond the abstract, showing players a much closer representation of what action in war is like. Are computer strategy games preparing a generation of Enders, supreme tactical geniuses formed by rigorous simulation training? If so, it will be a logistical nightmare when the bugs do attack. Every kid will be able to shoot a gun at the Buggers, but there won't be enough toilet paper in the barracks and our race will die from dysentery.

Greg Tito is a playwright and standup comic residing in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently splitting time between World of Warcraft, a new D&D 3rd edition campaign and finishing one of his many uncompleted writing projects. He also blogs semi-regularly at http://onlyzuul.blogspot.com/.

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