Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

April 7, 2010 -

In response to this week’s leak of a video that appears to show U.S. troops in Iraq shooting civilians, an article on Slate examines how videogames could possibly assist in preventing such tragedies from happening in the future.

WikiLeaks spokesperson Julian Assange said about the video, “The behavior of the pilots is like they're playing a video game. It's like they want to get high-scores in that computer game.” And indeed, the Slate piece notes the similarities between the leaked footage and missions in both Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (pictured) and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Slate offers the following interpretation of Assange’s quote:

To be fair, Assange's point is more subtle than that. He's not saying American gunners mistakenly shoot innocent men because they grew up playing video games. He's suggesting they do so because the killing itself feels like a game.

The author then assesses his own assessment:

But even this is too simplistic. Modern warfare is becoming more like a video game, most obviously by increasing the distance between soldiers and their targets. But at the same time, warfare video games are becoming more realistic—and not just in the blood-and-guts way. Many of them force players to follow the rules of engagement and make difficult judgment calls about when to shoot—and when not to.

After serving up a wide range of realistic games and training simulators as examples, the Slate author concludes:

While improvements in technology make video-game violence ever more realistic—and desensitizing—they also make the games more complex, and therefore more useful as tools for training soldiers.

 

…the best games can help soldiers anticipate real-world conditions. Video games are hardly to blame for the 2007 tragedy in Baghdad. But they could help to prevent the next one.


Comments

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

…the best games can help soldiers anticipate real-world conditions. Video games are hardly to blame for the 2007 tragedy in Baghdad. But they could help to prevent the next one.

A training simulator on when to shoot & when not to shoot? Maybe.....

But even this is too simplistic. Modern warfare is becoming more like a video game, most obviously by increasing the distance between soldiers and their targets. But at the same time, warfare video games are becoming more realistic—and not just in the blood-and-guts way. Many of them force players to follow the rules of engagement and make difficult judgment calls about when to shoot—and when not to.

I think the ROE is good to follow in a game, b/c when and if that player actually does want to go into the military & then has to follow the ROE, then he/she realizes it is diff. But b/c of this leaked video, well.......not so sure now.

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Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

The reason air-patrol shouldn't have authorization to fire on routine non-combat missions? this.


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Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

Am I really going to the first one to point out the typo?

I mean, games are awesome, but I don't know that they're averting causality, be it civilian or military ;)

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

Isn't that how US soldiers used to cope with killing Japanese in WWII? By pretending whoever they are killing is not human it makes it easy to not only hate who your killing but makes it weigh less on your mind. I'm sure this has been something that's been going on since man started to kill each other in war (in other words one person killing another without any reason other than they were initially told to).

As an extension to that, soldiers nowadays can pretend it's a game which dehumanizes their targets allowing them to carry on what they're doing (killing others)?

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

"Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Casualties?"

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Still no. Games won't train, period. You can learn to spare a civilian you know is a civilian because you shot him, discovered that fact and loaded because you want to go for the happy ending. Now Simulation training that resembles video games and is meant as realistic, stressing, bloodpumping training, that can help avert civilian casualties, or if done poorly cause them due to increasing the survival panic. But that's not games. That's training simulation software.

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

Training Simulations can be games.

"Game" does not automaticly mean consumer focused or unrealistic.  This is why such systems are usually called 'Serious Games".

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

A game is meant for fun. Entertainment. A simulation program meant for training isn't meant for fun, it's meant purely for training. That a flight simulator can be both a game and an actual training tool, okay. But games as such can't train people to be better or worse soldiers, you'd want to use software made especially for training.

And if games are supposed to teach someone morality, I'd say there's something wrong with the person to begin with, that they need the game for that.

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

Well obviously not every game is a simulation-type game. He's not saying that all games can be used this way. He's saying that games could be made to take advantage of their ability to force people to make choices very carefully. In essence, saying make training sims.

Like shooting a bunch of men casually walking down the street when you're unsure whether they're armed or not? Clearly a bad choice.

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

I say that the entire article comes from a totally biased poit of view that videogames are "violent" and "desensitizing", and in fact, useful for army training.

If he is trying to help, he fails at it.

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Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

The man's point is very flawed, if they wanted to get the high score they wouldn't shoot the civilians

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

Yup. In the CoD4 mission that looks most like the helicopter footage that this is all about, if you kill a single civilian you forfeit the mission and have to start again.

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

It could be said that video games already encourage players to avoid attacking civilians, non-combatants and friendly soldiers. Many light gun shooting games like the more recent Ghost Squad and as early as Lethal Enforcers would penalize you for shooting civilian and friendly targets. This kind of mechanic is common to these sorts of games. It was only until we recently had a game, particularly Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 released where the mission was to indeed assault civilian targets that we could throw out an accusation that a video game can encourage and teach a person or soldier to attack civilians. This game cannot be used as an excuse for incidents that occured before the release date. In fact, any use of this game for any similar incident can be seen as outright scapegoating.

Re: Could Games Actually Help Avert Civilian Causalities?

One of the big areas that ONR is looking into for games is training soldiers to recognize patterns and what 'looks right' in a civilian situation.

So they, at least, are indeed hoping that video game based training will help advert civilian (and our own soldier's) deaths.

 
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