Beginning in the 1960s, tabletop war games with strong and often complex rules systems in place of referees became popular among civilian war gamers as well as military officers.
These days, we live (and learn) in a digital world. Military-themed games are extremely popular among regular video game players, and this helps to drive game engines and development techniques in directions that also support military training using similar tools. The first-person shooter game type, highly modified for greater realism and less “fun,” has been used for training teams and squads for more than 20 years.
Real-time strategy games developed specifically for the military have helped train squad and platoon leaders. Today, the largest project in this space is the U.S. Army’s Synthetic Training Environment, which is a multi-billion dollar platform that joins a complete simulation of all of the terrain in the world with a tool for adjudicating training goals and methods, and a graphical front-end interface that commanders and soldiers can use at their own levels to run and participate in virtual combat.
In the future, we can expect greater immersion and fidelity in serious games for military training. New technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality, high-speed data transfer, natural language processing, machine learning, and near-real levels of video quality, will combine to provide maximum immersion, control, and authenticity in military training simulations.
This won’t just help the logistics, communications, cybersecurity, and training units perform better; it will help keep the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who fight as the “tip of the spear” in combat alive. This is why we train, and why we’re serious about games.