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 Nov 29, 2004 - 01:00 PM - by Michael
* Reuters: Video Games good for Training

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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft
In a followup to the Canadian story, Reuters is covering use of video games - or maybe we should call them "electronic training"? - in more walks of life.

"Serious games" demonstrating everything from flying a jet plane to negotiating a hostage crisis are used to train workers who can't afford to slip up on the job.

Firefighters can use "HazMat:Hotzone" ( to learn how to respond to a chemical-weapons attack, George Soros wannabes can learn the ins and outs of currency trading with Forex Trader (, and college administrators can use Virtual U ( to wrestle with angry professors and meddlesome state legislators.

Developers say serious games are especially effective for younger workers who have grown up with "Madden Football" and "Grand Theft Auto," but designers need to incorporate the irresistible appeal of these mainstream hits in order to keep participants engaged.

"Without addiction, you're out of business," said Pentagon consultant Jim Dunnigan at a recent conference. "Serious games have to attain their addiction from the inherently addictive elements of the job."

The U.S. military is by far the largest buyer of game simulations, accounting for roughly half of the $20 million to $40 million market.

But Dunnigan and other industry boosters say these games could soon command a significant chunk of the $100 billion corporate and industrial training industry as the level of technological sophistication increases.


America's Army ( harnesses state-of-the-art game play to win new recruits for the U.S. Army, taking players from the rifle range to bombed-out desert cities. It ranks as one of the most popular online games, with more than 4 million registered players.

Other military games focus on equally important survival skills, like Arabic language and etiquette. Users of the Rapid Tactical Language Training System can stumble through conversations with animated computer characters, rather than actual Iraqi citizens who might take offense at the wrong hand gesture.

"Instead of shooting people, you're talking to them and trying to win their trust," said Hannes Vilhjalmsson, a research scientist at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute who helped develop the game.


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