QUANTICO, VA — After successful U.S. Army use of video games to help soldiers navigate the stress of combat, Department of the Navy leadership has decided to try to adapt some of their training to the virtual world.
Amid growing concerns with professionalism, conduct, and leadership among Navy and Marine Corps officer ranks, a working group was assembled to improve leaders in the areas of tactical understanding, money management, and impersonal leadership methods.
In a memo from the working group released this week, it was concluded that officers need to undergo more tactical training sooner — and their unique recommendation for the training method: Starcraft.
Starcraft II, a strategy game made by Activision Blizzard, is a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game. The player must choose when to focus on growing economy, when to raise a standing army, and how to counter the tactics used by the opposing player; all important skills for military officers and leaders of all levels.
The Starcraft brand is the most popular RTS series ever made, and features three distinct racial civilizations players can use: Terran, Protoss, and Zerg.
The Commanding Officer of Quantico’s Communication School was excited to see the game molding future officers.
“I am very pleased to see this change go through. Most people don’t realize the sorts of lessons that strategy simulations can give in real world situations,” said Lt. Col. Richard Stubbs. “When I mentioned to my family the trouble we were having with the EFVs, my son asked why we would spend so much on an overpriced vehicle that isn’t even an effective complement to our forces right now. I was amazed and asked where he came up with that argument. That’s when I learned that people who aren’t officers can apparently grasp obvious facts.”
Officer Candidate Percy Jones says he has already learned much from the new training.
“It’s pretty wild,” he said. “So if I pay for five units right now, but they can only be built one at a time, then four of them are a waste of liquid assets? I never learned anything like that in accounting class — which may be because I paid someone to go to that class for me.”
Other lessons have resonated with fellow students.
A former Staff Sergeant in Officer Candidate School has remarked that during all the time spent commanding his Protoss army, he has “never once been tempted to have sex with any subordinates,” which, he claimed was a “first for him.”
Still another candidate was shocked when he learned that his worker units (SCVs) would mine the minerals (the game’s main form of currency) without his direct intervention.
“I spent forty-five minutes making sure all of my SCVs were mining efficiently, and it turns out that when I looked away, they kept right on working,” said Officer Candidate Jose Gonzalez. “I was surprised that constant micromanagement of menial tasks wasn’t actually needed. I think this may be a bug in the game software.”
To aid in the setup of the program, the team of officials invited some professional players from the North American team EG (Evil Geniuses) to Quantico to help kick off training.
Team members Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson and Greg “idrA” Fields talked about their initial experience.
“It started off a nightmare,” said Robinson. “The first guy I helped insisted on taking about 8% of his Drones away from mining to represent the ‘unemployment factor.’ The second guy kept all of his higher-tier army units in his main base and sent only the first-tier fighting units to the battle. When I instructed him to keep all his forces together he laughed and said ‘that’s not how it works in real life.’”
Fields voiced similar concerns.
“I tried to tell one guy to move his damaged units to the back of the fight to preserve them longer, but he kept them on the front lines because they didn’t have a light duty chit. And then he said he couldn’t authorize a medevac because there was no clearly marked Landing Zone. There might be no hope for these guys. They’re just horrible.”
“In fact,” he added, “The only thing they really seemed to understand about the game is that Marines are super overpowered, and that winning only requires that you have more of them. They said it was a very realistic feature.”