LANGLEY AFB, Va. — The Air Force has officially eliminated any requirement for face-to-face work accountability with the launch of the service's "Virtual Work" mobile app last month, according to Hannah Gardener, a spokeswoman for the app’s developer, Zynga.
"Virtual Work notifies airmen to sign in daily from their personal or Air Force-issued smart phone instead of going to the unit,” said Gardener. “Once logged in, airmen use in-game Energy to complete the day’s missions for Gold, in order to keep receiving real-life paychecks.
The February 17th release date went relatively unnoticed, as so few airmen ever showed up on base anyway. Those who tried were turned away from the gates by civilian security officers, and told to log in remotely through Virtual Work instead.
“To help share the fun with friends, airmen can earn extra Gold by sending invite requests to their buddies that have not logged in or shown up in the chat list recently,” Gardener noted.
Air Force Public Affairs Officer Capt. Daniel Lynch has confirmed that the hours spent on Virtual Work amount to nearly 700% the number of hours worked by airmen prior to launch.
“The other branches of service train on computers but deploy in real life,” an unshaven, pajama-clad Lynch told Duffel Blog from his living room via Skype.
"The Air Force is the first to fight digitally, just the way we train."
“Besides, in the past, airmen were driving to post just to play mobile games at their desks. Now our men and women don’t have to waste that drive, and the Air Force gets to reap all their mobile app devotion.”
Airmen that fall behind in the app can cash in their actual military leave days for an in-game currency called Virtual Privilege. Many airmen use this "freemium" currency to breeze through missions, purchase upgrades for their virtual office, or bypass undesirable assignments.
Rank and number of friends vastly increase Virtual Privilege.
Some airmen, such as Senior Master Sgt. Arnold Young, have voiced concerns about the culture change.
“Call me old-fashioned, but I used to live for the days when we’d gather around the espresso machine after breakfast and start making plans for lunch. Now I actually have to repeatedly click on mission buttons called ‘Send Email’ and ‘Present PowerPoint.’"
“I’m mindlessly dicking around to seem busy, like some Army first sergeant," Young noted. "It's a real waste of time.”