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Virtual Peace Sim Game Based On America's Army 186

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the where-everyone-looks-like-a-victim dept.
fortapocalypse writes "Duke University in collaboration with Virtual Heroes (who created America's Army) has produced a game called Virtual Peace, the intention of which is to help the gamer develop disaster relief and conflict resolution skills. Virtual Peace also is the winner of the HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition, according to an article published by the university."
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Virtual Peace Sim Game Based On America's Army

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  • I don't know (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:28PM (#25951525)
    I just don't see a lot of mass appeal for a game that involves handing out disaster-relief supplies or carefully negotiating power-sharing deals in shaky democracies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crossmr (957846)

      Global political simulator? I think it does all right.
      There were also some rts games made by a german company that involved environmental cleanup. I'm not sure how those did but they looked interesting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Global political simulator? I think it does all right.
        There were also some rts games made by a german company that involved environmental cleanup. I'm not sure how those did but they looked interesting.

        Careful though: historically, Germans have poor judgment when it comes to determining what constitutes an "environmental cleanup".

        Meh, the joke is all right, but could use a little work.

      • by LithiumX (717017)
        I don't know... I saw a few text references to zombie infestations and eradication mixed into hurricane events in Nicaragua.

        I think someone's got a sense of humor that they're afraid to show in the video.
      • by SeaFox (739806)

        Global political simulator? I think it does all right.

        Nono! SimDemocracy.

    • by qoncept (599709) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:31PM (#25951571) Homepage
      Thank you for finding the PC way of saying what I was thinking. The best I could come up with is "this is the worst fucking idea for a game I've ever heard."
      • Re:I don't know (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MicktheMech (697533) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:38PM (#25951661) Homepage
        I just checked out the video [virtualpeace.org] on the site. It's as lame as it sounds.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by batquux (323697)

          Actually, it's not. It's much, much worse.

        • It's as lame as it sounds.

          Yep, that's unbelievably lame to most people, but some people are going to have fun. There exists a subset of the population that will be intensely serious (perhaps even obsessive/compulsive) about carrying out these virtual negotions. You've seen them in other online games before... the people for whom the game becomes their reality, and they are so dedicated they don't eat or sleep in the real world.

          However, that's not the group I was referring to when I said some people are goi

      • Re:I don't know (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DeadDecoy (877617) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:42PM (#25951713)
        That really depends on the game mechanics. If it's fun, then the core idea can be whatever it needs to be. If you think about it, games with initially odd concepts have performed well: Sim City (or any of the Sim Series), the Tycoon series, Pheonix Wright, Eco, Katamari Damacy, Sonic. Not every game needs to be pigeone-holed into RTS or FPS to be fun. It's just easier for publishers to make the safe bet.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by R2.0 (532027)

          But the ones you listed don't have an overt propaganda mission (ok, "educational aim"). This is "Make Learning Fun"! - which generally isn't a very good way to teach.

          If they wanted to actually get their point across, make it an expansion module to America's Army where you get promoted to a position that actually needs these skills to win the game. Think Petraeus in Iraq.

          • by DeadDecoy (877617)
            Yes, you're right for the most part that educational games do suck. But, I think that's mostly due to poor game design rather than a bad core concept. Here's my counter example: Wired Article [wired.com]. You also make some good points on how to make the learning process fun or motivating instead of a tiring marketing drone :). Maybe the developers will follow your advice if they read slashdot, heh.
          • Re:I don't know (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jamboarder (620309) on Monday December 01, 2008 @06:24PM (#25952337)
            "But the ones you listed don't have an overt propaganda mission...

            ...make it an expansion module to America's Army..."

            I hope this took you at least several hours to write because it's difficult to imagine the two thoughts occurred within within seconds or minutes of each other...

          • "If they wanted to actually get their point across, make it an expansion module to America's Army where you get promoted to a position that actually needs these skills to win the game. Think Petraeus in Iraq."

            Thats actually what I thought this was when I saw the headline. Instead of a pure violence sim, the player has to protect, help rebuild, and try not to piss of locals and create a larger threat.

        • add Captain Novolin [wikipedia.org] to your list.
      • I tend to agree...and I've sunk more time than I'd care to admit into Aerobiz Supersonic [wikipedia.org].
      • by fm6 (162816)

        I don't think it's PC to think about projecting American power by means more complicated than just killing bad guys. Even the military [defenselink.mil] knows better than that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by CroDragn (866826)
        I thought it sounded like an interesting idea. I mean, think about how boring city zoning can be, then look at what SimCity made out of it. Sadly, from watching the video on the site it appears the "game" is little more than a replacement for a meeting room. Rather than actually get a group of students in a single room and explore the issues, you get students to move their avatar into a single room and explore the issues via headset. Essentially, it's a completely useless bit of technology that sets out
    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:36PM (#25951625)
      I just can't see staying up until four in the morning to get the last of that bottled water to Indonesia... Next year they come out with "Checkbook Simulator" and Virtual Dishwashing!"
    • Re:I don't know (Score:4, Insightful)

      by stuntpope (19736) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:54PM (#25951899)

      I don't believe it's intended as video game entertainment. It's an educational simulation to train people who may need to devise disaster response policy. Players run through the simulation, make certain choices, and then they all engage in an after-action review session to check the appropriateness, or effectiveness, of their choices.

      • Players run through the simulation, make certain choices, and then they all engage in an after-action review session to check the appropriateness, or effectiveness, of their choices.

        The AAR, great in theory...but harder to sit through than a 4 hour budget meeting.

        • I'm sort of curious how effective this sort of training is compared to normal best practice pamphlets, or even just a good hyperlinked "choose your own adventure" type website. I guess it could make it a little more interesting... but only vaguely.

          We were working on something like that for an african country's military leaders, to practice counter-insurgency and aid missions. Although it was supposed to be somehow linked into actual actors on the scene somehow... never really got off the ground.

    • by Triv (181010)

      I'm guessing you were never in Model UN in high school - this looks to be exactly like that, but with a glossy, Second Life sheen.

      It could be fun if it were done correctly or at least be educational, but this looks like it'll end poorly. I fail to see why getting kids into a room, assigning them characters and responsibilities and letting them argue with each other needs to have an OMG TEH INTERNETS MAEK AWESOME component to it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        I'm guessing you were never in Model UN in high school

        That's the thing that even chess club nerds are embarrassed to be associated with, right?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ConceptJunkie (24823)

          Model U.N.? That has to be the coolest idea I can think of! Not only that, but it would be tons of fun and give important life lessons. Kids could learn important lessons about graft, hypocrisy, corruption, incompetence, dishonesty, even the sex slave trade if your district can afford the Congo program. Reenacting the "Food for Oil" scandal could give us enough corrupt bureaucrats and influence-grubbing politicians for the next generation!

          Issuing finger-wagging resolutions that threatening nothing worse

    • by hey! (33014)

      Well, what about Sim City?

      I never got into FPS games, but I did at one point have a serious Sim City habit. The point of a game is to get you into a kind of "flow state"; so any game with a dynamically evolving situation that requires just the right amount of attention can do the job. Sim City worked because the city starts out growing, and once it gets to the size where expansion isn't rewarding anymore there's always a problem cropping up some place.

      It seems to me that humanitarian relief is somethin

    • by Hatta (162192)

      As long as the game mechanics are sound, who cares what the premise is? One of my favorite games for the 2600 is Plaque Attack, a dentistry based SHMUP. Yeah it's a retarded idea, but the end result is a lot better than Space Invaders on the same platform.

    • by forgoil (104808)

      Feh, just makt them play healers in WoW or Warhammer and there you go, problem solved!

    • I just don't see a lot of mass appeal for a game that involves handing out disaster-relief supplies or carefully negotiating power-sharing deals in shaky democracies.

      Goodness knows but it sounds like more fun than a simulation of getting shot in the head. What's with gamer types? The entire FPS genre is based around situations that any sane person would do anything to avoid!

    • Actually... there were quite a few PC games about this. A classic title would be 'Democracy' - several games have been written under this title over the years, some of them quite successfull.

      It *is* strategy, you know, just a different one. Instead of sending a Planet Buster to their proruction capital planet, whisper to some allies, turning them into ex-allies... fun.

  • by vjmurphy (190266) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:30PM (#25951557) Homepage

    I played as the US in the Katrina emergency so that I could eat Cheetos and surf the web instead of helping anyone. After a few in-game days, I transferred some water to the survivors and attempted to blame everyone else.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I see what you did there, a crack at FEMA. Bloody brilliant, if not entirely rooted in fact.

      I'm pretty sure there's folks who were on the ground on day one who would disagree with you, including myself (No, I do not work for FEMA, but I am a Federal Employee, and made the trip down as soon as it became apparent that things were worse than expected). That said, I won't resort to calling your post flamebait, or anything else of the sort, even though I agree it is disappointing that certain executive offi
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I played the Mayor of New Orleans and got bonus points for doing nothing and blaming the POTUS instead of myself, the Parish President, or the State Governor. I got even more points for taking in billions of dollars and letting most of it get wasted in corruption and graft!
    • You forgot to mention that after blaming everyone else you asked for more money and more power from congress. Congress is doesn't want to seem like it is doing nothing so it then happily grants your request.

      Fun side missions include, illegally breaking into people's homes, taking away guns from rich white people who aren't affected by the flood and arresting people who try to get back into their homes even though their home isn't affected! (and yes all of these things have been done by FEMA).

      Who said this g

    • by fm6 (162816)

      How on earth did you get through the first phase of the game? Arabian horse breeding is not for the timid!

    • I played as the United States during the Indonesian Earthquake and actually played the same way you did during Katrina and everyone blamed me.

      I played again and this time provided relief and everyone still bitched and complained about the US.

      I then sent "relief aid" to the rest of the world in the form of C-4 wrapped around Pu235.

      No one bitched about the US after that.

  • by Doc, the Weasel (827155) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:33PM (#25951595)
    I need to mobilize the National Guard and send food to the affected areas... "Spawn more Overlords!"
  • Hey, would you like to come over to my house and play a new game?

    Sure, what is it?

    It's called Virtual Peace!

    Virtual Peace, huh. That's a cool name for a sex game! Is it like Leisure Suit Larry?

    No, Peace, not piece, you know, as in non-violent lovey-dovey.

    So it's a girl game?

    Well, not exactly. It's about saving people from disasters and injustice through negotiation and treaties.

    Oh. Do you get to kill people, like in Star Wars where they were all like What are you doing!? And she was all, "Aggressive negotia

  • "Duke University in collaboration with Virtual Heroes (who created America's Army) has produced a game called Virtual Peace, the intention of which is to help the gamer develop disaster relief and conflict resolution skills."

    They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. - Isaiah 2:4 [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kent Recal (714863)

      Uh huh. Thanks for reminding us that the bible has a retarded quote for just about everything.

      • You know... like explaining where does that "Swords to Ploughshares" in "Virtual Peace: Turning Swords to Ploughshares" come from.

        I assume he was aiming that piece of info at that group of English speaking Martians with moderating points that have picked up English watching Cartoon Network, so they know plenty of words and grammar but they've never heard of the Bible.
        Then again, it may be just a coded message for Al-Qaeda or something.

  • by Marc Desrochers (606563) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:40PM (#25951693)
    What about PvP?
    • by nschubach (922175)

      PvP is indirect in this game. You have to starve the person to death by giving supplies to someone else. It takes strategy and skill as opposed to some of those other lame PvP games on the market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You might be joking; but selective apportionment of resources is actually a very, very powerful political tool. You see elements of it in the politicized civil service appointments of virtually any nation(or the selective use of aid to advance policy objectives); but the real deal usually involves some tinpot president for life seeing to it that his voters get to eat and the other guy's voters get to starve.
  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:49PM (#25951801)

    The idea itself isn't necessarily a bad one. Not all games have to be violent, and 'fun' computer games can be had without violence, sex, or comedy.

    That said, it's the gameplay that makes it work or not work. It sounds like this one is going to be a flop (not to mention it sounds rather politically motivated, another thing that can potentially ruin a game...)

    • by db32 (862117)
      Oh please...are you telling me that Tetris isn't horribly suggestive?

      You enjoy your having 'fun'. I am going to keep playing the Fallout series that has violence, sex, comedy, AND drugs. My fun will be without the quotes.
      • Just for clarification, I put fun in quotes (albeit single quotes) for a fairly simple reason: it seems that many people in many culture think a fun computer game can't be made without violence/sex/comedy. Or a movie, for that matter.

        Also note that, my own personal convictions aside, I did not solely mention vices in my post but something neutral like comedy as well (of course, comedy can certainly be based on non-neutral themes).

        • by db32 (862117)
          The problem is violence, sex, and comedy are probably the top three interests of the human mind. Even when it isn't terribly overt, a great many things boil back down to those three things. That whole lets sit and think out a puzzle stuff probably tends to come after those 3 on average. Even for those that fancy themselves as strictly intellectuals are driven by the first three, and the ones that deny frequently turn out to be the more dangerous people. The more aware people recognize those animalistic
          • I somehow wandered over to the Marquis de Sade wikipedia pages today. You may want to check out that page as a counterargument to what you say here. More exactly, an argument about things going out of balance on that side, the other extreme, at least as far as violence/sex is concered. It's interesting though how a lot of feminists in the 20th century became protective of him. The very people protesting objectifying and abusing women. People are difficult creatures to understand. But you're absolutely right
  • by BigGar' (411008) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:52PM (#25951861) Homepage

    America's Army teaches conflict resolution.
    By killing all those that disagree with you, you resolve the conflict.

  • by Vexler (127353) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:52PM (#25951883) Journal

    ...will be checking to see whether your avatar has served in the Virtual Peace Corps before deciding to let you join.

  • Watch out (Score:4, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Monday December 01, 2008 @05:53PM (#25951887)

    While flying supplies into the outback, we were shot down by the kangaroos anti-aircraft fire.

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      While flying supplies into the outback, we were shot down by the kangaroos anti-aircraft fire.

      Gotta love that story. [snopes.com]

      An old friend tells a similar one about learning a thing or two about neural nets... they thought it could detect tanks from the air, when in reality it told you if the photo was taken on a clear or cloudy day. Pure myth... but fun nonetheless

  • ...The creators must have taken their notes from this http://www.somethingawful.com/d/photoshop-phriday/video-game-skills.php [somethingawful.com]

  • Video goodness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Triv (181010) on Monday December 01, 2008 @06:05PM (#25952075) Journal

    There's a video up on the referenced website, and it's freakin' hilarious - there are 20-30 kids seated at computers and wearing headsets and playing around in a virtual world, completely ignoring the fact that, if they took the computers away, they'd be sitting in a room with 19-29 other students who could easily pose the same arguments and take on the same personalities IN PERSON. It's called Model UN, and it's been going on in high schools for at least a decade. The selling feature of this thing looks to be that it's happening in a virtual world that looks sorta like the conference rooms in the real world where decisions were made about Hurricane Mitch, and that you can make your avatars look like the real-life politicians involved.

    The internet is not and should never be a replacement for exercising an imagination. I can't help but shake the feeling that somebody needed to justify a shiny new computer lab and this is what they came up with.

    • The internet is not and should never be a replacement for exercising an imagination. I can't help but shake the feeling that somebody needed to justify a shiny new computer lab and this is what they came up with.

      I agree with you, but an immersive virtual world (ignoring the fact, for a moment, of whether or not this "game" is capable of that) can go a long way in setting up the scene. There's a reason why members of the Debate Team or Marching Band dress up for an actual performance--it brings an air of legitimacy and asks everyone involved to take it seriously.

      That said, for the truly dedicated, I don't know if this helps all that much.

      I compare my experiences of playing pen & paper role-playing games versus p

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Caity (140482)

      I think that the selling point is that the kids don't all have to be in the same room.

      I did a software platform for a similar project [mq.edu.au] back in 1998. The impetus for taking it online was that universities from all over the world would take part in the scenarios, which generally ran for a couple of months. The only example mentioned on the site is that in 2005 it was Macquarie University in Australia and the University of Texas taking part. At other times they've done it with the American University in Cairo,

    • You realize that when the telephone was invented, the people working on it were in the same building? They could have walked out into the hallway and talked. Pretty silly argument you make.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Monday December 01, 2008 @06:14PM (#25952207)

    I'm calling it "Oil For Food".....

  • Am I the only one who had visions of a real-time strategy game when they read the summary? I thought it sounded like an awesome idea.

    Instead what is it? A virtual conference? Lame.

  • by Eil (82413) on Monday December 01, 2008 @06:17PM (#25952243) Homepage Journal

    Before you get all excited, note that this doesn't appear to be a game at all as the summary implies. ("Editors on crack" alert.)

    Instead, it looks like it's just a simulator with one scenario that's used as an educational aid in one class at Duke University. It's not available for download. I don't even know why it's a .org domain. From what I can tell, the site explains this Virtual Peace in a very vague manner and appears to just a way for those involved in the development to get their big faces on the web (and probably in print).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2008 @06:31PM (#25952423)

    It's like saying flight simulators are boring because you can't shoot the other planes.

    This "game" is a simulator used to help train our potential, future world leaders how to resolve conflicts without resorting to the type of diplomacy typified in America's Army.

    You will also notice there is no way to download this "game." It seems this is part of the course curriculum, as the private area of the website points out.

    Sure, it may be more fun to blow someone's head off with a sawed-off shotgun, but really, would you do it for real, just for fun?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kattspya (994189)
      Why the hell do you think I joined the military, to get college money?
    • This "game" is a simulator used to help train our potential, future world leaders how to resolve conflicts without resorting to the type of diplomacy typified in America's Army.

      This only makes sense if all conflicts can be resolved with resorting to force. I grant that sometimes this can be done, but it's foolish to assume that you can always resolve conflicts without resorting to force. That's where the US military comes in.

      Sure, it may be more fun to blow someone's head off with a sawed-off shotgun, but really, would you do it for real, just for fun?

      What an odd statement to make. I wouldn't negotiate a conflict for fun either.

  • When handing out relief supplies in devastated areas, who is going to be shooting the lowlife scum looters?

    I propose an add on module for online gamers to join as either looters or people who shoot looters.

  • by k1e0x (1040314) on Monday December 01, 2008 @06:54PM (#25952695) Homepage

    America's Army was known to be a "reciting tool" intended to show kids how "cool" being a grunt in the infantry is.

    In light of current politics, there is something on the "to do" list for the major players in government, and it's called National Service. Obama, McCain, Clinton and Bush all supported this and they have been using careful wording to sugar coat what is basically forced government conscription.

    Rep. Rahm Emanuel Obama's choice for chief of staff wrote a book called "Big Ideas for America" where he writes. (emphasis added)

    It's time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be *asked to serve* their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service.

    Here's how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They'll be asked to report for three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we're hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to address their communities' most pressing needs. ..

    Some Republicans will squeal about individual freedom..

    On one hand, they say this is voluntary.. Groups like "Service Nation" that had a big rally in New York attended by McCain and Obama on, yep.. you guessed it 9/11 to exploit the date to promote their plan, they *claim* it will be a persons choice.. However if "Some Republicans will squeal about individual freedom" As Rahm says.. then he is clearly NOT planing for this to be voluntary.

    I have no indication of it.. but I wonder if this game is, like America's Army, propaganda in order to convince people that "National Slavery" is a good thing and they they should love working for their masters in government.

    • Why not just make that the first semester of the senior year in High School?

    • I have no indication of it.. but I wonder if this game is, like America's Army, propaganda in order to convince people that "National Slavery" is a good thing and they they should love working for their masters in government.

      National slavery? Really? They aren't asking you to build landmarks, dig trenches, or bite bullets. They're just asking that the general public become more informed about "basic civil defense training."

      This is more like compulsory public education than national slavery. No need to hyperbolize.

      That said, this kind of education should take place in high schools rather than at recruiting offices. It sounds like this might be an interesting idea for a "summer camp," especially if they offered certifications and

      • by khallow (566160)

        This is more like compulsory public education than national slavery. No need to hyperbolize.

        Oh the irony. There are public school systems in the US where it'd be better to drop out and flip burgers for a few years while you work on a GED. More money and you get a better education.

  • I'm sure it will turn out just like that Itchy & Scratchy episode where they had removed all violence and they were instead just kissing and hugging and handing each other gifts...

  • if PETA made it. Just sayin'.
  • called Virtual Peace, the intention of which is to help the gamer develop disaster relief and conflict resolution skills

    I think they might be starting to get on to something here. Now, take this concept, and meld it with America's Army gameplay, and they'd have a winner for competitive play, for sure!

    (The only realistic way to 'promote' peace is to demote aggression. That, of course, is exercised through force - which is anathema to the average 'peace' activist's modus operandi of aggressive passivism.)

  • It could be highly marketable if it involves handing out sandviches.
  • Interesting concept. Here is another one: You are the president of a Global Superpower, you mission is to bring peace to the world, but you are surrounded by pathological liars, mindless drones and lobbyists, and you have the handicap that everything you say or do gets mangled and often comes out as the opposite of what you intended.

  • People don't play America's Army for the patriotic parts. They play it because they like to shoot and toss grenades around.

    I have a feeling this game won't be very popular among the existing population.

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