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United States Entertainment Games

Ender's Game Influences US Army Training 679

PortWineBoy writes "Although we've been bombarded in the last few weeks with techno tales of the U.S. Army, I found this story in the NY Times (FRRYYY) to be quite interesting. The director of the Army's simulation technology center said that Ender's game influenced how and what they will build for future training." Begin Mazer Rackham Analogies...
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Ender's Game Influences US Army Training

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  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:10PM (#5666589)
    Didn't Ender's tactics involve genocide?
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:11PM (#5666598) Homepage
      Xenocide in Ender's case.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Funny)

        by AndroidCat ( 229562 )
        +4 Informative?? H'okay, but I figured that the third book being called Xenocide was a bit of a give-away. (I did meet OSC back while he was trying to think of a name for that book. I suggested "Dead Ender". He did did seem to ponder that for a moment, but perhaps he was being polite.)
      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Informative)

        by andfarm ( 534655 )
        Or insecticide.

        (Orson Scott Card's joke, not mine.)

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by SpectreGadget ( 465507 ) <jim@harryf[ ]ly.com ['ami' in gap]> on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:23PM (#5666659) Homepage
      Only at the end. What made Ender a really successful tactician was his ability to think wwwaaaayyyyyyy outside the norm (for them at the time) for strategy. He displayed it right away when he was heading to the station and automatically re-oriented himself when gravity went away. In the zero-g battle room, he was so successful because he threw everyone off by being so innovative.

      In the end, xenocide was a result of his actions, but not his intentions. That's what the rest of the books were about!
      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:28PM (#5666684) Homepage
        True, in the book, the adults set Ender up. They told him not to shot planets, and told him it was a game. Then in the final round, when he was going to lose anyway, he broke the rules. They knew that Ender would bend or break the rules to win from all the battle room drills.

        Ender at least didn't try to evade responsibility for his actions. They were done in ignorance, but he admits he did them.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LordLucless ( 582312 )
        No, the point they made in Ender's Game was that his advantage came in being able to "submerge himself in someone else's will" (ie: empathy). The essential paradox of the perfect general is someone who is able to empathize with his opponent perfectly, but at the same time, is able to destroy them.

        ** Spoiler Alert **
        (Though if you RTFA its already spoilt it)

        That's why they had to resort to deception at the end of the novel. Because if Ender had known that he was actually killing the Buggers, his natur
      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pfhor ( 40220 )
        Actually, Ender's strategic advantage was his compassion. He understood his enemies so fully that he loved them deeply, since he could see their motivations for attacking him. He is always at odds with the case. The reason why Ender did what he did was because he thought it was a game, if he knew it wasn't a game, he would not have gone through with it. He spends the rest of the series dealing with that guilt.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I read the book about 5 years ago, so I might not remember correctly, but didn't a giant ant tell Ender that everything was cool afterward?
    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dhovis ( 303725 )

      Yes, but the point was that Ender did not know that. He thought he was training on a simulation. The situations they put him in kept getting harder and harder until they reached the homeworld of the "buggers" where the odds became impossible and so he just blew up the planet. He thought he was being tested and he was angry that they would give him such an impossible task, so he completed it the only way possible, by killing everyone, including his own men.

      It worked, but the point was that Ender wouldn'

      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aheath ( 628369 )
        "It worked, but the point was that Ender wouldn't have done it if he knew it was real."

        Actually that was one of the points of the book. Another key point is that the child soldiers were used by the adult soldiers to perform an action that the adult soldiers were unable or unwilling to perform.

        "You had to be a weapon, Ender. Like a gun, like the Little Doctor, functioning perfectly but not knowing what you were aimed at. We aimed you. We're responsible. If there was something wrong, we did it." Ender's
    • There is a small town in Southern Alberta called Cardston. I lived there for a while, when I worked on the neighbouring Reserve [telusplanet.net](*). I didn't realized there was a connection with Orson Scott Card.

      Maybe I should have. I knew Card was a Mormon. So was the founder of Cardston, one Joseph Ora Card. His little homestead is preserverd at the southern end of town. There is a little plaque there, saying he was the first Mormon to leave Utah and settle in Canada.

      Orson Scott Card's book "Seventh Son" takes pl

  • influenced by "power puff girls" as well.
  • Why is this so hard? (Score:5, Informative)

    by corbettw ( 214229 ) <{corbettw} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:12PM (#5666604) Journal
    People, if you insist on submitting stories from The NY Times, replace 'www' with 'archive'. This isn't rocket science. Hell, it doesn't even count as computer science.

    Like so [nytimes.com]

  • but didnt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mholt108 ( 229701 ) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .801tloh_wehttam.> on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:15PM (#5666615)
    Ender spend the rest of his life paying for his evils......
  • ummm (Score:4, Funny)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:16PM (#5666623) Journal
    Given the skillz of the Iraqi army, "whack-a-mole" is a better training simulator.
  • by Macrobat ( 318224 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:18PM (#5666634)
    As I recall, Ender's Game entailed government deception and secrecy, mass slaughter of innocents, a war started by trigger-happy humans, and the brainwashing of children.

    What parts were they emulating?

    • by JASP2 ( 181290 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:42PM (#5666746)
      Get a Grip... and read the article. For one thing, yes in "Enders game" there was confusion and the "enemy" was destroyed, when in essance they were supposidly peaceful. However, they attack Earth first, unknowingly, and assumed we weren't a true life-form. Earth defended itself the best way they could...

      This xenocide correlation bullshit is just assanine, that's not what the article is saying. It actually says very little about "ender's game", but... the point is using High-Tech Simulations to train Army and MARINES. The post says Army when a big part of the article is talking about Marine sims too.

      As a former Army Captain... Sims work, and save you tax money. Our Military is the best fighting force in the world... and the most compassionate and ethical. Simulations also help soldiers learn how to deal with media, civilians and wounded enemy. That's why we are the best.
      • most compassionate and ethical.
        I doubt anyone is questioning the soldiers here. But the reality of the situation is that a soldier does what he is told, and the people giving the orders aren't necessarily as ethical as those carrying them out.
        • by jgardn ( 539054 ) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:35AM (#5666963) Homepage Journal
          But the reality of the situation is that a soldier does what he is told, and the people giving the orders aren't necessarily as ethical as those carrying them out.

          Where the hell do you get this pathetic thinking from? The attitude of the leaders trickles down to the lower levels. The military literally reflects the attitudes of the top generals, the president, and his advisors.

          Ask anyone in the military. You will see slight differences in the behavior of each unit that precisely reflect the leadership of that unit.

          You want to know why the Iraqis are putting pregnant women in car bombs? It's because the people in the military are just as brutal, sick, and demented as Saddam is. They largely reflect their leadership.

          When you see a private run for cover with a child in his arms, he is doing that because he knows that is what his sergeant and lieutenant would do. The sergeant and lieutenant would do the same because they are told to do that by the captains and colonels. The captains and colonels do that because that is the ethics taught to them by the generals. The generals teach those ethics because that is what the president wants them to do.

          Your stupid argument that the little guy is good but the top brass is bad is idiotic. The little guy reflects the behavior and morals of the top brass and commander in chief.

          In fact, the true hero of this entire conflict is President Bush. He sticks to his morals. He did what is right despite public opinion polls and opposing pressure. He refuses to bend his ideals to satisfy a few people for a few days. He refuses to go back on his word. He is bringing dignity and freedom to a country that has been ravaged for twenty years. What is in this for him? What is he going to take home at the end of the day? The answer is nothing. In fact, he stands to lose a lot more than you imagine. How would you like to know that you were directly responsible for young men and women being tortured and brutally killed? Yet, despite this, he pushes on, not because it is easy, but because it is right.

          He is doing all this, sacrificing his political career, sacrificing his peace of mind, all to bring freedom to a couple of people in a faraway land that nobody seems to care about. He does this to ensure that our children will grow up without planes crashing into their office buildings, and without worrying about being burned alive by savage terrorists.

          It's people like you that make Saddam Hussein think he stands a chance, and give aid and comfort to the enemy. If you would've stood with your president from the beginning, Saddam would've left long ago, and we would've ended the torture that is the daily lives of the Iraqi people years ago.

          • I'm not going to argue with you. We have a fundemental disagreement in our world outlook that exceeds the ability of debate to bridge. You have a romanticized view of the military and of our actions. I've come to the conclusion that there are no heros, and that the only thing that differentiates our leaders is the varying degrees of moral bankruptcy they exhibit.

            However, I contest your point that Bush is good because he refuses to bend his ideals. History has shown that an inflexible man is the worst kind.
          • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @01:46AM (#5667260)
            Just because someone sticks to their morals doesn't make them good. It's the morals themselves that have to be judged, not people's tenacity.

            Just a few examples:
            Hitler knew what he wanted. Among other things, the Jews dead. And he didn't bow to all these other countries saying he was a genocidal maniac, he did what he thought right.

            The Worldcom et al CEOs knew what they wanted. Money. And they did whatever they could to get it. The rest of the world called them corrupt thieves, but they bravely ignored them.

            Osama Bin Laden knows what he wants. Dead Americans (Well, a liberated homeland, but dead Americans are a nice intermin step). And he did whatever he could to get them.

            Determination is not a replacement for moral fortitude.
    • To everyone who responded to the parent post:


    • Another point of Ender's game was that you can get your point across and win respect with atrocity. (i.e. Ender killing the boy in the bathroom)

      -- Bob

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:19PM (#5666638)
    Ender's Game and the following books are all great. But I'm not sure that we need a bunch of army commanders who haven't hit puberty yet who are lied to and told that they are really playing a top-secret version of C&C Generals, that just happens to play out in real time and not have a pause?

    Also, the whole book is basicaly about child abuse sponsored by the governemnt. Interesting reading, but maybe not the ideal way to create well-adjusted officers.
    • Also, the whole book is basicaly about child abuse sponsored by the governemnt. Interesting reading, but maybe not the ideal way to create well-adjusted officers.

      My Lord, have you even read the book? Card was getting at the disconnect that people have about children. If you listen to the people today, children need to be wrapped up in bubblewrap so they don't hurt their little selves. In reality, many children are smart, shrewder, and wiser than many so called adults in the world.

      Ender was by far the m
  • Orson Scott Card is one of the best writers in todays time. Ender's game had brilliant military strategies. Ignoring the Xenocide and child millitaries it has some wonderful concepts. Ender had few advantages over other 'armies' but he always pulled out ahead. Why? Because he kept the enemies guessing. They had no clue what was comming next. I think this is a good idea for our future millitary. Just so long as we keep ourselves controled.
    • by Twirlip of the Mists ( 615030 ) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @01:10AM (#5667104)
      Ender's game had brilliant military strategies.

      I really don't mean to be an ass, but the principles represented by Ender's tactics were the military equivalent of nine o'clock, day one. Surprise, initiative, misdirection... these are not complicated or revolutionary ideas. The very first thing you learn when you study tactics is to figure out what the enemy expects, and then to do the opposite. Even taking into account the fact that the enemy knows you're going to do that, and is anticipating it.

      It's not some big insight that comes with genius or years of experience; it's the first thing you learn. Well, the second thing. The first thing is always to wear clean socks.

      I'm not trying to put you down or anything like that. I just want to make sure you don't read Ender's Game and come away thinking you've learned something about military tactics.
    • Actually, what you describe is better attributed to our enemies than ourselves.

      Nobody expected aeroplanes to be used as a weapon. But they were. Guerilla warfare/terrorism is all about using unconventional weapons and tactics.
  • Commander (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bullet-Dodger ( 630107 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:32PM (#5666709)
    I remember reading (here it is [frescopictures.com]) that the army had made Ender's Game required reading.

    When the Marine University at Quantico required students in one class to read Ender's Game, it wasn't for the strategy -- tactics in 3D space aren't really a big deal for the Marines. Rather, it was because Ender's Game is virtually a textbook in how to develop a strong relationship between a commander and his troops -- with plenty of examples also in how to fail as a commander.
    In Ender's Shadow it's said that Bean is actually more technically gifted then Ender but Ender is the perfect commander.
    • Leadership (Score:5, Informative)

      by FFtrDale ( 521701 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:17AM (#5666890)
      It's also on the U.S. Naval Academy's reading list for prospective Marine Corps officers. The reading list [sorry, please cut & paste] is at


      The main focus of the book for me was that Ender's primary character trait was the ability to get people to want to do as he asked them to do (OK, ordered - it took place in a military setting). As they did so, they learned that their abilities were more than they'd ever imagined. The conclusion of the book is a warning that Nuremburg was real, and that everyone is responsible for his own actions. And yes, that war is not a game.

      • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @03:25AM (#5667640) Homepage Journal
        Is there anyone else that is good at getting people to do what they want but no longer does so for moral reasons? People aren't toys to manipulate to your own game. I used to be a major sociopath that sort of viewed humans as toys or pets. Controlling the majority of people is really easy.

        Life is much MUCH harder now that I've decide it's wrong to behave that way. It seems you can't really advance much in life unless you are an asshole. (I can say that about sociopaths since I am one.)

        The main reason I decided being manipulative was wrong ss that it's very easy to have less and less respect for the people you manipulate. It becomes easy to abuse them in other ways. You tend to think of people as belonging to you as livestock might. It's easy to get into brutality and sexual abuse and things such as that.

        When I see somebody that seems to have a lot of power or be some great leader I have to wonder how they got there.

        http://home.datawest.net/esn-recovery/artcls/soc io .htm
  • Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:33PM (#5666716)
    Here in the US Army, and the US Marine Corp, we use various computer simulations and "games" to train for combat. Helo pilots use these fancy simulators, as do the mechanized armor guys. Not only do we use graphics simulation, but also there are computer generated missions/scenarios (not like video games) that adapt to how you chose to execute a mission. For instance, you are given a situation, and you have several choices you can make, and then the system responds to your decisions (sometimes increasing the difficulty if you make a stupid decision) and presents you with a changed situation. I'm sorry, the Army psychologists do a better job at describing these new tools.

    Anyway, these are in their infancy, but the Army plans to expand upon this to help soldiers expand their ability to make sound decisions. I.E., think about the consequences before you do something. The goal here is that if you can become comfortable with making logical, thought-through choices at the computer, then in battle or what-have-you, you will fall back on this "naturalized" ability.
  • Others (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gailwynand ( 213761 ) on Friday April 04, 2003 @11:39PM (#5666738) Homepage

    The Marine Corps also encourages the reading of Sun Tzu's Art of War - centuries old and still a great set of military insights. Also encouraged is Starship Troopers - which is best read as an ode to the infantry, and exemplifies the esprit de corps that the Marines strive for.

  • Whoa! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Shoten ( 260439 )
    Ok, this is creepy, in light of the fact that I love playing America's Army: Operations [americasarmy.com].
  • In other news, many birth order analysts have also been heavily influenced by Ender's Game, and have written a new book entitled Seeking the Third, in which they compare children's traits to the three Wiggin's children based on the order of their birth.

    "First-borns tend to have strong world domination tendencies" says Dr. Oliver Knapthf, one of the contributors to the book, "they are frequently deceptive geniuses who should be watched closely and never trusted."

    In chapter five, "Embracing the Seconds", second-borns (called "Valentine's") are referred to as the glue that often holds families together.

    Though the book seems to favor third-borns (a surprising number of the authors are "Thirds"), giving them such titles as "the Saviors of mankind" and "misunderstood saints", Dr. Knapthf claims this is not true. "They are all necessary. The evil first-borns and the torn, empathic second -borns; you can't achieve a Third without a First and a Second."

  • by RalphTWaP ( 447267 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:22AM (#5666910)
    As unsettling as I find this, I also find it appropriate.

    History has always demarked a division between civilians and military, both in the traditions of service, and deeper, in the psyche. Plato demarked the guardian's education as beginning with fiction [337a [evansville.edu]]. And it was a key to this education that it twisted the basic nature of those who would be guardians, demarking them mentally from the populace. This is a key concept in the training of warriors that has survived in literature and drama through the ages (in our time, you need only see the unifying concepts behind group-identity put forward in studies of the German troops of WWII, or Card's work, let alone the psych studies that _do_ point out a greater tendancy to follow orders and act cohesively with a rigorous group-constructed identity).

    Is it any wonder that a society adept at mass production would find ways to mass produce those things that still must be men and not machines?

    Is this a criticism of the men and women who serve? By no means. The psychological conditioning they receive is no less responsible for their survival and success than their physical training.

    Is it grounds for a critique of an immature, and childlike race (mankind) who still finds war regrettably necessary? Perhaps. At least, however, it's highly unlikely that the children of those so trained will value war as highly as we do today.

  • . . . I haven't got enough memory.
  • Let's see:

    Born in Leicester. USAF Dad, Irish Mother. Raised mostly in the West of Ireland (but also in France, Germany, UK, Ireland, and U.S.), gaelic speaker, love the English, and the Irish, ex-US-military.

    And I'm not unique. In fact, I'll bet you'll find that a majority if the U.S. troops in the field today have a personal family history that goes back to Central America, Vietnam, and beyond.

    In other words, the U.S. soldiers of today are the Tommys of yesteryear.

    So please, quit with the snotty Brit
  • Did anyone here who has been commented at 4 or above, actually read the f*ckin article? Seriously.

    This is the article, in concentrate form:

    The use a Half-Life/Quake3 engine game (think America's Army) to run "simulations", no games

    They tell them the story of Ender's game, about a group of soldiers who think they're fighting video game aliens but are actually killing real life forms.

    This explains to them, in terms they can understand, that when you're playing America's Army (or whatever the simul

  • Americas Army (Score:2, Interesting)

    I'm surprised there was no mention of Americas Army [americasarmy.com] in that article - I'm aware that the games primary focus is as a PR tool, however I would have thought it could also be used as an effective tool for training and simulation. Hell, even better on the PR angle, let the players who clock up 10+ hrs of AA per week that they can continue playing the game when they join up and it counts towards their training time, and watch them line up......
  • by solidsharkey ( 663965 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @12:51AM (#5667027)
    My hippie parents have told me my whole life that the video games I've been playing are just part of a government scheme to train an entire generation into an army of super-soldiers. Because locking, loading and firing an M-16 is just like pressing the CTRL key. Yeah, I thought it was funny too, until I got drafted. The B2 I fly controls just like Star Fox.
  • by oaklybonn ( 600250 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @01:06AM (#5667089)
    I once worked with a guy that worked for Atari; the army commissioned a custom version of BattleZone for their tank trainers. I've been trying to find a better link, but for now, this site discussing battlezone: dadgum.com [dadgum.com]:
    What's the story behind the U.S. Army version of "Battlezone"?
    There was a group of consultants for the Army--a bunch of retired generals and such--that approached Atari with the idea that the technology for "Battlezone" could be used to make a training simulator for the then new Infantry Fighting Vehicle. The idea was that such a simulator could be made into a game that would encourage the soldiers to use it. They would learn not only the basic operation of the IFV technology, but would also learn to distinguish between the friendly and enemy vehicle silhouettes.
    They approached us with this in December of 1980 and found a champion in the company in Rick Moncrief. They wanted a prototype to be finished in time for a worldwide TRADOC conference, being held via satellite, in March 1981.
    and more...visit the site
  • by murr ( 214674 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @01:11AM (#5667109)
    Those who plan their wars based on Ender's Game are doomed to fight wars based on Dune.
  • by kickabear ( 173514 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @01:23AM (#5667165) Homepage
    The thing I find most interesting about this discussion is the way people keep referencing the novel as if it really happened. Almost as if it were a story from our history instead of a work of fiction by an extremely creative mind.

    I read a few pages of Ender's Game everyday at work. It's one of only a small handful of non-technical books I keep on my desk. It's a very worn paperback copy, and it rests between my two copies of Paradise Lost and my well-worn copy of Christopher Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. I've probably finished the book 10 or 12 times in the past four years. And I think I know the reason we keep referring to the story as if it were fact.

    Ender is a geek. He's bright and talented to the point where the only way people in competition with Ender can hope to succeed is by bringing him down. I know we've all read story after story and post after post about how difficult it is to grow up exceptional. (Remember the post-Columbine stories?) We don't simply relate to Ender. We aren't simply empathizing with him. Ender is us, and we are him.

    Now that I've said all of that: It's cool that Mr. Card wrote a book that tells some of the truth about leadership and building a team. It's neat that he got it so right. But let us not forget that it is a work of fiction, and it worked out for Ender because that's the way the author wanted it to. Just because it worked in the story doesn't mean that it'll work in reality. We should glean what we can from Orson Scott Card's insight into human nature, but I can't imagine using any work of fiction as a training manual.

    Ender's emotions and reations are real to me. I relate to his experience in some way. But we can't lose sight of the fact that Ender's actions and successes were part of a plot in a work of fiction. Any similarity between the fictional environment of the Battle School and reality is a testament to the imagination of the author, and not a sign that this book should be taken as Gospel.

    • You might enjoy the Honor Harrington series by David Weber, then. Honor is a fictional character, but a strong "true to rules of war" style character. She treats her enemies with compassion even after she's finished stomping on them; even the scum (tho she gives them only one chance).

      Buy the book "War of Honor" and you get all the previous books, and much more, on CD. Great reading and highly recommended. Weber is fantastic.

      Great post, BTW.

  • by mikeee ( 137160 ) on Saturday April 05, 2003 @01:27AM (#5667183)
    The rush to Baghdad. The enemy's goal is down!
  • Video Game Warfare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ian Peon ( 232360 ) <ian@eppMONETerson.com minus painter> on Saturday April 05, 2003 @03:14AM (#5667597)
    I joined the Navy in '92 (left in 96) and worked on a destroyer as an Electonic Warfare [fas.org] technician. Sitting on watch staring at a SLQ-32 [fas.org] console often had me thinking I was playing a video game. A big part of the job was figuring out who was who. The first "long" cruise we went on (only two weeks - heh) standing 12 hours of watch a day, working for 6 more hours, and getting 4 hours of sleep a night warped my thinking in that I was no longer figuring out who the ships were on my scope, I felt I was creating them! I'd pick up a signal, build a track, decide who it was, and viola, there it was! These ships were nothing but signals and icons to me.

    Getting off the ship in San Diego was a huge wake up call... I had been "creating" the USS Rubin James, USS Ingersol and others. But as I walked down the pier, there they were, very real ships with hundreds of very real people walking off heading out to the bars and night clubs...

    Scared the hell out of me.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"