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US Spies Use Custom Video Games for Training 148

Wired reports that the US Defense Intelligence Agency has just acquired three PC-based video games which they will use to train the next wave of analysts. The games are short, but they have branching story lines that change depending on how a trainee reacts to various problems. Quoting: "'It is clear that our new workforce is very comfortable with this approach,' says Bruce Bennett, chief of the analysis-training branch at the DIA's Joint Military Intelligence Training Center. had an opportunity to play all three games, Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust. The titles may conjure images of blitzkrieg, but the games themselves are actually a surprisingly clever and occasionally surreal blend of education, humor and intellectual challenge, aimed at teaching the player how to think."
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US Spies Use Custom Video Games for Training

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  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:23AM (#23180998) Homepage Journal
    It gets confusing because they all pretend to be medics.
  • Names (Score:5, Funny)

    by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:24AM (#23181008)
    >Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust. The titles may conjure images of blitzkrieg,

    Sounds more like pr0n.

    Seriously, video games are a simulation environment. Makes sense to use them as training tools. This is news, why?
    • Re:Names (Score:5, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:40AM (#23181116) Journal

      Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust
      Actually, it sounds like my honeymoon.

      Didn't last very long. The honeymoon, I mean. The marriage is still going as of 7:38am, April 24, 2008. I have a feeling death is my only way out now, since my immigrant wife (Eastern Europe,now a citizen) found out about our Second Amendment and RFID technology.

      Now, what were we talking about?
      • Just borrow your mom's car and ditch the bitch in the hills somewhere.

        And don't forget to write a neat FS while you're at it :o)

        • by hoggoth ( 414195 )
          > Just borrow your mom's car and ditch the bitch in the hills somewhere.
          > And don't forget to write a neat FS while you're at it :o)

          And store all of the evidence on an obscure filesystem that the police forensic examiner doesn't know how to search.
      • The marriage is still going as of 7:38am, April 24, 2008. I have a feeling death is my only way out now, since my immigrant wife (Eastern Europe,now a citizen)
        You can't return her for a refund? Did you lose the receipt? :-)
    • Re:Names (Score:5, Funny)

      by DrLex ( 811382 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:09AM (#23181428) Homepage
      >>Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust. The titles may conjure images of blitzkrieg,
      > Sounds more like pr0n.

      Or titles for upcoming Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal movies.
      • People still use "upcoming movies" and those two guys in the same sentence?
        • by Amouth ( 879122 )
          saddly they will make a return to the screen.. once they run out of money they will try to replay their lives.. and movie stuidos think people are stupid enough to watch them>>

          refrence.. the new rocky.. why on hell's earth> wait.. think i just answered that..
    • by Amouth ( 879122 )
      i am so glad i wasn't the only one that thought the titles sounded like porn movies..
      • by base3 ( 539820 )
        Was just going to post about that. So yeah, you're not the only depraved one here :).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thyamine ( 531612 )
      Because there are still people out there that think games are for toddlers or young children. They don't understand why adults would want to play them, let alone the fact that they could be educational or used for training.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      I wonder if they used Covert Action [] too.
    • and where are torrent links ? phew, how unprofessional submission...
    • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )

      Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust. The titles may conjure images of blitzkrieg,
      Sounds more like pr0n.
      I rearranged the order to, "Sudden Thrust, Vital Passage, and Rapid Onset," and found it to describe the acquisition of a sexually transmitted disease.
  • aimed at teaching the player how to think
    Of course, turn to video games for this since the school systems are failing in this area...Brilliant!
    • Re:How to Think (Score:5, Insightful)

      by halivar ( 535827 ) <> on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:35AM (#23181082)
      The way we learn has changed; probably irrevocably. We are now in a post-literary world. We increasingly think more visually and spatially, and less sequentially (thus the reduction of news to 30-second bites, but in a multitude of them). We learn by seeing and doing, and not by reading and hearing. It stands to reason that our teaching methods will have to change, as well.
      • Re:How to Think (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gatzke ( 2977 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:42AM (#23181138) Homepage Journal
        I don't think the way we learn has changed, just the technology now makes it possible to do more visual and spatial instruction.

        When all you have is a chalkboard, all you can do is a chalk talk. Now that tools are there for rapid content creation, things should change slowly.

        The US was lauded years back for great hands-on engineering labs. Now that you can do virtual labs, maybe this will take a hit? As someone who has taught with both, I can tell you anecdotally that hands-on real-world wins by far...

        And I thought spatial reasoning was valued as a higher level of thought? Or is that different from learning spatially?

        Sadly engineering and science profs are rarely given formal instruction on educational methods. One thing that I did pick up in my limited instruction was that people learn visually and sequentially, so you need to cater to both (read+equation AND graphs+figures). Usually the visual learners get left out, so now they have a better chance in some cases...

        • From what I understand, there are three ways everyone learns although individuals usually express a preference for one of the three over the other two:
          • Kinesthetic: Learning by doing
          • Visual: Learning by seeing
          • Auditory: Learning by hearing

          To denigrate any of these simply indicates the speakers bias in favor of the method which works best with them.
          • by gatzke ( 2977 )
            Richard Felder offers classes on educational methods, I have seen him a few times. He does something similar to a MB personality test, four dimensions of classification. []

            One of the dimensions is visual-verbal. Lectures generally include a lot of verbal content (droning on) but many times have limited visual component.

            Active-Reflective considers hands-on vs. sit back and analyze the situation and act later.

            And there are two mor
          • This isn't just about ways of learning. Anyone in diplomatic or intelligence circles should learn by reading history books, case files, briefs, and the opinions of a wide variety of other analysts, not by immersing themselves in the narrow visions of the very small number of people who sponsor and direct the production of these training games. You only have to consider the names of the games to know that the current games are tilted towards crises and short-term consequences. It's bad enough that the ave
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        It's even more true for younger generations who grew up interacting with all kinds of pictures, playing video games at an early age. Some specialists argue that future generations may have trouble trying to focus on a particular subject for a long time. However, they may become more capable of addressing several problems at the same time.
      • That would explain the general decline in US literacy all right.

        I doubt that independent studies would confirm your hypothesis regarding changing styles of learning. I've not seen or heard of any accepted study which demonstrated any fundamental shift other than a decline in literacy. I would welcome any valid input in that regard.

        Educators have taken up the mantra that we must change our assessments to meet new types of learning. However valid or invalid that arguement, "old" or "standard" types of le

      • Re:How to Think (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:31AM (#23181728) Homepage
        For what part of human history have we ever learned by reading? Most people couldn't read for most of human history. It has always been much easier to learn something by doing it, rather than just reading a book about it. Don't get me wrong. Reading is important, and is useful for figuring certain things out. It's really good for passing on ideas and information. However, it is not the best way to learn how to do anything. Do you learn how to program by reading about it, or by doing it? Do you learn how to draw a picture by reading about it? Do you learn how to drive by reading about it? If I want to know, for instance, how to change the padding using CSS, I can read about it. If I don't actually go and do it, there's a much smaller chance that I will remember it when I need to do it again. If I go ahead and actually implement it, and type it out, I am much better able to retain the information.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by radl33t ( 900691 )
          I learn by collecting and organizing information. The answer to your questions (for me) is yes. I agree that it is easier to do something by copying it, but it is slower and not necessarily better. The biggest challenge is that it often requires resident expertise. This is an absurd constraint considering the wealth of knowledge available to me.

          Clearly, there will be some element of practice-seeing-doing-copying-whatever required, but good research can not be underestimated. And reading is the most effic
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by obervoid ( 990738 )
      Of course video games are used to teach us how to think. I can attribute much of my college dating career "knowledge" to what I learned from the Leisure Suit Larry games, or atleat LSL 1-3. Who says you can't learn anyhting from video games. Come to think of it, my college dating career was rather abreviated.
  • 2.6 Million? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aranykai ( 1053846 ) < minus caffeine> on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:32AM (#23181056)
    It cost them 2.6 million to get 3 ~90 minute training games made? Hot damn! I need to get me some government contracts.
    • by BarneyL ( 578636 )
      Compared to the budget per hour of gameplay for a lot of recent AAA console games that's pretty cheap.
  • by martyb ( 196687 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:35AM (#23181080)

    The titles may conjure images of blitzkrieg, but the games themselves are actually a surprisingly clever and occasionally surreal blend of education, humor and intellectual challenge, aimed at teaching the player how to think. (emphasis added)

    Cogito cogito, ergo cogito sum! (*)

    * I think I think, therefore I think I am!

    But seriously, I'm curious as to what part of these games is aimed at improving cognitive skills versus indoctrination? i.e. the difference between "how to THINK" versus "HOW to think."

    • by ArAgost ( 853804 )
      Your (albeit funny) paraphrasis of Descartes famous quote is proken: you should have used infinitive mood two times :)
    • by querist ( 97166 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:07AM (#23181404) Homepage
      That should be: Cogito cogitare, ergo cogito esse. You need to use the infinitive (cogitare, esse) in those cases, not the present active indicative.
      • Romanes eunt domus, you Latin pedant :P
      • by werfele ( 611119 )
      • by Psmylie ( 169236 ) * on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:39AM (#23181824) Homepage

        That should be: Cogito cogitare, ergo cogito esse. You need to use the infinitive (cogitare, esse) in those cases, not the present active indicative.

        Centurion: Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times.
        Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir!
        Centurion: Hail Caesar! And if it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off.
  • What would it take to get some real branching storylines in games for us ordinary mortals?

    That's always been one of my major gripes with most games that have a story: none of your decisions can affect it aside from "Whoops! You failed! Now the world ends!"

    ...and if someone knows of some such games that do exist, I'd appreciate knowing about them, especially if they're not PC-only ;-)

    Dan Aris

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Planescape: Torment. [] It's a PC game, but it's old enough where I believe you should be able to run it on a modern Linux box in WINE without too much trouble. If you're into games with stories you can actually affect the narrative itself in dramatic ways with your decisions, this is it.
      • by danaris ( 525051 )

        Sounds like it's worth a try. Unfortunately, it apparently does not currently work under Wine. In fact, there is a specific bug [] for exactly that...not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but at least it appears to be a) known, and b) on the list of bugs to fix for 1.0 :-)

        Dan Aris

        • That really is a shame. Still, IMHO, Planescape would actually be worth resurrecting an old Win98 box or partition or something solely to play it on. It's that good.
    • Planescape: Torment. Different endings, and wildly variant paths to get there.
    • Falcon 4, a flight sim, started you out with a basic set of positions and the game play both in-mission and in the world would change based on your actions like completed missions, failed missions, alternative missions, etc. In addition, your side became better skilled the better pilot you became.

      The end results had little variation, but the path through the sim would change greatly. Not exactly branching logic, but quite variable.
    • Ever heard of Bioware? Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect...?
      • Or, if you want decisions to have even more impact, The Witcher. It really felt like the (dozens of) major decisions you made in that game changed the world. Much better than most RPG's the same no matter what until a "good/bad/mercenary" ending.
      • by danaris ( 525051 )

        Apologies; I should have said "not PC- or PC-and-XBox-only", which cuts out all of those but KotOR, and I'm not that big a Star Wars geek...though I may have to try it eventually if it really does have a nonlinear storyline, just to support Mac gaming ;-)

        Dan Aris

        • It's a nice game. Bioware has great humor and is arguably much better at writing than George Lucas. Also, the game allows you to corrupt Jedi to the dark side, which is a nice thing. And HK-47, who alone is reason enough to buy the game.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kamots ( 321174 )
      PS2 game... Way of the Samurai

      You can beat the game in a couple hours. The fun comes from playing it over and over again making different choices. Played that game a lot... and never did find all the endings. Storyline differs drastically based on your choices. Although the base plot of government army coming to take over the village and kill the non-peons doesn't change... what happens in the days leading up to that climatic event does.
    • by Gulthek ( 12570 )
      Mass Effect. Your character really gets compellingly swept up into huge events effecting the galaxy and you have many choices to change things from the minute (do I deck this guy or blow him off?) to the massive (kill the last survivors of a formerly hostile alien race or let her and her brood live?).
    • Get yourself a cheap version of the original Fallout 1 & 2. Should be around 20$US. And while your at it go to the fansite No Mutants Allowed [] look up the games projects that have the same non-linear spirit as Fallout: Arcanum, Age of Decadence, Zero Projekt.
  • Do they learn how to sap sentries and backstab the engie?
  • Start game (Score:5, Funny)

    by with a 'c' ( 1260048 ) <mkerr.indiana@edu> on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:49AM (#23181188)
    You wake up and the room is dark. _
  • for starters, I've been a gamer since I was 5. I'm now 32. I happen to think I can fly a plane and drive a race car, plan and execute a hostage rescue operation, and stave off an alien attack. Sure I've played those kind of games and simulators.

    Now we want this type of training for analysts? I'm torn. I know that computer-based training is effective. But intelligence analysts? Where's Jack Ryan when you need him?
  • Neat! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:55AM (#23181246) Homepage Journal
    The future of cloak and dagger involves an actual copy of Cloak and Dagger. []
  • by khraz ( 979373 )
    Is there a version, y'know, packed conveniently in multiple 15/50 MB archives? For backup purposes?
    Because I don't suppose it's coming up on Steam anytime soon...
  • out of curiousity... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrebleJunkie ( 208060 ) <> on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:28AM (#23181706) Homepage Journal
    ...what are the eight principles/questions of intelligence analysis, as mentioned in the article?
  • Spies? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:47AM (#23181936)
    These video games ara not for spies, they are for intelligence analysts - NOT the same thing. I am an all-source military intelligence analyst and instructor by trade and I do not do any spying. Spies are collectors; they do not need training in critical thinking, analysis of competing hypotheses, logical fallacies, biases, ad infinitum. Anyone at the DIA who calls himself a spy has watched too many Bond movies and/or is just trying to impress chicks. And the authors of this article should have known better. This is why we get new analysts who are disappointed they're not going to be James Bond. Hell, they're not even going to be Jack Ryan.
    • I guess there's no chance then they'll be Jack Bauer, eh?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by oodaloop ( 1229816 )
        Jack Bauer is right out. And don't even get me started on Jason Bourne.
        • Bourne was an assassan, not a spy. But how about DS9's Luther Sloan? Train any like him?
          • Train any like him?
            LIKE him? I taught him everything he knew. What? He's a fictional character from the fictional future? Yeah, that's what they WANT you to believe.
            • Then you... were trained by Nick Rivers? I don't have the stomach for deception, but I am easily deceived, so if you need any fake GLG-20s, I think I'd make a good Emmett Fitz-Hume or Austin Millbarge. Are you hiring?
        • I'd ask about JC Denton, but he worked for the UN.
    • Hmm, just a hypothesis, but I'm guessing some of your buds over at the CIA would disagree about their not needing training in critical thinking.
    • has watched too many Bond movies
      There's no such thing as too many Bond movies! At least not now that Pierce Brosnon isn't doing them anymore.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My Name is Bond... James "PWNAGE" Bond.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @10:06AM (#23182152) Journal
    ...our next national intelligence estimate will state that the #1 threat to the USA is a grue.
    • In other words, about as accurate as the previous national intelligence estimate!
    • To be fair, grues are a lot scarier than Iraqis with missles.

      I mean, come on, nobody even knows what they *look* like.
      • Actually, this is what they train soldiers who are sent to Iraq with:

        > look
        > what is an iraqi with missiles
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) * on Thursday April 24, 2008 @10:12AM (#23182234) Journal
    The names of the games:

    Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust

    good Grief - they sound like titles to REALLY BAD MOVIES, the kind with some violent dork like Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris in it.

    Those kinds of titles are so lame, my friends and I no longer use them as they are utterly generic, so we call them "Adjective/Noun Movies".

    RS: "What did you do this weekend?"
    OldFriend: "Saw a movie."
    RS: "which one?"
    OF: "Adjective Noun with Steven Seagal."
    RS: "Oh. How bad was it?"
    OF: "OK. Lots of shit blowed up. The Ingenue had a really nice rack. Oh, and a bad guy's head exploded after he picked his nose. That was funny. And the ingenue had a REALLY nice rack."
    RS: sounds terrible.
    OF: It was. nice rack, though.

    Whenever I see a modifier noun title, I get VERY suspicious, and if the words suggest some kind of violence or suddeness, then it's sure to be a stinker. I mean, when would we EVER see some violent POS called "Fluffy Tufts"?


  • Do you get to water board people in the game? or other stuff like it.
  • Videodisc players with branching story lines have been used for training going back to the 1980s. Popular Science, I think it was, had an article about police trainers where the scenarios would change so the trainee had to respond appropriately, sort of like a virtual kill house trainer but it was for street situations. There's nothing really new to this story.

I've got a bad feeling about this.