first published on October 30, 2019 by Funker
While it’s no secret that the military is currently using video games as a recruitment tool to fill their ranks, it’s not well-known that the military has been deeply involved in the development of games for almost 60 years. Check out the embedded video for some interesting military gaming history.
Spacewar – Developed in 1962 by computer programmer Steve Russell at MIT. The development of the game was entirely funded by the US Military, hoping to secure a technological edge over Russia.
“The game features two spaceships, “the needle” and “the wedge”, engaged in a dogfight while maneuvering in the gravity well of a star. Both ships are controlled by human players. Each ship has limited fuel for maneuvering and a limited number of torpedoes, and the ships follow Newtonian physics, remaining in motion even when the player is not accelerating. Flying near the star to provide a gravity assist was a common tactic. Ships are destroyed when hit by a torpedo, colliding with the star, or colliding with each other. At any time, the player can engage a hyperspace feature to move to a new, random location on the screen, though each use has an increasing chance of destroying the ship instead (wikipedia).”
Battlezone – Developed in 1980 for Atari console, Battlezone is a first-person shooter tank combat arcade game that used wire frame vector graphics to show mountainous terrain dotted with enemy tanks and flying saucers. Impressively, the game also featured a radar in the HUD.
While the military didn’t actually create Battlezone, the US Army did recruit the developers to clone it as a training program for the M2 Bradley IFV. Yet, the project was scrapped before any troops actually trained on it.
Marine Doom – The USMC took the the classic first person shooter game DOOM II and modified it in 1996 for an infantry fire team simulation training asset. The Marines were not looking for a superior technologically advanced training mechanism with Marine Doom. In fact, they were already over their fiscal year budget, and had no money for actual hands-on training. They decided modifying a readily-available video games were the best course of action for training Marines when there was no money for ammunition and equipment. The entire cost of development for Marine Doom was $50.
America’s Army – Initially launched in 2002, this game was developed and released by the US Army, which never really was much of a secret, rather, that info was used for publicity. According to the Army, the game was intended to inform, educate, and recruit prospective soldiers. The game is still being updated regularly on the Army’s dime.
Command Professional Edition – Released in 2015 is a battle space environment simulator, which offers logistics and analysis training. The game is impressive for what it is. Its database contains every imaginable weapon system that has been created since 1945 and their capabilities. Command PE was jointly created by the military and the British video game developer Slitherine. The company has produced over 200 strategy and war video games for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS2, PS3, PS4, Wii, DS, iOS, Android and Mac.