Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
 
Virtual Iraqis
by ToastyKen



You've probably heard of Massively Multiplayer Online Games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft. There's also a smaller market for MMOGs that don't center around violence. I interviewed at one such company a couple of years ago, called There. (Yes, it led to many "Where?" "There." "Where?" "There." jokes. :P) They don't seem to have done as well as Second Life, possibly because Second Life actually allows users to write their own scripts to introduce new behaviors into the game. (Though I think it's more likely due to the fact that they didn't hire me. ;) j/k )

Anyway, There eventually announced that they got a military contract to adapt their game for military training. This I found really interesting. Eventually, that became the focus of the company, which then changed its name to Forterra Systems. The old There product languished and eventually spun off into its own company. Forterra has a couple of interesting videos on their site: Company Video and Defense Video.

Now, using computer games for military training is nothing new. I think the military's even used modified versions of Quake for training. There are two new things here: (1) many people from all around the world can participate in a single simulation, including off-duty soldiers, and (2) in addition to combat tactics training, their software also has a focus on the non-violent and cultural interaction that are big parts of our deployment in Iraq today.

On that second front, I recently saw this Wired article titled, Troops Learn to Not Offend. A company called Tactical Language Training, spun off from USC research, is writing computer games to teach soldiers nonverbal cues and cultural taboos. From the article:
Ironically, although the game was developed for the military, it contains no weapons or combat situations. It emulates a civil affairs mission and develops like a multipart story in which soldiers must gain the trust of the people they interact with in order to rebuild communities. "I got a kick out of removing the weapons and replacing them with gestures," Vilhjalmsson says.
I'm glad, too, that the military is spending at least some fraction of its research budget on cutting edge technology that actually tries to reduce violence. :)

In somewhat news, I randomly heard on Live 105 a mention of mydeathspace.com. " Only three things are certain in life. MySpace, Taxes, and Death. If you have a MySpace account and you die, this is where you will end up." Disturbing! The directory summarizes reasons for death, and most are because of car accidents, unsurprisingly. The relatedness? There are a few entries where the reason is listed as "Iraq": Sgt. Akers killed by an IED, Lance Cpl. Modeen and Sgt. Stevens killed by an IED, and Sgt. Jakoniuk killed by "Non-Combat Related Injuries". (He was a Blackhawk crewman, so presumably it was some sort of helicopter accident.)

You can click on their pictures to get to their old Myspace profiles. *shudder*
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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