It is no secret that militaries use simulation software and games to train their troops. And often the video gaming world and the military industrial complex collide to produce some bizarre projects (America’s Army and the ilk). Some other projects are really interesting and can produce some real positive results for people outside of the military too.
Recently some coverage of the Canadian military using virtual reality (VR) tools to treat soldieries who are suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder (PTSD). CTV recently looked at the current state of VR in helping veterans suffering from PTSD. PTSD is treated by trying to make the initial experience less traumatic through “reliving” it.
“We try to re-immerse (soldiers) in the traumatic event that they lived through,” said Vincent. “This allows them to face it, stop avoiding the memories, and process them.”
For MCpl. Neil Macey, who served as a medic in Kandahar, the program takes his mind right back to the warzone.
After strapping on a visor on his head, Macey is taken inside a first-person shooter video game. The platform he stands on shakes during a virtual explosion, and moving images are shown in all directions with sounds of helicopters, screams and sirens in the distance.
The CBC looked at this two years ago and it looks like since then the Canadian armed forces have extended their efforts in treating PTSD. Last Novemeber, the medical show White Coat Black Art examined PTSD treatment from the perspective of caregivers and sufferers. It’s hard to listen to at points.
A 2013 report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that fourteen percent of Canadian Forces who served in Afghanistan were diagnosed with a mental health disorder and eight percent have PTSD.
One of those is retired Master Corporal Mark Verrall, a forty-one year old medic whose twenty-four year career included stints in Bosnia and Dubai as well as two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He tells us about his PTSD and the traumatic event that triggered it. He also tells us that when he first tried to tell his supreriors about his problems the message he got back was “suck it up” and move on.
On the other side of battle, training, the American armed forces created a real world simulation of an Afghani town. It’s located at the National Training Center in California. Troops are required to train there before being sent overseas to the Middle East. It seems like something that Jean Baudrillard would have loved to dissect.
Venue took a tour and have published a photo-filled exploration of the training facility.
A twenty-minute drive later, through relatively featureless desert, our visit to “Afghanistan” began with a casual walk down the main street, where we were greeted by actors trying to sell us plastic loaves of bread and piles of fake meat. Fort Irwin employs more than 350 civilian role-players, many of whom are of Middle Eastern origin, although Ferrell explained that they are still trying to recruit more Afghans, in order “to provide the texture of the culture.”
In other words, at the most basic level, soldiers will use Fort Irwin’s facsimile villages to practice clearing structures and navigating unmapped, roofed alleyways through cities without clear satellite communications links. However, at least in the training activities accessible to public visitors, the architecture is primarily a stage set for the theater of human relations: a backdrop for meeting and befriending locals (again, paid actors), controlling crowds (actors), rescuing casualties (Fort Irwin’s roster of eight amputees are its most highly paid actors, we learned, in recompense for being literally dragged around during simulated combat operations), and, ultimately, locating and eliminating the bad guys (the Blackhorse regiment).
If your interested in following how video games, and other gaming techniques/technologies, are used by the armed forces I’ve collected a few links. I keep up to date on what militaries are up to by following a couple different sources beyond the news:
If you know of more please leave a link in the comments.