Most troops kill time by playing video games. And of course, they like the games that paint their branch in the best light…but it can be a little bit of an exaggeration.
Video games always feature the exciting parts of military service. No one wants to play a game about tedium — it just wouldn’t make a good game. Think how fast people would uninstall a game if 90% of the time they’re either cleaning, performing maintenance, or attending power point presentations about how to properly do adult things.
So here’s a round-up of some truth vs. fiction when it comes to video games and the military:
Airmen think they’re Ace Combat
Who doesn’t love a good combat flight simulator?
In real life, only 0.03% of the Air Force is actually a pilot. So the other 99.97% of the Air Force is more like the little kid who gets to watch their older sibling play.
Soldiers think they’re Call of Duty
There’s also a romanticized version of history that younger generations overlook.
“The Greatest Generation” is honored by the notion that all World War II Army veterans were noble pillars of virtue who killed Nazis (though to be fair, the group as a whole took out the Nazis).
But across the board, World War II soldiers embraced the same suck as the rest of us — just in a different decade. Swing by a VFW or an American Legion, buy one of the old timers a beer, and swap war stories. You’ll learn that they drank just as heavily as us, chased as much “tail” as us, and did just as much dumb crap as us.
They just did it while killing Nazis.
Sailors think they’re World of Warships
Just like the Air Force and their planes, a very small number of sailors actually get to stand at the helm.
This game brings naval warfare to life!
Sort of. There’s a big difference between the amount of time it takes to control video game ships versus real ships. Nothing is as instantaneous as using a controller. In the real world, you’ve got to send a message to this guy, who then tells another guy to tell a guy to do a thing…you get the point.
Marines think they’re Battlefield 3
Video game missions skip over crappy details and just put you straight into the action. Everything is the “cool sh*t” every Marines actually want to do.
Thankfully there’s a good work around the Lance Cpl. Underground figured out. By the very nature of a game, things can only get done when you reach a certain objective. Things get paused or stand still when the player doesn’t do anything.
Nothing is ever mentioned about how easy it is to slide out of bullsh*t. The real world, however, keeps on spinning, whether you skate out of sweeping the motor pool or not.
Coast Guardsmen think they’re part Cold Fear part Coast Guard
The average Coastie isn’t solving murder mysteries or fighting Russian mercenaries or zombies. They wish they were, though.
Writing a five paragraph order is boring. Who really wants to sit there and write, by hand, 20 pages of a battle plan for the sole purpose of showing your platoon leadership you have some tactical sense and that you’re not a moron? Nobody! It sucks and you’ll almost never get to see how your plan plays out.
If you want to develop a strategy, actually see it unfold beautifully, and revel in sweet, sweet victory, you should play a real-time strategy game.
RTS games have been around for decades now and you can play them either on a console or a computer (though we strongly recommend you use a computer). They’re not for everyone, but if you’re a team leader itching to use your tactical knowledge in a more immersive sense, playing one might be good for you. Here’s why:
If you can find a worthy opponent, it’s an extremely rewarding experience.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal)
You can go up against other people
If you want to practice against a computer AI, by all means. But if you get one of your buddies at the barracks to go up against you, the two of you can turn it into a competition and see how it feels to put your skills to the test against someone else. Pitting yourself against some AI is fun, but nothing’s quite as dynamic as a human opponent.
If you own the skies, you can own the battlefield.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II)
You can implement realistic strategies
Though every game is different, no matter which you pick, you’ll likely need to consider avenues of approach and utilizing forces to create blocking positions to restrict enemy movement. These are real-life strategies, yes, but they’re also things you must do to find success in most RTS titles.
Another common theme is the use of explosives and air assets to dominate, softening targets to push your enemy to a breaking point.
There’s no risk in burning fictional currency.
Build up your forces using fake money
In real life, it costs millions of dollars to build a functional and efficient military. So, it makes good fiscal sense to not give to give a Lance Corporal the reins for a week just to see how they do. In an RTS, you can harvest resources and burn them on any desperate gambit without staring down a massive bill.
It’s kinda like this.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Rylan Albright)
There’s no real blood involved
Loss of life in real war is tragic but, in an RTS game, your troops aren’t real people — so who cares? That being said, you still get a glimpse into how big of an effect losing a small unit can have on your efforts at large. As a leader, learning the value of every single troop is essential.
With practice, getting to this point won’t be much of a challenge.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey)
You get to see the consequences of your choices
Making a mistake in real life can be costly in a lot of different ways. In an RTS game, you can make all the mistakes you want, see the consequences of your actions, and not have to worry about the loss of resources or lives. It’s a good idea to learn these lessons before the end result is tragedy.
After a week-long controversy and accusations of censorship, Blizzard Entertainment responded late Oct. 11, 2019, to say China did not influence its decision to ban a professional gamer from Hong Kong for supporting anti-China protests. But the gaming community has been reluctant to accept Blizzard’s latest explanation of the move, and many are still planning protests at the company’s upcoming conference, BlizzCon.
“Hearthstone” player Ng Wai Chung, better known as Blitzchung, wore a gas mask and called for the liberation of Hong Kong during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored event on Oct. 5, 2019. Blizzard initially responded by banning him from competition for one year, and saying that it would no longer work with the two commentators who conducted the interview.
The punishment was harshly criticized by fans and U.S. lawmakers who accused the company of censoring free speech to protect its relationships in China, a massive and highly lucrative market with strict laws that require companies operating in the country to censor or remove content at the government’s request. Players threatened to boycott Blizzard’s games in response and a small group of Blizzard employees staged a walkout to show support for the protesters in Hong Kong.
After staying silent for several days, Blizzard Entertainment President J.Allen Brack pushed back against claims that Blizzard’s business in China influenced the company’s decision in a statement published Oct. 11, 2019. The company reduced the suspension of Blitzchung and the two commentators to six months and reinstated Blitzchung’s prize money, but Brack reiterated that Blitzchung had violated the rules of the competition.
“There is a consequence for taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast,” Brack wrote in a statement.
Blizzard’s reduced punishment didn’t do much to change public perception
Critics remain skeptical of Brack’s claim that China had no impact on Blizzard’s decision, and many suggested that Blizzard should have lifted its suspension of Blitzchung and the two competitors entirely.
Others accused Blizzard of trying to minimize its concession by making a statement on a Friday evening, a common tactic used to diminish negative press in a weekend news cycle. Former Blizzard producer Mark Kern said the company used the same strategy while he was working there.
Protesters upset with Blizzard’s lack of support for Hong Kong are planning to show up at the company’s annual fan convention, BlizzCon, on November 1. One group of protesters planned to form picket lines outside of the event and interrupt BlizzCon panel discussions with questions about Hong Kong. The same group is demanding that Blizzard make a public statement in support of Hong Kong, apologize and reverse the punishment, and create a special protest costume for the Chinese “Overwatch” character Mei.
Ultimately, Brack’s statement did little to change the perception of Blizzard’s punishment of Blitzchung, though the “Hearthstone” player said he accepted the company’s stance on the situation. Blizzard will have to wait and see if time will heal the company’s public perception, and hope the situation doesn’t escalate further with planned protests in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A four-man team of soldiers sits in a nondescript building on Fort Belvoir, Va., each at his own desk, surrounded by three monitors that provide them individual, 3D views of an abandoned city.
On screen, they gather at the corner of a crumbling building to meet another team — represented by avatars — who are actually on the ground in a live-training area, a mock-up of the abandoned city. They’re all training together, in real time, to prepare for battles in dense urban terrain.
That’s the central goal of the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) — immersive, integrated virtual training — presented during a Warriors Corner session at the 2018 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington. The Army has been working toward this kind of fully immersive training experience for decades, and leadership hopes to have it operational as early as 2025.
In May 1993, Army RDA Bulletin dedicated several articles to the concept and execution of distributed interactive simulation (DIS), “a time and space coherent representation of a virtual battlefield environment” that allowed warfighters across the globe to interact with one other as well as computer-generated forces, according to John S. Yuhas, author of the article “Distributed Interactive Simulation.”
Better, faster, stronger
While the name of the program seems to emphasize individual simulation units, its overarching purpose was to bring together thousands of individuals and teams virtually in real time. Central to DIS was the idea of interoperable standards and protocol, allowing each community — “trainer, tester, developer, and acquisitioner” — to use the others’ concepts and products, Maj. David W. Vaden wrote in “Vision for the Next Decade.”
The article explained that “distributed” referred to geographically separated simulations networked together to create a synthetic environment; “interactive” to different simulations linked electronically to act together and upon each other; and “simulation” to three categories — live, virtual and constructive. Live simulations involved real people and equipment; virtual referred to manned simulators; and constructive referred to war games and models, with or without human interaction.
DIS has much in common with STE. Both provide training and mission rehearsal capability to the operational and institutional sides of the Army (i.e., soldiers and civilians). They even share the same training philosophy: to reduce support requirements, increase realism and help deliver capabilities to the warfighter faster.
Users of STE will train with live participants and computer simulations, with some units training remotely. However, STE takes virtual reality training to a new level altogether by incorporating advances in artificial intelligence, big data analysis and three-dimensional terrain representation.
Current training simulations are based on technologies from the 1980s and ’90s that can’t replicate the complex operational environment soldiers will fight in. They operate on closed, restrictive networks, are facilities-based and have high overhead costs for personnel, Maj. Gen.
Maria R. Gervais, commanding general for the U.S. Army Combined Arms Training Center and director of the STE Cross-Functional Team, said in an August 2018 article, “The Synthetic Training Environment Revolutionizes Sustainment Training.”
Those older technologies also can’t support electronic warfare, cyberspace, and megacities, the article explained. For example, soldiers in the 1990s could conduct training using computers and physical simulators — like the ones showcased in Charles Burdick, Jorge Cadiz and Gordon Sayre’s 1993 “Industry Applications of Distributed Interactive Simulation” article in the Army RDA Bulletin-but the training was limited to a single facility and only a few networked groups; the technology wasn’t yet able to support worldwide training with multiple groups of users in real time, like the Army proposes to do with the STE.
Gervais presented a promotional video during “Warriors Corner #13: Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team Update,” which said the STE will provide intuitive and immersive capabilities to keep pace with the changing operational environment. The STE is a soldier lethality modernization priority of the U.S. Army Futures Command.
“With the STE, commanders will conduct tough, realistic training at home stations, the combat training centers and at deployed locations. The STE will increase readiness through repetition, multi-echelon, multidomain, combined arms maneuver and mission command training. And most importantly, the STE will train soldiers for where they will fight,” said Gen. Robert B. Abrams, then-commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, in the same video. Abrams is now commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea.
Today, simulations in the integrated training environment do not provide the realism, interoperability, affordability and availability necessary for the breadth of training that the Army envisions for the future. The STE will be able to do all that — it will be flexible, affordable and available at the point of need.
“This video helps us get to shared understanding, and also awareness of what we’re trying to achieve with the synthetic training environment,” Gervais said during the AUSA presentation. “But it also allows us to understand the challenges that we’re going to face as we try to deliver this.”
“We don’t have the right training capability to set the exercises up,” said Mike Enloe, chief engineer for the STE Cross-Functional Team, during the presentation. “What I mean by that is that it takes more time to set up the systems that are disparate to talk to each other, to get the terrains together, than it does to actually have the exercise go.”
The Synthetic Training Environment will assess Soldiers in enhancing decision-making skills through an immersive environment.
(US Army photo)
The Army’s One World Terrain, a 3D database launched in 2013 that collects, processes, stores and executes global terrain simulations, has been the “Achilles’ heel” of STE from the start, Enloe said. The Army lacks well-formed 3D terrain data and therefore the ability to run different echelons of training to respond to the threat. The database is still being developed as part of the STE, and what the Army needs most “right now from industry is content … we need a lot of 3D content and rapid ways to get them built,” Enloe said. That means the capability to process terrain on 3D engines so that it can move across platforms, he said, and steering clear of proprietary technologies. The STE is based on modules that can be changed to keep up with emerging technologies.
The Army also needs the ability to write the code to develop the artificial intelligence that will meet STE’s needs — that can, to some extent, learn and challenge the weaknesses of participants, he said.
Retired Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, 32nd vice chief of staff of the Army, emphasized during the presentation that the Army needs to move away from the materiel development of the STE and focus on training as a service. “I believe that a training environment should have two critical aspects to it,” he said: It should be a maneuver trainer, and it should be a gunnery trainer.
Changing the culture
Brig. Gen. Michael E. Sloane, program executive officer for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), said the leadership philosophy of STE’s development is about fostering culture change and getting soldiers capabilities faster. “We have to be proactive; the [cross-functional teams] have to work together with the PEOs, and we’re doing that,” he said. “Collectively, we’re going to deliver real value to the soldier, I think, in doing this under the cross-functional teams and the leadership of the Army Futures Command.”
Many organizations are involved with STE’s development. The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center-Training and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability managers are working requirements and represent users. PEO STRI is the materiel developer. The U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence is responsible for the infantry, armor and combined arms requirement. And finally, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) serves as the approval authority for long-range investing and requirements.
With the Futures Command and ASA(ALT) collaborating throughout the development of STE, Sloane believes the Army will be able to reduce and streamline acquisition documentation, leverage rapid prototyping, deliver capabilities and get it all right the first time.
Soldiers prepare to operate training technologies during the STE User Assessment in Orlando, Fla., in March 2018.
(Photo by Bob Potter)
Gervais reminded the AUSA audience in October that she had spoken about STE at the annual meeting two years ago, explaining that the Army intends to use the commercial gaming industry to accelerate the development of STE. “I did not believe that it couldn’t be delivered until 2030. I absolutely refused to believe that,” she said. In 2017, the chief of staff designated STE as one of the eight cross-functional teams for Army modernization, aligning it with soldier lethality.
Since then, STE has made quite a bit of progress, Gervais said. The initial capability document for the Army collective training environment, which lays the foundation for STE, was approved in 2018. The Army increased its industry engagement to accelerate the development of STE, according to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley’s direction, which led to the awarding of seven other transaction authority agreements for One World Terrain, followed by a user assessment in March 2018. In June, Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper and Milley codified STE in their vision statement. “We’re postured to execute quickly,” Gervais said.
In the meantime, she said, there has been a focused effort to increase lethality with a squad marksmanship trainer in the field to allow close combat soldiers to train immediately. The Army also developed a squad immersive virtual trainer. “We believe we can deliver that [squad immersive trainer] much quicker than the 2025 timeframe,” she said.
STE is focused on establishing common data, standards and terrain to maximize interoperability, ease of integration and cost savings, Gervais said. With the right team effort and coordination, she believes STE can be delivered quickly. Perhaps in a few short years, STE can achieve the lofty goal that DIS had for itself, according to Yuhas: Revolutionize the training and acquisition process for new weapon systems.
Technology moves ever forward. What one generation of war-fighters trains on will, in many cases, be obsolete when the time comes to train the next. Though the specifics may vary from year to year, the US Military is constantly innovating and upgrading our training tools to reach the same goal: giving troops experiences as near to the real thing as possible, while balancing costs and safety factors.
If you keep all of these elements in mind, there’s a clear, logical next step to take in terms of training technology: augmented reality.
You can only do so many “washer and dime” drills it the point is lost.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paige Behringer, 1BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)
There’s no replacing actual, rifles-in-hand training. No kind of simulation could ever give troops the same kind of experience as using the weapon that they’ll actually be using in combat. Putting holes in paper or drop-down targets at the range is a valuable experience that can never (and will never) be replaced.
But the supplemental trainings that you’ll find inside an NCO’s book exercise could always use a technological touch-up.
It’s both awkward and fun at the same time.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Guenther)
Today, it’s not uncommon for troops to play out a few key strategies on video game consoles as the NCO gives step-by-step breakdowns of what’s about to go down. These types of exercises are extremely safe and cost effective, but they’re also not nearly true-to-life.
The next step in achieving realism comes with virtual reality centers, which have already been experimentally fielded at certain installations. It’s called the Dismounted Soldier Training System (or DSTS) and it places troops in a room with a simulated rifle and a few screens all around them. Troops then “shoot” and move around the room in a safe (but expensive) simulation. It’s more effective than video-game training because the troops must use their bodies, learning important physical techniques. Here, they’ll train their responses on what to do when they see an enemy appear on screen.
These are fantastic for leaders looking to monitor a troop’s performance, but they’re still more akin to taking the guys out to an arcade and watching how they do with, essentially, a really expensive version of Time Crisis 3.
At the very least, this will be a far more engaging way to learn tactics than watching a senior NCO scribble on a whiteboard for a few hours.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Samantha Whitehead)
Finally, we arrive at augmented reality. Augmented reality is the intersection between digital and physical. It’s when technology is used to place digital elements in real-world spaces. And it’s not future tech — it’s happening right now. An advanced training simulator that leverages this technology is currently being developed by Magic Leap, Inc. It differs from virtual reality in that it brings the simulation into the real world, as opposed to putting real-world troops into the simulation. The current design is called HUD 3.0.
Troops place goggles over their heads as they step into a specially designed environment, similar to MOUT training grounds, that is linked to a central hub. The goggles then intelligently lay digital images over the real world. The program can then place simulated elements in the troop’s vision — like a digital terrorist appearing in a real window. The troop can then raise their training rifle that is synced with the program, pull the trigger, and watch simulated gunfire unfold as it would in actual combat.
The advantage this has over other types of simulations is that it isn’t limited to putting a single troop out there. In theory, an entire platoon could don sets of goggles and train together, getting an experience close to real combat while remaining completely safe.
Video games are a much-enjoyed pastime for younger generations. It just so happens that a lot of troops today come from this video-game-loving generation. While they’re not out physically training for their upcoming deployment, they’re probably back in their barracks room “training.”
No, it’s not because they’re working to be 110% prepared. It’s because these games are also pretty fun.
6. America’s Army: Proving Ground
To be absolutely fair to every other game, this one was made by the U.S. Army. It serves as both a fun training aid for troops and an enjoyable recruitment tool for civilians.
While going through the training missions, a helpful Drill Sergeant will give you sound advice, for both the gaming world and the real thing.
5. SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs
SOCOM is an oldie, but it still holds up — and has a huge place in gaming history. It laid the groundwork for many of the games on this list.
Sure, the graphics don’t hold up and you can find a more accurate video game on the shelves today, but this game brought a new dynamic to the industry. It was the first game to make use of the PlayStation’s microphone in a shooter and one of the first overall to use it successfully.
4. Rainbow Six: Siege
Siege is fast-paced game that pits a team of six attackers against six defenders. Players must then chose an operator based on many real-world Counterterrorist units, each with a special trait based off of real technology.
Communication and breaching are key elements to making Rainbow Six: Siege work. If you know the enemy is guarding the door, blow out the walls. If you know the enemy barricaded the walls, blow out the roof. If you know they booby-trapped that entrance, flash bang your way through to the objective.
3. Sniper Elite 4
If there’s one defining trait of real-life snipers, it’s their ability to wait for hours on end to get the perfect shot. While the waiting part isn’t the most alluring element of Sniper Elite, it definitely makes delivering that single, precise bullet all the more satisfying.
This game needs to be played slowly, methodically, and relaxed. And then you can sit back and enjoy as the game gives you a satisfying x-ray of the damage you’ve inflicted on the enemy.
2. Battlefield 1
The entire Battlefield series is beloved by troops for its slower pace (compared to the running and gunning of Call of Duty). The games also take a more logical approach to capturing objectives.
Players need to think through large 64-player vs 64-player battlefields. You can’t just run into a room, spin 360 degrees, and headshot someone with a sniper rifle without looking through the scope.
…unless you’re good.
1. Arma 3
There’s no game on the marketplace quite like Arma 3. Yes, there are single-player missions that require a basic level of thought, but what sets this game at the top is the deep multiplayer element.
Teamwork and coordination are keys to victory in this game. Everyone needs a microphone to communicate properly. You clear houses, just like real life. You man checkpoints, just like real life. And you even have support troops, just like real life. This game’s community is so well-versed in tactics to the point that actual service-members who play are often praised and asked to lead the civilians on missions.
*Bonus* Six Days in Fallujah
This game is left with just an honorable mention because it was never released. Originally created by Atomic Games, Six Days in Fallujah would have been the first of it’s kind. The developers wanted to deliver an experience that would require the player to use an extreme amount of military tactics in every level and accurately depict the Second Battle of Fallujah in what would have been almost an interactive documentary. It aimed to put the player in the psychological mindset of Marines that were actually there.
The game was said to have depicted the good, the bad, and the unfortunate sides of the very real war. You would have followed the actual 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines who took part in the battle. The objectives and conditions were exactly like those of real-life. The real Marines who died in the battle would have died in the game, too. It was scrapped in 2009 because of a severe backlash against the publisher for “trivializing” the severity of the Iraq War.
Ah, Call of Duty. A video game that was a far more successful recruitment tool for the Army than the Army’s actual recruitment video game America’s Army.
It’s understandable that the game would plant a good seed in the heads of many teens who play the game. They get a consequence-free taste of the badassery from the safety of their couch. Later they’ll keep the military in the back of their mind and one day they’ll enlist.
If it fills the seats of recruitment offices — it’s fantastic. The only down side is that it kind of paints the military in an unrealistically awesome light. That’s not to say that life isn’t awesome in the military — just not that awesome.
You’ll think it’s a cool achievement when you finish but everyone else has it unlocked already.
(Photo by Scott Prater)
The tutorial is over nine weeks long
In the video game, you can just skip any training if you’ve already got an idea of how things work. You don’t get that kind of luxury in the real military. Even if you have a good idea how to pick up food with a fork or make a bed, you’ll learn you’ve been doing it wrong your entire life.
Then comes the cool training like rifle marksmanship. You’ll blink and then it’s back to learning that eating and showering should be done in 30 seconds.
You’re kinda on your own getting “Slight of Hand Pro.”
(DoD photo by Sgt. Tierney P. Nowland)
You can’t really modify your loadout
You can earn cool points in Call of Duty with the people you’re playing with by unlocking all the attachments and skins for your weapons. Hate to burst your bubble but it’s generally frowned upon to spray-paint your M4 bright pink and go on a patrol.
There is a silver lining to this one though. You don’t have to be a Colonel before you can get your hands on an M240-B.
But it is kinda real with other people running to go steal YOUR package. Still a bit sour about that one.
(U.S. Navy photo by Public Affairs Specialist Joel Diller)
Care packages don’t include attack dogs
Care packages are fun in Call of Duty! If you rack up a high enough score, you can get lucky and find some pretty useful stuff in them, like controllers to drone strikes or a radio to call in an attack helicopter.
Actual care packages usually just include things like socks, hotel soaps, and a chocolate bar that melted on its way to the deserts of Iraq.
You missed a spot.
(U.S Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Matt Hecht)
Prestiging isn’t as fun
Prestiging in Call of Duty is a way for players to start their career all over again. When they reach the rank of General of the Army, they can say “f*ck it” and go back to being a private for the fun of it so they can unlock everything all over again — this time with a way to let other players know how cool they are.
In the actual military, going back down to private usually involves a reduction in pay and a lot more menial labor.
That’s not to imply that we don’t talk smack over the radios. No one really cares as long as you use “over” and “out.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Mealy)
The chain of command discourages screaming obsenities over comms
It’s kind of a given that, when given a headset, kids will scream curse words that would have gotten us all slapped by our parents if they ever heard us use them. It doesn’t affect their gameplay, which is all that matters to them, so they’ll keep smack-talking you.
Even just the simplest of improper radio etiquette gets you a stern talking to by the operations sergeant major. Any mentions of doing unspeakable things to someone’s mother will be a near-instant way to “prestige” in rank.
“Here take a profile. That’ll cure everything!” said every doc ever.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)
Healing involves more than hiding for four seconds
Being shot in the face in a video game is really easy to recover from. You just hide behind a rock until your screen stops being red and you’re good to go. Get back in there.
Real life medics and corpsmen like to think they have this ability when they prescribe you a Motrin and a change of socks — but they don’t. That also includes taking a knee and drinking water.
In either world, do not lose your own dog tags.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jordan A. Talley)
Collecting enemy dogtags isn’t a thing
A fun game mode in Call of Duty is Kill Confirmed, where after players kill the enemy, they have to run over their corpse and collect their dog tags to get points for the kill.
If that was how operations were conducted in the real world, it would make being an artilleryman so much more difficult. And taking war trophies off dead bodies is actually frowned upon by the Geneva Convention.
Freakin’ campers, man.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)
Stabbing people in the foot doesn’t instantly kill them
According to the game’s logic, it takes several bullets to the chest to drop somebody, shotguns only work if you’re within three feet of someone, and sniper rifles are great for clearing rooms with. If you manage to find the dude hiding in the corner with a sub-machine gun though, you can stab them to instantly kill them.
No. That is not how any of this works. The grenade launcher thing is pretty close though.
What kind of military doesn’t allow its troops to single-handedly use a nuclear warhead at their own discretion? Oh? Literally every military? Nevermind.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier Baez)
No one will let you drop a nuke just because you killed 25 people
The ultimate prize for any Call of Duty is to get a 25-kill streak going without dying. If you can manage this, you can get a tactical nuke that you can drop to instantly win the match.
In reality, killing 25 people just gives you a drinking problem and night terrors.
When I was a kid we used to blow on Nintendo games if they didn’t work and I’ve always wondered if this actually did anything?
Once upon a time a seemingly universally known trick to get a Nintendo game cartridge to work was to simply pull it out, blow on it, then re-insert. If this didn’t give the desired result, this process was generally repeated until the magic happened. For the truly desperate among us, blowing inside the console opening itself was common practice in hopes that this would finally get the game to work. The general rational for why this worked was that it gave a better connection via blowing dust off the many pins. This all brings us to the question of the hour — did blowing your cartridge actually do anything?
To begin with, it is true that the root of the problem in question was almost always a bad connection between the internal connector and the pins on the game cartridge’s internal board. This was a notorious issue on the NES particularly which used a so called “zero insertion force” (ZIF) 72 pin connector. The particular insertion design for the NES was inspired by VCR’s — the idea being to differentiate the NES from top loading consoles of the day, give kids a loading method they were already familiar with, and potentially reduce the chances of kids breaking something when over forcing things as occasionally happened with top loader designs.
The ZIF connector here used pins made of nickel, bent slightly to give a spring effect. When the cartridge was inserted they’d bend slightly, and then spring back when the cartridge was removed. There are a few problems with this mechanism. To begin with, given very frequent insertions in an application like the NES, these pins were prone to losing their spring effect relatively quickly. Further, to achieve close to the stated claim of “zero insertion force” the pins on the ZIF connector weren’t that strongly springy to begin with.
On top of this, the pins on the cartridges were usually made of copper, making them already prone to eventually developing a nice layer of patina (think the green on the Statue of Liberty) whether you blew them or not, further making a good connection less reliable over time.
Moving on to the seemingly universally known trick of blowing on the pins both inside the case and in the cartridges themselves, this would impart moisture onto the metal, significantly increasing the development of forms of corrosion as well as potentially resulted in dust and other particles sticking to the pins. This can also very quickly result in the growth of things on the pins, like some sort of gamer inspired Petri dish.
On this note, while you might not think the moisture from your breath would make things that much worse, gaming guru and host of TheDPPodcast Frankie Viturello gave a good example of just the effect this could have. Viturello took two copies of the game Gyromite, one to be blown, the other to sit around on a shelf in the same room as the other. He then blew on the one copy ten times in quick succession each day, essentially in the same basic way gamers the world over do when trying to fix the game so it works.
Certainly a much bigger sample size and much more detailed data would be needed for more definitive results. (For example, it would be interesting to track the number of failures after insertion of a game, along with the number of blows, the humidity levels over time, etc. compared to a control group of games and consoles and then with a sample of years and many games and consoles tabulate all that and write a fascinating paper on the subject.) However, this much more basic experiment did very clearly demonstrate the significant effect blowing on the pins has, with the blown on pins developing a clearly visible layer of something over the course of the month and the 300 blows. Viturello’s conclusion here was nicely summed up, “Could this… be cleaned up post test and returned to 100% working condition? Sure. Probably. But right now it’s fucking gross.”
It should also be noted here while the pins on the games could have been relatively easily cleaned, the pins on the ZIF connector inside the console are note quite as easily restored to their former shiny selves without taking the console apart, making blowing inside the console itself an even worse idea. Although, thankfully these days a replacement ZIF connector is both cheap (around ) and easy to install if one does have to resort to taking the console apart anyway.
It is perhaps no surprise from all of this that when this blowing method of “fixing” cartridges that weren’t working in a given instance became popular, Nintendo themselves started explicitly stating in their NES Game Pak Troubleshooting: “Do not blow into your Game Paks or systems. The moisture in your breath can corrode and contaminate the pin connectors.”
A Nintendo Entertainment System video game console with controller attached.
And while bad connections did become less of a problem with the release of future consoles like the Super Nintendo and the N64, occasional blowing before insertion was still a thing, resulting in Nintendo actually putting a message on the back of every N64 game cartridge again saying not to blow on the pins.
In the end, unless there was a significant and very visible layer of dust or other debris on the pins, blowing on them wouldn’t have accomplished anything useful outside of a bit of moisture from your breath maybe helping get a slightly higher probability of a good connection on insertion. But even this potential extremely minor, if any, benefit would be significantly outweighed by the long term downsides of blowing on the pins. The real benefit of this blowing method was seemingly just that you were removing the cartridge and putting it back in, thus, re-seating it and giving the potential for a proper connection.
Finally, funny enough, while the blowing method was seemingly universally known despite it not really doing anything other than making the problem worse long term, there was one other drastically lesser known trick for fixing the issue that actually did work in some cases. This was wedging something (like another game pak) in the console between the game and the top of the slot. This put added pressure on the loaded cartridge which could, if done right, add pressure between the ZIF connector pins and the pins on the game board, thus making a better connection.
Ever wonder how the gun in the original Duck Hunt game knew if you actually hit something on the screen? Well, wonder no more. The Duck Hunt gun primarily just consists of a button (the trigger) and a photodiode (light sensor). When you pull the trigger, this causes the game to make the TV screen go completely black for one frame. At this point, the game uses the light sensor to sample the black color it’s reading from your TV to give it a reference point for the given ambient light at the time. In the next frame, the game causes the target area to turn white, with the rest remaining black. If the game detects a shift from black to white from the gun’s photodiode in that split second, it knows you were aiming correctly at the target and so doesn’t specifically need to know anything about where on the screen the target is. For games with multiple targets at any given time, the same type of method is used except multiple target frames are shown. So the game will flash the black reference screen; then will flash one of the targets, leaving the rest of the screen black; then flashes the next target, again leaving the rest of the screen black; and so on. The game knows which target is hit, if any, by which frame is currently being shown when a light shift is detected.
Interestingly, if you read over the patent for the NES Zapper Gun, one of the main features they point out which separates their gun from previously patented light detecting guns is that in the “preferred embodiment” of their system, it has the ability to distinguish between multiple targets in one frame. However, that’s not actually what they did in the NES system as noted.
In contrast, in a “one frame” system, it uses a signal from the TV itself. This signal is in the form of pulses which signify the start of the horizontal and vertical retracing. The computer hooked up to the TV can use these pulses to more or less tell what area is currently being traced on the TV; it can then time this with a shift in light detected by the photodiode. Thus, with precise enough timing, it is able to detect which target is being hit in just one frame.
With this method, the flash can happen fast enough that it’s nearly imperceptible to most people, unlike in the actual NES system where when multiple targets are shown, most people can perceive the flash. The NES system did use the vertical retrace signal to be able to detect the start of each frame though, but didn’t use it to detect anything about the position of the target as in the “preferred embodiment” described in the patent.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Military games are awesome. They often have lots of explosions and gunplay, and the best ones take some care to honestly represent military life, imposing a moral cost for decisions or making you feel the loss of comrades in fighting. But it’s always a sweet bonus if you, as the player, are able to step in the shoes of warriors from history.
So these are five games that let you do just that, either commanding important missions from history or stepping into the boots of a participant. A quick admin note, though: These are games that let you play in a historical mission. They aren’t necessarily the most historically accurate, meaning the creators might have taken some liberties with details.
Medal of Honor
The 2010 game Medal of Honor is set during the invasion of Afghanistan with a prologue that includes clearing Bagram Airfield and a main campaign centered on special operators in the Shahikot Valley. Eagle-eyed historians will recognize the story as a (loose) interpretation of Operation Anaconda, the largest battle of the invasion of Afghanistan complete with dozens of special operators, thousands of friendly soldiers, and about 1,000 guerrilla fighters.
While the names of individuals and units have all been changed, a lot of the key moments and terrain features from the actual battle are represented like when a SEAL is lost on Takur Ghar or the many times that members of Delta Force called in airstrikes on enemy forces.
(As a bonus, some versions of this game come with the 2002 Medal of Honor: Frontline which has some stunning depictions of real battles like the D-Day landings and Operation Market Garden, though even the remastered version has quaint graphics by modern standards.)
Call of Duty 2
To be honest, there are really too many World War II shooters to list all of the ones with real missions, even if we dedicated an entire list to World War II. We went with Call of Duty 2 for this list. It features missions in North Africa, lets you play with the Rangers on Ponte du Hoc on D-Day, and a variety of other real missions besides.
The original Call of Duty has other World War II missions like the defense of “Pavlov’s House” in Stalingrad and the final assault on Berlin.
But don’t learn your history from Call of Duty games. The “Operation Pegasus” mission in the game has nothing to do with the actual World War II mission of the same name. And the commando assault on Eder Dam in the game is a far cry from the true “Dambusters” of history.
Battlefield Vietnam is a well-received game about the Vietnam War (duh) originally released in 2004. The game is a little arcade-y with lots of run-and-gun action in settings like the Ho Chi Ming Trail, the Siege of Hue, and missions like Operation Flaming Dart.
Players can get behind the controls of lots of vehicles from the era including the iconic Patrol Boat-Riverine.
Company of Heroes
This is a real-time strategy game set in the American campaign to land at Normandy and then drive to Berlin. Company of Heroes sees the player commanding companies of soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division and 101st Airborne Division at battles from Carentan to Hill 192 to St. Lo.
The game doesn’t actually limit the player to what a company commander could do in the war. It gives players the options to upgrade all of their units and allows them to control armor, infantry, engineering, and other soldiers. But the maps feel different based on what battle is playing out, and they’re all destructible so you can fight house to house in St. Fromond or create chokepoints to slaughter German troops as they come through the village.
Ultimate General: Civil War
This Civil War strategy game has *checks notes*, all of the Civil War battles. There’s a Union campaign and a Confederate one, and each features dozens of battles and missions. These include both battles of Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chickamauga Creek, Cold Harbor, and much, much, more.
The size of the player’s force is decided by how well they do in each fight. So while you get to play all sorts of historical battles, realize that the actual forces at each fight are decided according to your performance, not according to historical accuracy. So be prepared for a Gettysburg where the Confederacy has three times the troops and wins.
If you’ve never heard of Max Uriarte, you’re in for a treat. He’s the Marine, writer, and artist best known for his comic Terminal Lance, which pokes fun at the Marine Corps from a grunt’s point of view. Now he’s teamed up with The Call of Duty Endowment to create the Call of Duty: “Night Raid” PlayStation 4 Dynamic Theme.
The Call of Duty Endowment “helps veterans find high quality careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market and by raising awareness of the value vets bring to the workplace.”
All proceeds from the sale of the Night Raid theme ($2.99) go directly to the endowment to help vets get jobs after service. The Call of Duty Endowment has placed over 57,000 veterans thus far. Their new goal is placing 100,000 veterans into high quality jobs by 2024.
Check out some of the awesome artwork below:
Call of duty Endowment night raid dynamic theme tier 3
Uriarte deployed to Iraq twice with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. In 2007 he operated as a turret gunner out of Fallujah and in 2009 he was a combat photographer out of al Asad. His second deployment left a lasting impact on his civilian career as an artist — or, to be more specific, a Combat Artist.
“Combat Art is the act of capturing beauty in places you wouldn’t normally find it. It…exists solely for the purpose of creating art on the battlefield. When events are filtered through an artist’s eye, they capture things that maybe a camera does not, such as the feelings and emotion of the place or subjects. A photograph is objective — it shows reality. A sketch or a painting is subjective, it shows what the artist interpreted and what the artist saw that maybe no one else did (or could),” Uriarte told Fletcher Black of Activision.
U.S. Marine Max Uriarte (left); ‘Terminal Lance’ Marines Abe Garcia (right)
‘Terminal Lance’ strikes true with Marines — and vets from all branches — who’ve dealt with some of the…color…military service has to offer. The comic makes light of the tedium and nonsense that come with the job.
But Uriarte also has a serious side. His graphic novel, The White Donkey, was based on his combat deployment in Fallujah. His upcoming graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, promises to be a visceral examination of the effects of war on an Afghanistan province.
Who better to design art for the Call of Duty Endowment than a combat-experienced Marine with an artist’s eye and a creator’s hand?
Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4: C.O.D.E. Jump Pack
You can also support veterans by grabbing the new Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4 – C.O.D.E. Jump Pack, which includes a special wingsuit, parachute, and trail. 100% of the proceeds will go directly toward helping veterans get jobs after their military service.
Check out both the Jump Pack and the “Night Raid” Dynamic Theme on your PlayStation!
Despite the fan base not being filled to the brim with lovers of the game, Halo: Reach remains in the hearts of many of us gamers who dumped a considerable amount of time into the game itself. One thing that might stand out, especially for those of us in the veteran community, is how the game itself depicts war.
Halo: Reach was released nearly a decade this upcoming September, and this campaign still gets a lot of us excited. It had some good characters, each with unique qualities, and the story was amazing. The gameplay is another story, but what we’re focusing on here is the biggest thing that stood out: this game is about war.
Here’s why Halo: Reach was one of the best:
You were also, for the first time, surrounded by other Spartans.
Nerfed Spartan strength
Throughout the original Halo trilogy, you fight as Master Chief, the only Spartan in sight, which makes you an absolute force of nature on the battlefield. You’re essentially unstoppable, with your only purpose being to bring judgment down upon the Covenant that stands before you.
Reach took that and essentially made you just slightly weaker, but it was noticeable. Stronger than the average UNSC Marine but just on the same level as the best the Covenant has to offer. This made you feel more like you couldn’t just steamroll into battles, bringing death on a silver platter to the Covenant.
There are plenty of shots in the game that show the planet’s destruction.
Depicted a losing fight
Most of us who knew the lore of Reach before the game’s release knew it was a doomed mission. You were fighting a losing battle because the Covenant hits the planet’s under-manned military defenses with an all-out attack force with the intent to reap every last soul upon its surface. That didn’t stop you, though.
It really showed the tenacity that troops bring to the battlefield. Knowing you could lose doesn’t matter, you’ll fight to the death anyway and make the enemy work for every life they have to take – and suffer the consequences of taking it to begin with.
Prime example: Jorge.
Showed the tremendous sacrifices that were made
One thing that the original trilogy doesn’t take much time to do is to show the sacrifices of individual soldiers. Reach absolutely does that. With Noble Team, you see each of the team members die in some way or another, a couple of them choosing to die so that others may live.
Seeing mega cities like this getting torn apart was devastating.
Reach takes a lot of time to show us how destructive the Covenant is and the devastation of that destruction in context with what they do to the planet. Most of the other games you don’t get that sense, with Halo 3 being the obvious exception since part of it takes place on Earth.
But what we got in Reach was an entire game of trying to save a planet only to fail.
The Star Wars franchise is all about placing fantastical elements within in a sci-fi setting. In order to truly enjoy the films, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit — otherwise it’ll look a lot like cosmic samurai fighting a faceless evil empire across a galaxy filled with people who magically speak the same language and function just fine without a space suit wherever they end up.
Putting a bit more thought into it, the Imperial Stormtroopers seem to get the short end of the stick nearly every single time. With the soon-to-be-released Solo: A Star Wars Story on the horizon, it’s fun to remember why they probably wouldn’t make the most intimidating enemy — especially not with highly-overused AT-AT walkers.
(Photo by Tim Moreillon)
To all seven of you out there who haven’t seen Star Wars, the AT-AT is a gigantic, robotic troop transport used by the antagonists that’s sort-of a futuristic callback to Hannibal’s elephants. They’re fairly intimidating in the films until you realize just how dumb of a design they really are.
At least they acknowledged that painting its weak spot bright orange was an objectively bad idea.
Its weaknesses are extremely obvious
The most glaring mistake of the AT-AT is that they’re so easy to destroy. In The Empire Strikes Back, our heroes turn the tide during a battle on the icy planet of Hoth when they decide to trip the lumbering armor. Really? Why did it take some rural moisture farmer to make that mental breakthrough?
Not only that, but Luke Skywalker also destroyed one by throwing a single grenade, which, somehow, blows up the head. They’re even more easily destroyed in Rogue One, when a single rocket to the walker’s “neck” is enough to take it down.
This is about the field of fire of an AT-AT. Avoid this and you’re fine.
Its only weapons are front-facing
If you’re facing the front of an AT-AT, you’re probably screwed. If you’re literally anywhere outside of its 30-degree field of facing, you’re completely safe.
Without any kind of air support, like what happened to them in The Empire Strikes Back, the opportunity to flank them is wide open. If you’re thinking that it could just turn around, that brings us to our next point.
This is it TRYING to turn.
It can barely turn
To be fair, the AT-AT can turn a little bit in Episode V and some of the obscure novels (which are no longer canon) say that they have an additional joint under the plating to help it turn. But, even if we’re generous, they can turn maybe fifteen degrees with each slow, lumbering step.
This is happens in a time when, according to the logic that has been established by the franchise, intergalactic travel and troop transport is done with spaceships. But, instead of carrying troops via something that fly, they chose something that can barely change course.
It can’t really leave this small clearing so, for any reason other than creating drama, this makes no sense.
It wouldn’t be able to maneuver anywhere
Let’s bring things back to the real world for a moment and discuss why tank treads work in almost every environment while horses don’t: Legs get caught in things. They get tangled in snares and sink into sand, snow, and mud. Tank treads, conversely, just roll through it all.
Now magnify that four-legged beast to the size of an AT-AT. All of those same problems still exist, but now you can cross cities and forests off that list, too.
Poor little AT-AT… At least you tried.
It’s a terrible design for a troop transport
Let’s bring it back to the fact that they rely on what are essentially robot camels when they have countless other options at their disposal. A spaceship can warp in and push out every Stormtrooper in a blink of an eye. The AT-AT, on the other hand, needs to bend down, load troops into the vehicle, carry them all somewhere, bend back down, and, finally, unload them.
All of that just to get some troops forward in an easily destructible, undefended deathtrap that can barely get around. Sure, they’re intimidating, but don’t you have Death Stars and Star Destroyers for that?
Fortnite, the wildly popular (and highly addictive) video game of 2018, is back — with a new line of themed toys just in time for summer 2019. Hasbro revealed that it’s teaming up with the gaming brand on eight different Nerf dart blasters and super soakers that will be released on March 22, 2019.
Announced at the New York Toy Fair 2019, the Fortnite x Nerf line is inspired by the same weapons used by the characters in Fortnite, imitating the same style and color scheme. There are five types of dart blasters and three types of super soakers that kids and parents can choose from.
In terms of dart blasters, there are some smaller versions that shoot micro-darts and another one that’s shaped like the Loot Llama. However, the real highlight is likely the AR-L Elite Dart Blaster. Equipped with a motorized shooting system and a 10-dart clip, it retails for .99, the most expensive of the bunch.
As for the water guns, you can select the standard super soaker, the pump action model, or the colorful rocket launcher. Of the three, the TS-R Super Soaker Water Blaster Pump Action is the largest, holding up to 36 fluid ounces (1 liter) of water.