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February 22, 2011

Games That Matter

Tiffany Trader

An article at Game Forward presents a nice overview of the way that simulation programs are being used for military training and disaster preparedness.

One such popular defense tool is a virtual world game called Boarders Ahoy!. Developed by NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, the training simulator prepares sailors for boarding a ship as part of a military inspection process. Users can practice interviewing the crew of the virtual ship, checking identification and locating the game’s 250 searchable objects.

The United States Secret Service is also leveraging the training power of virtual worlds to prepare for national threats. “Tiny Town” is a small-scale model in use for the last four decades, which helps officials plan for such emergencies as chemical threats and enemy attacks. The model now has a 3D computer-generated counterpart, called Virtual Tiny Town. The software’s advanced modeling cabilities can realistically simulate a variety of possible real-life threats, such as chemical, biological or radiological attacks, armed assaults, or suicide bombers. Planned upgrades will enhance the program’s life-saving measures by adding health impacts and crowd behaviors to the model.

Academic institutions are also contributing to the arsenal of public safety measures. The recently-launched Center for Advanced Modeling in the Social, Behavioral and Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins University specializes in agent-based simulation, which predicts how individuals will react in emergency situations. The center draws from diverse disciplines, such as public safety, sociology, economics and supercomputing, to fine-tune its virtual model.

First-response teams, such as the police and fire departments, are using simulation games to practice dangerous tasks that would otherwise require risky re-enactments. Specifically, the firefighters at the Allen, Texas-based station are getting experience with putting out grass fires in swirling winds and carrying out mass rescues in multi-story buildings, so that when the life-threatening scenarios happen for real, they’ll know what to expect and be able to respond to quickly-changing conditions.

While all the simulation tools presented above support different projects, they are united in their life-saving potential.

Full story at Game Forward