Do you remember all the fuss in the papers after
that first big wave of high-school shootings? Remember all the people
who were quick to blame "point and shoot" video games for the young
killer's ability to shoot so accurately at fleeing targets?
Remember how for a while, there were some sweet Wild West and Police style shooting games that used real video footage which you interacted with in a changing story. Have you noticed how all those sorts of games have completely disappeared from the arcades?
While I don't think playing DOOM or other PC based games where you use a mouse to "aim" at a target can improve your shooting skills one bit, I have no doubts that games where you use a realistic pistol to shoot on-screen targets can help develop a high level of skill in point shooting. In a number of those school shooting, kids with basically no firearms training were firing clean head shots. That is something that professionals have difficulty with. Granted, it wasn't like their classmates were shooting back, but still, they were running or dodging! Where did this ability spring from?
I recently was interested to see what companies were still working on these kinds of interactive point and shoot "games", and what I found confirmed my suspicions 100%. The US Army recently gave $45,000,000 (45 million dollars!) to a university in California to create the Institute for Creative Technologies, a group dedicated to designing EXACTLY these kinds of realistic interactive training devices! Their goal is to create realistic military training, using all of the special-effects and amusement park technologies that have been developed. The deal is that anything they develop can be used by both the Military and Hollywood...Sweeeeet!
Imagine if Walt Disney's new theme park was called "Murder World" and you get the idea! Something that you could run IC's (Individual Combatants) through in Basic Training to teach combat skills. Soldiers could rehearse basic skills, go on missions, learn to interact with virtual civilians - just like being in a total immersive video game. The goal is to use this both as part of basic and advanced MOS skills training, and for the Special Forces. They would be able to configure different virtual settings for SEAL teams to rehearse missions, based on photos and intelligence, for example.
ICT is not the only group working on these kinds of simulators, either. AIS Indoor Simulations have produced simulators for Law Enforcement which use video projected on large screens, and can handle either simulated weapons (laser based or using or a unique compressed air cartridge in a mostly standard service weapon) or can be designed to accommodate live fire with a self-healing projection screen! Additionally, the laser based models are able to react to "less than lethal" weapons such as chemical sprays, flashlights, and batons, allowing for great versatility in training, and levels of progressive force in keeping with police policy.
Reality by Design, Inc. is a spin off company of ICT aimed at purely military simulator research. They have done a fantastic simulator for the US Army known as the Soldier Visualization Station (SVS). Though this system can run on a commercial PC system, it fully accounts for the posture of the soldier (if he kneels down, the view on the screen "kneels") and has a number of other interesting features. Think that's all these is, though? Check out some of the future projects that RBD is working on! Wild stuff! Check out the AIS spin off company, the Nitor Group, for more in the ways of wild projects (look at their photos)
Interestingly, a few weeks back I saw a blip on the TV news about "soldiers using video games" to help them train in squad tactics. They spoke to a developer of the PC game Rouge Spear (based on the Tom Clancey novel) who had worked in helping the Army modify the game's architecture to fit their needs. They then talked to a Sergeant who felt that by playing these games as a squad, his men were better able to appreciate tactical issues in the field. (From a training perspective, this makes sense as well, especially since having a big networked computer system to play games on is a "fun thing" that people would do on their off time.) The local news crew all chattered on about how "advanced that all seemed...using computers like that" - If they only knew the half of it!