Future Force Company Commander (or F2C2) is the follow-on computer game simulation to the very successful America’s Army. It features the the Army’s upcoming Future Combat Systems (FCS) and demonstrates how the high-tech networked army of the future will kick some serious tail. Because it’s designed to:
“They didn’t ask for hole punchers,” says Mark Long, co-CEO of Zombie, where the game was built under contract. “High tech has all kinds of low-tech vulnerabilities and they didn’t want the vulnerabilities programmed in.”
And Susan Nash, an e-learning expert and associate dean at Excelsior College in Albany, New York says the game presents an “artificially rosy view of warfare”:
For example, there’s no consideration that military power or technology could fail or be jammed, she says. And the enemy doesn’t learn, in contrast to a certain real-life conflict where the hallmark of insurgents is their ability to rapidly gain knowledge and evolve.
“All their use of technology is so off-label, so future-forward,” Nash says. “And you’ve got to figure the enemy is playing the game too.”
Long wanted to see the enemy evolve, based on his own experience in the Army and defense contracting.
“The first time a UGV toddles in for reconnaissance, insurgents will stare at it until the air strike follows,” he says. “The second time, they’ll throw a blanket over it and run. The third time, they’ll immobilize it and plant an IED because they’ll have figured out someone has to recover that million-dollar piece of equipment.”
Now, as far as games go, this isn’t terribly newsworthy. Every combat game ever designed presents an “artificially rosy view of warfare”, so to pretend that this is suddenly not acceptable is, well, sort of dumb.
Another problem I have with the angle this article takes is that it presents the game as a misleading recruiting tool:
More than anything else, Nash is bothered by the fantasy the potential recruits may have that they’ll end up the commander riding a joystick rather than understanding what military life means.
“You don’t see the day-to-day boredom, you don’t see broken legs and equipment failure,” she says. “You don’t see that the military is mostly grunts and only the grunts on the ground die.”
I’m not really defending the use of this game as a recruiting device, but I’m also not ready to crucify recruiters because the game doesn’t glorify “day-to-day boredom”, “broken legs”, and “equipment failure”. That’s pretty close to repudiating Need For Speed 3 because it doesn’t focus enough on oil changes, insurance premiums, and hot seats after letting the car sit in a sunny parking lot.
Yes, the military hopes to woo potential recruits with this game. And yes, the game probably overrates FCS. But let’s not get too carried away bashing the military over it. (We should, instead, be bashing the real concerns that FCS projections seem to present an “artificially rosy view of warfare”.