FBI exploits the potential of gaming

>By Morton Geertsen.

Last week, GameSpot posted this article called How Video Games Are Improving the FBI. It’s a well-written pierce of information, providing readers with an entertaining and insightful example of how serious games can play a central role in passing on skills and “close to real life” experiences to the staff of the organization. In this case it is The Federal Bureau of Investment – or shorter: FBI – whose game trainer Randy Pargman reveals how though in-game training agents come to understand tactical arrest planning and crime scene investigation. Maybe this example looks more like a simulation than an actual game, but still it’s very cool that the FBI sees the potential of using serious games and game-mechanics on Xbox to educate their trainees! 

Like out of a Matrix film, the digital world makes it possible to instantly and dynamically change the physical environments, taking the recruits from one city to another. Also the game makes it able to present to the recruits a far more interesting tactical environment, as digital worlds are more easily and cheaply builds than real worlds. For that reason, FBI often hears people tell them that the environments we presented them were more interesting and challenging than anything we could ever physically build.

“I have a sneaking suspicion some of the new recruits bring their consoles with them when they enroll in the academy,” Pargman says in the article. “Surprisingly, quite a few of them have never touched a video game controller before, and I have to spend quite a bit of time in class teaching them how to use the thumb sticks. What we’ve started doing is giving them the chance to play around with the games after hours, and it’s no surprise that they love it.”
Pargman briefly expresses his opinion about the future challenges of serious game development: As the gaming audience has grown significantly in the past five years, so has the users’ expectations: With more knowledge and experience, users now know what to expect and are not as easily impressed, as they were in the beginning, when learning games first saw the daylight. In other word, the “astonishment” factor has been diluted a bit, making it a bigger challenge to make a product that is both educational and entertaining.
This puts far more pressure on the creativity and “outside of the box” thinking of developers – as well as on the ambitions of companies wanting to use serious games to train the crew. “These games need to be interesting, engaging, and relevant, so that people who use them will get into it, and then it’s up to the design of the game to make sure that they’re actually learning what they’re supposed to be learning,” Pargman says.
At this point, the reader will not be surprised to hear, that FBI finds the in-game training valuable. FBI is right now experiencing the real benefit to putting into practice the concepts and values taught through visual demonstrations. In fact a large number of new recruits have already expressed the wish to be introduced to the video game training part of the program at a much earlier stage in their training.

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