System Technology For Simulating Reality
"Today, personal computers and graphics cards have created an affordable platform for supporting games for entertainment, military training, medical education, and global communication. Though the entertainment and military communities had diverged through the 1970’s and 1980’s they became reacquainted toward the end of the 1990’s. Military simulations like Simulator Networking (SIMNET) and Modular Semi-automated Forces (ModSAF) were uniquely military, but beginning to explore the graphic tools emerging from academic research laboratories and commercialized by companies like Silicon Graphics and Evans & Sutherland. On the entertainment side, games like STEEL PANTHERS and CLOSE COMBAT carried a very strong military theme, while SIMEARTH and CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN went off in a uniquely entertainment direction.
The growing power of the personal computer allowed some of the military simulations to migrate from large institutions to individual hobbyists. Traditional military training games like JANUS and parts of SIMNET were recreated in a gaming form and sold for entertainment. The SPEARHEAD game was jointly created by an entertainment company and a defense company comprised of some of the original developers of SIMNET."
Computer Classic: "System Technology" circa 1960 System Development Corporation
Little World Wars Simulated
"Simulation and gaming as tools of warfare has a long history. At least as far back as the Roman Empire, commanders used sand tables with abstract icons to represent soldiers and units in battle. These allowed leaders to visualize and manipulate a small physical copy of the battlefield. It allowed them to see information in geographic perspective and enabled multiple players to pit their own ideas against one another. Though the visual representation provided the initial value of the practice, creating a playing board upon which multiple options could be compared proved to be even more powerful. These tools allowed leaders and their staff members to compete against each other or against historical records in an attempt to determine which would be the most effective (Perla, 1990)."
"The sand tables begat miniature gaming as both a military tool and a form of entertainment. Fred Jane, pioneer of the series of reference books on military weapons data, created the “Naval Wargame” in 1903 as a military tool and shortly thereafter H.G. Wells, the famous author of War of the Worlds, published the book Little Wars in 1913 in which he described the use of miniature tokens and terrain boards for both military training and entertainment. From these roots sprung a century of the use of miniatures in planning military operations."
"The RAND Corporation created a system to present theater-level warfare in a form that would allow more mathematically accurate combat than that found on the sand tables and the board games of earlier centuries. They were charged with integrating the effects of the newly created nuclear arsenal, as well as developing strategies for defending against nuclear attack. Without direct experience with these weapons, wargaming was one of the few ways to explore their potential on the battlefield and in international relations."
The RAND Corporation & Interactive Games
"The military has been using games for training, tactics analysis, and mission preparation for centuries. Each generation has had to wrestle with the personal and public image of a game being used for something as serious as planning warfare in which people’s lives are at stake. During the opening years of the 21st century, the industry faced a renewed version of this question with the widespread use of computer games taken directly from the entertainment industry. For example, the Americas Army project is based on the Unreal-2 Engine (Davis et al, 2003 and Zyda et al, 2005) from Epic Games and DARPA’s DARWARS Ambush product is derived from Operation Flashpoint by Bohemia Interactive Games. Other agencies have converted Doom and Half-Life, or licensed products like Gambryo or the Havok physics engine to create military training systems. The questions, perceptions, and compromises that these projects face today are not new; they have been experienced by previous generations of engineers who attempted to leverage technologies from other domains. The mathematical models, paper board wargames, and miniatures that were adopted in previous centuries were met with the same types of apprehension that computer games face today. This article paints a broad picture of the history of the use of games by the military, the perceptual issues around that use, and the progress that has been made over many centuries. "
"By the 1950’s, two independent inventors introduced the paper board wargame with cardboard military markers and a table of combat results for calculating attrition and movement. The RAND Corporation created a system to present theater-level warfare in a form that would allow more mathematically accurate combat than that found on the sand tables and the board games of earlier centuries. They were charged with integrating the effects of the newly created nuclear arsenal, as well as developing strategies for defending against nuclear attack. Without direct experience with these weapons, wargaming was one of the few ways to explore their potential on the battlefield and in international relations."
"If these board games had come only from RAND, they may have been considered just a tool for military planning and training. However, Roberts used his creation to create the commercial entertainment company Avalon Hill in 1958 (today part of the Hasbro Company). He popularized wargaming as a hobby and a form of entertainment for those interested in trying their hand as military leaders. These games attracted a significant following of people who were well educated and sometimes experienced as military leaders. They found in this genre the opportunity to express their knowledge and to build small businesses based on their own creations."