New video game to shape the Army’s future force

Are you a soldier who likes playing video games? If you're an active duty servicemember, chances are the answer is yes, as video games are a popular past time for those serving in the Army. Now, the military will be leveraging soldiers' love and aptitude for video games with Operation Overmatch, an online game that will contribute to the development of the future fighting force.

What is Operation Overmatch?

Operation Overmatch, initiated by the U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, is an online, multi-player game. Its goal is to boost combat effectiveness. This endeavor {Operation Overmatch} is an online gaming environment whose goal is to create two-way communication between soldiers on the one side and the developers, engineers and scientists on the other side. 

While it might seem like the Army is merely providing people with a new game to play, there's a real-world component to Operation Overmatch. The army reported that it is actively seeking soldiers to play and provide feedback.

"The army is actively seeking soldiers to play the game."

"Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field – the strengths and weaknesses," explained Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. "And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon – how to adapt quickly."

The service's Training and Doctrine Command and Army Game Studio has been developing the game since 2016. Soldiers will get to beta-test machines they pilot in the game and see if weapon and armor concepts are worth pursuing before the Army orders real-life prototypes.

The game will allow players to select among thousands of options for certain predetermined capabilities, such as weapons, caliber and robotics, and use these in an "adversary threat platform" to determine effectiveness. After playing the game, the soldiers should provide feedback on the concept and capability of the prototypes and how they would likely play out on the battlefield.

For now, developers are still in early stages, but beta-testing is scheduled to begin in October. However, while soldiers will get a chance to play, the game is focused more on gear than tactics, and the viability of proposed or experimental weapons.

Applying video game skills to the real world

Some people might be wary about using skills learned in video games in real-life combat situations. Others might even be skeptical that there are any skills to develop by playing video games.

According to data from Pew Research Center, 26 percent of all adults thought most video games were a waste of time, while slightly fewer respondents (24 percent) thought the opposite. A similar disconnect can be seen among people who believe video games develop strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

However, a recent study showed that playing video games strengthens a range of cognitive skills, according to the American Psychological Association. The study found that three-dimensional environments and the need to solve complex puzzles necessary to successfully navigate video games improved a host of skills, including:

  • Spatial navigation
  • Reasoning
  • Memory
  • Perception

"This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Isabela Granic, PhD, the lead author of the article.

Another finding unearthed by the researchers was that the ongoing failures that accompany video game trials and tribulations help build emotional resiliency.

By helping to further strengthen these cognitive skills, problem-solving abilities and building resilience in the face of failure, video games make the perfect tool for soldiers. When mixed with the prototyping options available for new gear, these training capabilities should serve to further strengthen our military.