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War Games

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America's Army

One of the most popular video games of all time, America's Army has been played by more than 9 million individuals. But it was actually developed to aid U.S. Army recruiting and has become one of the most successful military recruiting tools. A 2008 study found that 30 percentof all Americans age 16 to 24 had a more positive impression of the Army because of the game and that the game had more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined. Once in the military, the gaming platform has also begun to be used for various training applications, including recently for robotic systems that use video-game like controllers modeled after the ones used to play the game.

Related: Meet the Sims ... And Shoot Them By P.W. Singer

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Gator Six

Gator Six is built around 260 realistic video clips that simulate many of the difficult judgment calls that a young officer might have to make in modern wars. Designed with the help of 20 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, there are no right or wrong answers, just realistic situations presented that a young captain has to decide what to do about. Dave Henderson of the Directorate of Training and Doctrine at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, who first commissioned the project, told the Washington Post: "Gator Six teaches captains not what to think but how to think. That's a critical distinction."

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Army 360

InVisM's Army 360 program is a series of 11 "choose your own adventure" style mission episodes that take place in present-day Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The player chooses from four or more decision paths at various points in the mission, which ultimately lead to as many as 20 different outcomes for each mission. Produced by Ken Robinson, a 24-year Special Forces veteran, the goal is to prep soldiers for the real conundrums that they might experience when deploying into different cultures. For instance, upon hearing a burst of AK-47 fire, an infantry patrol leader might mistake a wedding celebration for an ambush, taking the game down a far more dangerous pathway.

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Saving Sergeant Pabletti

In Saving Sergeant Pabletti, a team's drill sergeant is hit by a stray bullet and the leaderless troops must learn how to work together to save him. But hidden inside the program are various values the military wants real world troops to learn. The program, produced by WILL Interactive, was originally developed after the Tailhook scandal to help teach what is and isn't sexual harassment, but has since been used in a variety of situations. Indeed, after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, the Army required the replacement soldiers to play it on the plane over to Iraq.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is perhaps the most financially successful package of entertainment ever. Developed by Infinity Ward, the game did $310 million worth of sales in its very first day. By comparison, the current movie blockbuster Avatar did a measly $27 million on day one. But another comparison might be even more appropriate illustration of the phenomenon of militainment and how the American public's interface with war is changing. Roughly 70,000 young Americans chose to join the U.S. Army in 2009. By contrast, 4.7 million chose to spend Nov. 11, 2009, playing this video game version of war at home, most of them not even realizing it was Veteran's Day.

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Virtual Iraq

Games are even being turned to after the fight. Virtual Iraq is an "immersion therapy video game" designed to help veterans better cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. Through such virtual battle training systems, veterans re-experience the trauma of combat, from the sight and sounds to even the smells, but in a safe clinical environment that allows them to learn how to manage the stressful memories. Dr. Albert Rizzo, the director of the Virtual Environments Lab at the University of Southern California, who helped develop the program, told the New York Times, "It's a hard treatment for a very hard problem."

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