The Good and Bad of 'Warfare' Video Games

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HAMPTON ROADS, Va. -- With more than 17 million views of its YouTube trailer and 1.2 million-plus fans on Facebook, the first person shooter game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" may be the most anticipated game in history.

"The video games have evolved to where it's much more realistic. To where you are using real world tactics and not so much the Rambo running out there," explained Christopher Wratten, owner of the Ballahack Airsoft Field used for the replica shooting game "airsoft."

"When they make those games, they use that military expertise in guys telling them the kit they wear, the tactics they use, the style of weapons," added retired Navy SEAL Don Shipley.

War Gaming and the U.S. Army

The increase in popularity for war games has not gone unnoticed by military recruiters.

The United States Army has spent nearly $33 million developing its own first person game titled "America's Army." The game is available as a free download from the Army's website.

"The military is certainly switching its tactics and training to get the video game culture," Shipley said.

"The young guys, they do come to this very well. They're very easy about it," explained retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Donald Campbell.

While the technology might look familiar to recruits, its purpose is much different. Campbell is in charge of simulation operations at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Va.

"Not everything is combat related. You have to get to the combat. So how do you get there? You have to train. You've got to sail," he explained. "There's a lot of things that happen when you get there."

"That is one of the benefits of simulation -- the salvation of deployable equipment," Campbell continued.

But it's not all about cranes and ships on the base.

Known as the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, the simulator has become standard throughout the Army. It allows soldiers to practice their marksmanship when visiting a range may not be an option.

Closer to the Real Thing

With 99 acres, the Ballahack Airsoft Field is one of the largest on the East Coast, and Wratten says his sport is much closer to the real thing.

"Airsoft is basically a sport that evolved out of paintball. They turned paint ball into wood balls -- more scenarios, more reaction, more warfare style," he explained.

"You're playing a video game. It doesn't get any better than that, but it can because you're playing it in person with real people," he added.

Dr. Jennifer Ripley is director of the psychology and counseling school at Regent University. She believes there may be a benefit to this war style game.

"What's good about them is that there is exercise involved in it, and so there is a physical excretion and that is a good thing to be able to handle aggression," she said.

"When you can sit in an easy chair and play that video game is one thing. When you actually come out and do it, it's a wake up call," Shipley said.

Shipley operates the Extreme Navy SEAL Experience -- a camp that gives attendees a glimpse of what it's like for the elite special forces unit.

"Most guys get really super motivated when they come down here and do this training," he said.

"In a video game, you go in there and you're just basically immortal. You're just mowing people down," Shipley continued. "But here. you take things a lot slower. You got guys depending on you. You actually have to think, because there's not a reset button."

Concern About Violence

Although this style of game play can help players relieve aggression, Dr. Ripley added that the violence in shooting games may also be a cause for concern.

"The realism of violence in video games has been very concerning to psychologists around the country, because it is very clear that video games provide a script for aggression," she explained.

Wratten offered a similar caution to the millions of fans and followers seeking realism through video games.

"When you're playing the video games like Modern Warfare, you're basically playing the Hollywood version of the military," he said.

"It's very different in the real world than in the video games and I have a lot of friends that have made that very clear," Wratten added. "It's very serious when you're out there."

--Published Dec. 5, 2011. 

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.