Gaming Can Make a Better World – Jane McGonigal

Gaming Can Make a Better World – Jane McGonigal

One of the most interesting things I’m doing at Richard Bland is overseeing our first group of interns with The Training Brain Operation Center (TBOC) in Newport News. This internship is part of our R&D as we develop a certificate program in Modeling and Simulation. TBOC is a brilliant and generous partner.

TBOC supports the military by replicating the complexities of the operational environment (OE) through the leveraging of real world data, information, and knowledge in order to enable continuous learning across all U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command lines of operation. They provide scalable exercise design and transformed OE data tailored to a commander’s mission and training objectives.

This is a reach for me as I know little about the complexities of the OE, Doctrine Command, or what is really comes down to . . . gaming. Gaming is a vast and nuanced subject, as I learned when I attended Women ETC , The Virginia Women in Technology Conference where I was exposed to the incredible work of Jane McGonigal. Her premise is that gaming can make a better world and after her presentation, I believe her. You can learn more about her brilliance here.

So, now that I know gaming can teach people an expansive set of skills and have learned that modeling and simulation is a rapidly expanding field used in scientific research, product development, and training in disciplines as diverse as aerospace, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare, I feel moderately up to speed on why today’s students should want to know as much about this field as they can learn. Modeling and simulation bring elements of art, engineering, and science together in a complex and unique way, as is clearly evident at TBOC. Code experts work with videographers, geographers, and animators to build gaming models, visualizations, and exquisitely detailed terrain databases to support Army training and education. “Micro-Simulations” extend existing game engines to solve discreet training challenges, provide new equipment training, and generate time-sensitive training scenarios. Watching these guys work is like a scene from the Matrix.

Four lucky RBC students have received laptops from TBOC, which are installed with special software to allow for their direct contributions to actual TBOC projects. We meet with TBOC content experts twice a week via our on-line learning platform MSVL (Main Street Virtual Learning), to study and practice scripting to affect simulations, 3-D model customization using various state-of-the art software, and terrain building using Google and other maps that are modified with software. These discreet parts are then captured in actual scenarios for training and trouble-shooting real or imagined events. It’s one of the best examples of experiential learning I have ever seen.

Our four students have different goals for their program experience, but they are working very well as a team in their exploration of the world of computer modeling and simulation. Sam wants to transfer to VT to study engineering; Aldo is an avid gamer and wants to explore how games are made to add insight into his study of mechanical engineering; Johnathan is in the ROTC and wants to learn more about coding; and Chris wants to go into game design and is getting a great head start through this internship.

Even in this first year of implementation of RBC-19, we are making good progress in realizing our mission “to expand access to college credentials through strategic partnerships, specialized programming, and scalable innovation” thanks largely to the efforts of the Center for Strategic Initiatives team led by Tyler Hart. This partnership is developing timely and relevant skills that have practical applications in many fields.

Gaming . . . who knew? Next time I see that on a résumé, I’ll have better follow-up questions. 

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