So, it appears that the U.S. Army is going to be placing coin-operated versions of its successful America’s Army military game at arcades through the U.S.
For those who might not be familiar with the line of games, America’s Army is a large-scale branded, multiplayer combat game offered for free by the U.S. Army as a brand engagement and recruitment tool aimed at youth culture.
Players, after going through some initial basic training in both physical movement and marksmanship modeled after real-world U.S. Army training, can play round-based matches that focus on either achieving specific military objectives or just eliminating the opposing team. Ultimately, after unlocking new training missions through play, players can actually become certified as combat life savers, Special Forces, snipers, and vehicle pilots. In kind of an amusing twist, the game actually punishes players for violating Rules of Engagement, sending them to a virtual Fort Leavenworth military prison if they engage in too much friendly fire.
The coin-operated version doesn’t seem to include all the same features of the original multiplayer game and instead focuses on eight “target shooting challenges” that test accuracy, teamwork, Rules of Engagement and target identification. Interestingly enough, apparently this means that the game can be placed in a wider variety of areas than a typical shooting game that involves actual violence. This was a pretty smart move on the part of the Army and Global VR, the arcade game’s developer. The arcade box itself looks rather similar to those standard for other upright shooting games at arcades.
I’m going to be very interested to see how this is received by arcade owners. I remember back when America’s Army first came out, there was a bit of controversy about what exactly the Army was hoping to achieve by offering free video games for download. The obvious answer is a positive brand experience coupled with the potential for recruitment. Some of the more nasty criticism at the time centered on its potential usage as a propaganda tool or the potential for it to be used to measure specific players aptitudes for potential types of army training.
For what it’s worth, I played America’s Army from about the time it came out (I was in college) to about two years ago, and I still dust off the download from time to time and join back in. It never really made me want to join, but it provided a lot of information about the U.S. Army that I probably would never have known otherwise (Like, combat life savers are different than medics. Who knew?). And, in general, it left me with a pretty good feeling. It’s incredibly smart for the Army to attempt to reach the gamer subsection of youth culture on ground they’re familiar with.