America's Army: Proving Grounds returns to basic training

Title America's Army: Proving Grounds returns to basic training
Author Nick Diamon
Posted in News
When August 29, 2013

America's Army: Proving Grounds, the controversial free game and recruiting advertisement, from the United States Army launches today on Steam. It's got all your multiplyer hoo-rah military shooting and running, but sponsored by an actual armed force..

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I wouldn't say it's 100% free. Didn't I technically fund it through the world's largest Kickstarter? (I totally stole this joke from a podcast.)

I always get a little irked when I see people knock on Army recruitment efforts. There's plenty to criticize about how the U.S. approaches military matters, but--having spent time as a high school teacher--there are a lot of kids for whom a military career is PERFECT. And I don't mean because of some sociopathic lust for violence.

Better criticism should come down to whether or not the game accurately depicts combat situations. It should be more ARMA and less Call of Duty.

I agree... with both points but about the gameplay I think it needs to be fun but I think the fun comes from the "hardcore" experience. The training stuff I remember as neat but then it kind of fizzled in the fun department when it becomes a rote multi-shooter.

I wish the ARMA people were more contracted into this.

I was making fun of America's Army as a recruitment effort because it's a terrible representation of teamwork, tactics, or really anything related to the military. As a ten-year vet of the US Army, I can say that making a goofball version of team deathmatch to recruit young people to be soldiers is idiotic.
I do agree that something like Arma would be a better choice to present the kinds of combat movement and options that a soldier would deal with. Unfortunately, you're not going to get as many kids to jump into the recruiting van to play videogames while a recruiter gathers their email addresses with Arma as you would a Call of Duty knock-off.

Is ARMA the gold standard as a representation then?

Anyway, if it attracts recruits, does it matter how it attracts them? The US Army still has standards, right? So it's not like they're letting just anybody in. I know they lowered their standards a few years back, but even so.

Would you say that for most recruits their impression of what a military career was going to be like is vastly different from the reality?

Also, because of Internet, I want to be clear - I'm not snarking over anything, I'm genuinely curious.

Well, I can't directly speak about recruiting methodology because I wasn't one while I was in, but I do think associating service in the Army with a videogame is problematic. Most kids have completely incorrect assumptions about what being a soldier is going to be like. (You'd be surprised how many people still think a Drill Sergeant can hit them during Basic Training.) Additionally, the standards for joining really aren't THAT high, so starting off by attracting applicants incorrectly strikes me as bad way to begin the soldier/service relationship.

As for Arma being the gold standard, I think there are issues with that game, such as the UI, but it's pretty good. The BI folks supply a real-world videogame training system to a few Eastern Bloc countries that's based on the Arma code. I don't think people interested in quick capture the flag type shooter gameplay will like it.

AAPG has a hard core mode that makes it much more like the tactical, old school FPS. It's more lethal, more difficult, more about the immersive experience than run and gun. It requires planning, communication, strategy. Its non-linear in that you'll want to choose your equipment and weapon loadout - site, grenade types and plan your route to take the objective. You also have to communicate with your team and the HUD is minimized so there's no crosshair, hit markers, 3D pips above teammates. Its a good cross between simulation and a modern shooter and the game experience you might be looking for.

Update: these guys did a good write that explains it better

I have been very leery of this series since the first America's Army was announced. While I think these can be interesting educational tools (speaking as someone with zero military background), I'm also suspicious of the idea that videogames are appropriate tools for recruiting new soldiers by the U.S. Army or any other standing army. This is the main reason I've never actually played one of these games.

The big question about these efforts is simply this: whether games provide an accurate window into what it is really like to be a member of the armed forces and a combatant in a war zone. I strongly suspect that the answer is no. Thus I find the whole premise of luring kids into service by convincing them that real-world combat is similar to a first-person shooter distasteful and disingenuous.

This is shutting down. Crazy how long these games were popular enough to keep going for so many years.

Wow, I totally forgot about this game. I’m surprised the servers were still up and running. I wonder if they were managed by the Army. I’m picturing some soldier getting “server duty” in 2002, sitting in a tiny room making sure a rack of Pentium 4 era computers kept humming, and making daily tape backups. Now it’s 20 years later and that soldier is retiring with full benefits. Nice!

I remember about, um, 20 years ago, when I was at the magazine, the devs for this came by and did a demo, etc. I played it for a bit, just to see what was up. IIRC, it was ok.

It hasn’t had a major update in a long time.

It was fine in the early days, but then better Milsim games came around.

The dozen or so people still playing are going to be majorly bummed out.