Videogamers make good weapon turret operators

It turns out videogamers are good at operating remote control weapon turrets on U.S. fighting vehicles.

[LEFT] "The accuracy of the fire, and uncanny speed with which the CROWS gun moves so quickly and deliberately, is due to something few officers expected. The guys operating these systems grew up playing video games. They developed skills in operating systems (video games) very similar to the CROWS controls. This was important, because viewing the world around the vehicle via a vidcam is not as enlightening (although a lot safer) than having your head and chest exposed to the elements, and any firepower the enemy sends your way. But experienced video gamers are skilled at whipping that screen view around, and picking up any signs of danger. Iraqis are amazed at how observant CROWS is. Iraqis tend to just wrote this off as another example of American "magic.


[LEFT] Many Iraqis, especially the bad guys, get distressed while watching a CROWS turret being exercised by some video game addict inside the vehicle. That’s because the most noticeable part of CROWS, as it swivels and “looks” around, is the machine-gun. Many Iraqis don’t even recognize the vidcam and other sensors. They think the machine-gun is, well, sort of R2D2 with a bad attitude and a license to kill." [/LEFT]

Very interesting. I thought the final paragraph was also worth thinking about:

Meanwhile, inside vehicles like the Stryker [equipped with these remote controlled turrets], the troops do feel like they are in another world. The Stryker is air conditioned, well equipped with electronics (including a sound system you can plug an iPod into) and a lot nicer than the nastiness outside.

I like the fact that our soldiers are safer, so I think remote controlled guns like this are great. I wonder if insulating the gunner from combat has any incidental, negative side effects. When I say “I wonder,” by the way, I really am wondering – I have no idea, it just seems possible – nor am I trying to suggest that it’s better to put people in harms way (because I don’t think it is). Sometimes legitimate improvements in a thing have unfortunate but unavoidable costs, and I wonder if this does as well.

I suspect that yes, there are negatives. There always are (TANSTAAFL and all that). True situational awareness on the ground generally requires exposure, and certainly there are those indefinable sensory cues that you have to be missing sealed up in a box. Then there is the issue of being seen as automatons rather than humans, by the people on the street. Whether all this is in the balance a fair trade off for physical security isn’t something I can say–I’m not there getting shot at!

Wacky. Wish the article had a picture, though.

Your Googley-moogley-fu is lazy.

I hate that the thing is called the Stryker. That makes it sound like a GI Joe accessory I might have begged my parents to get me for Christmas circa 1986.

If it’s any comfort, the thing is apparently named after two real soldiers, Medal of Honor winners.

(I’m sure General Dynamics preferred a name like “Stryker” over naming it after some soldier named “Joe Squisher” or something, but at least the name isn’t complete toy soldier bullshit.)

My main worry about remote controlled weapons is the distancing effect it has, if you can snuff out human lives on a little video game screen while the latest Godsmack song plays on your iPod. But with remote drones and cruise missiles and all that I suppose the door is already open there and isn’t closing.

WW3 would be fought behind computer screens. He who has the better computers wins – after all, if you don’t have to worry about losing your manpower, then all you have to worry about is who can produce the most. It’ll be an RTS turtling grindfest.

…with first-worlders diffidently grinding up third-worlders. I know it’s inevitable, but anything that enables people to kill other people while being distanced from the emotional meaning of that action really worries me.

Yeah well, war is always bad. Losing more people on one side to not be distanced from the ‘emotional meaning’ ultimately doesn’t make it any better. That emotional distancing will allow soldiers to survive ill-waged wars without becoming useless wrecks for the rest of their lives.

War needs to be controlled at the highest level, not the lowest. Dumping emotional baggage on soldiers doesn’t make war any more or less meaningful. After all, it’s not them who choose to go to war – it’s the already distanced politicians and populace.

You can make the same argument about firearms. Using this sort of thinking, we might as well go the whole hog and ask our soldiers to ditch their rifles for swords and clubs. After all, you’re not really getting the FULL KILLING EXPERIENCE unless you can hear your foe whimper and squeal as you twist your sword in his guts.

This sounds a little bit like the conversation that the AC-130 level from CoD4 generated a year ago.

It’s true that it would seem that distancing people from combat would only make it easier to dehumanize ones’ opponents. They’re just dots. They’re just an image. And all I’m doing is pressing a button and making the dots go away. Still, it’s very hard to argue to anyone that it’s a better thing to put troops directly in harm’s way just so they learn a more visceral lesson about war. And while that may seem unnecessarily binary, that’s really what it comes down to. Remote combat isn’t being popularized because it helps inure troops to battle, it’s being popularized because it protects troops. I’m sure on one level it’s less about saving lives and more about protecting human resources, but to the ground trooper that all means the same thing. Him staying out of the sight of a guy with a gun.

This is all well and good until we start fighting enemies who also have robots. Once the robots all kill each other, the people are going to have to pick up weapons and fight.

Not if we’ve built more robots.

Over a dozen posts and no references to The Last Starfigher? Come on, people.

I think you meant to say Ender’s Game.

Ok. Someone get some Wiimotes and build a hack together a real battletech game now in 1080p with surround sound.

No. The Last Starfigher fits better.

Oh good god, we’ve been killing people we’re not seeing since the days of artillery.

I am a big fan of ender’s game and all but…

Last Starfighter fits, (George W. Bush’s favorite movie btw)

Also, this makes sense. Video gamers are good at mechanical joystick based controls? no way…