The Use of Serious Games in U.S. Air Force Training

Designing Digitally


The Use of Serious Games in U.S. Air Force Training

When it comes to training its personnel, few organizations are more adept and make better use of technology than the United States Air Force. And while all branches of the military offer continuous skills updates to their personnel, the Air Force in particular places great emphasis on the education of its service members. In a national defense environment where more work is being done with fewer active duty personnel, the proper training of these individuals is of the utmost importance.

For any service member, advancing in rank is a function of training – and this is particularly true at the leadership level. At the Air Force’s Air University Squadron Officer College (SOC), officers receive training in how to be effective leaders of men and women in uniform. They also learn how to deal with stressful situations in which lives are at risk and the success of the mission is in their hands.

To meet these challenging goals, the Air Force has turned to innovative technologies like serious games in transforming the learning environment for its SOC. The incorporation of virtual world platforms has given officer trainees an opportunity to experience a variety of scenarios, while practicing their responses in a controlled and safe environment. The result has been a series of vignettes that were designed to allow multiple players to interact with each other in this virtual world training environment. After all, practicing potentially life-threatening scenarios before they’re encountered in the real world is what training is all about.

Virtual world training in a multi-player environment

In developing its virtual world learning platform, the Air Force SOC developed various scenes that could be used to evaluate responses to situations commonly faced by officers. The settings were developed to test responses to conditions in support of professional military education (PME) requirements. Some of the vignettes are short 3 – 5 minute assessments, while others are longer and involve branching scenes and decision tree structures.

Using the virtual world platform it developed, the SOC then decided to expand the program of training with static scenarios by creating multi-player educational role-playing games (MPERPG) in which players can interact in a more dynamic and real-world way. These MPERPG virtual world training sessions allow participants to have the most realistic experience possible outside of an actual real-life setting. Training scenarios include:

  • Responding to an in-flight emergency
  • Air command logistics planning
  • Negotiating and threat reduction
  • Commanding groups of airmen in various response scenarios
  • Directing ground crew firefighting operations
  • Threat detection, isolation and control
  • Rescue activities

The goal of serious games training

When the Air Force SOC set out to develop a virtual world platform for serious games training, their goal was to create a learning environment that challenged participants. They sought a realistic environment that would require learners to be more self-directed, more engaged in the learning process, and to find their own solutions to problems presented to them. And according to the program’s leaders, this goal has been met.

“The Air University uses technology innovations to transform learning environments in an effort to keep them efficient, effective, relevant, and adaptable to tomorrow’s challenges,” according to Lt. Gen David S. Fadok, commander and president of Air University.

Using this combination of individual problem solving and multi-player group decision making, learners are able to develop the skills necessary to succeed when they’re placed in the field. And if the success of SOC’s serious games training thus far is any indication, the future looks bright for MPERPG and other virtual world training across all of the military branches.

If you’d like to learn more about serious games, 3D training simulations and virtual world development for training your workforce, let us know. Here at Designing Digitally, we specialize in creating customized training for any type of organization and setting. We’ll work with your learning and development team to design the right solution for your needs, and the needs of your workforce. We can create learning solutions for mobile devices as well, so training is never out of reach for your employees. Contact us to learn more about all of our capabilities and training solutions.