Thinking Like Your Opponent
Way back in the 2008 Bowl Championship Series football game, number two ranked Louisiana State University (LSU) defeated (some would say humbled) number one ranked Ohio State in a 38 to 24 victory. In addition to all the strength training, conditioning, and opponent film watching, one other technique used by LSU was to battle their opponents on a videogame screen before facing them physically. As I wrote in an blog post at the time.
The LSU offensive coordinator used a custom-made videogame to help his quarterbacks learn to read defenses. LSU put their offensive plays into the game and then entered in their opponent’s defenses to give their quarterbacks a chance to get accustomed to the different defensive formation they would encounter during the game.
The videogame allows the coaches to make the virtual opponents as difficult and fast as in real life and even faster to hone the quarterback’s understanding of the different defensives schemes and potential blitzes. This forces the quarterback to make decisions quickly. It helps him to make the right reads and get to the right spot. The game provides immediate feedback; instantly, the quarterback can see the results of a decision, an interception, or a touchdown or something in between.
As the article NCAA Football 13: Why This Popular Videogame Is More of a Coach Than a Toy states:
Many gamers credit the NCAA Football series with increasing their knowledge and understanding of the sport. Kyle Coats, a Trinity University football coach, describes these games as teaching tools and says that “though those games aren’t completely on target, they have many realistic elements that help players learn the basics.” Coats continues by saying, “When selecting plays, you scroll through pages of coverages, formations, routes, and blitzes—all named properly and displayed similarly to how any coach would draw things on the board.” In addition to play selection, actual football techniques and fundamentals have also become teaching tools in this new edition of the game.
Another group adding opponents into a videogame for training purposes is the U.S. military. Playing a videogame where players can assume the role of terrorists is something that the U.S. Army not only understands, but actively develops and plays on a regular basis. There is a military unit tasked with using videogame tools and techniques to help soldiers and commanders understand how to not only train smarter, but also to understand how their enemy thinks. Part of that mission is occasionally playing the role of insurgent in a videogame environment.
The adaptation of videogame tools is done under the Joint Training Counter-IED Operations Integration Center (JTCOIC). So now they use videogame technologies to re-create battle situations and then “play” the battle from different perspectives to learn what the enemy was doing and where they were located at the time of the engagement.
The team takes a scenario—whether based on actual events or invented by a trainer—and using a variety of software, creates a 2D or 3D virtual training event of that scenario. With this technology and interface, during training sessions, the warfighters are put into the heat of the battle. Instead of briefings with a slide deck, briefings can take place in a 3D environment and the warfighters being briefed can change perspectives to see multiple views of an engagement. As indicated in a Wired article titled “U.S. Army Turns to Video Games for Training.”
The training is based on actual locations, villages, and events. The geographies are accurate and, more importantly, the activity is accurate. An article in Wired sums up the ability of the JTCOIC team in creating a version of a recent battle in theater.
“There was a five-vehicle convoy. The first vehicle turned the corner . . . and got hit by 400 pounds of deep-buried explosives . . . . following that, there was a complex attack: Insurgents to the east . . . north . . .and south on top of a building, attacking. We produced this product, created the terrain . . . everything . . . and had it done in four days. . . . it was amazingly powerful because what we did was create a transition from the real world of photographs and reports into the virtual world’s polygons . . . now we can see what the bad guys [were] doing and what their point of view was.”
This information is invaluable for decision-makers and warfighters; it allows them to play the role of the insurgent and see what the insurgent saw and then consider ways to counter that activity. The game elements added to the reproduction of battles and events provide extra knowledge and capabilities that would not be available in typical 2D slide presentations.
The US Navy even developed a game to help fight pirates–to encourage gamers to think like the pirates and then think of ways to defeat the pirates. They call it MMOWGLI, its Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet. And the game, according to the article “Navy Crowdsources Pirate Fight To Online Gamers” the game about counterpiracy, as the game encourages players to offer their best suggestions for clearing the seas of the resurgent maritime scourge. But really it is a social experiment to see if crowdsourcing through a game environment can help solve real-world problems.
And you can check it out here.
So next time you need to think like a competitor or a customer, it might make sense to create a game.