Very interesting interview on Gamespot with Dr. Michael Macedonia, the head of the Army’s PEO STRI technology lab, currently operating “Asymmetric Warfare Environment” – the US military’s private MMO.

GS: What was the inspiration for AWE?

MM: I\’e2\’80\’99ll give you the vision, OK? If I went back 3,000 years, we\’e2\’80\’99ve got guys like Homer, finally writing down for the first time the history of the Greeks and the wars against Troy through the story of Ulysses. It was at that moment in time that we went from a verbal culture to a written culture…[Homer] wrote it down and it became literature. Really, what Homer was trying to do was more than entertainment. He was relaying history; he was teaching. And now we have this medium, the game, where we can take people through those experiences much like [Homer] was telling people of the experiences of soldiers in that war. We can do that today in the military and share those stories and save lives because of it.

GS: You\’e2\’80\’99re really touting this as more than just a game.

MM: Well, we call our games tactical decision aids. Our thing is not making people shoot better; it\’e2\’80\’99s making people think better.

Judging from the screenshots, the game seems to be focusing on counterinsurgency methods in Arab urban areas. Which, come to think of it, would be a good spot to learn playing well with many disparate factions some of which we know little to nothing about, like Shi’ites, or camp stealers. What little detail Macedonia goes into on “gameplay” in the interview implies that there isn’t much – all “NPC” roles are played out by human actors, and the game is a platform for, well, military roleplay.

Despite the kneejerk reaction some have to military crossover projects, I’d say there are worse things than training young officers how not to kill civilians at stressful checkpoints.