Sunday, May 22, 2005

U.S. Army Invades Video Game Expo

Despite video games, helicopters and humvees,
the Army says it's not out to recruit gamers.

The U.S. Army is out in full force at the video gamers E3 Expo in Los Angeles this week.

In a tent outside the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Army is offering video game enthusiasts the chance to stand atop a Humvee and use a modified machine gun while playing a part of the America's Army - Special Forces game, projected on three walls at the expo.

Earlier this week, the Army released the latest version of the game, which has more than 5 million registered players.

The game is used to "educate the American public about the U.S. Army and its career opportunities," according to the game manual.

At the Expo every morning, a group of "Golden Knights" parachutists jump from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at 2500 feet into nearby parking lot. And each afternoon, actual Special Forces soldiers run through a "grab mission" with "real equipment, weapons, and uniforms," the Army's Major Chris Chambers says.

Inside, the Army booth "looks like a mud-brick fortress that you might find in central Asia," Chambers says. Gamers don real-world equipment, including Kevlar vests and helmets, and M4 assault rifles. After a combat briefing, "we let them kick the door in, and they're jumping through this room and the enemy is shooting at them," Chambers says. Of course, that shooting is coming from projected screens, again from a part of the America's Army game.

The Army is giving away the game at E3. It can also be downloaded at no cost from the Army's Web site. This expensive show, run by a team of 30, is not a recruiting event, Chambers insists.

"We intend to be a major player in this industry for a long time," he says.


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