Thursday, February 12, 2009

Games vs. the Wizards of Grep

Games are making a big splash in the military training world. They offer beautiful graphics, simplified user interfaces, and low cost to entry. But some people question whether they are really valuable simulations. They point to the lack of detail in some models and the singular focus on direct fire combat engagements. But that is the same way that a lot of simulation have entered the inventory. One of the earliest models, CARMONETTE, was introduced in 1953. The first version contained only tank-on-tank combat with a little anti-tank play. Each year new capabilities were added - infantry in version 2, helicopters in version 3, and communications in version 4.

Games are going to evolve like that as well. They are being introduced in their sweet spot. Once they are running well in that specialty, they will grow into other areas. We will discover how to apply them to situations that are unique to the military and that have not be perfected in the commercial entertainment space. Such perfection in the entertainment world requires 100's of millions of dollars and many years of trail-and-error product launches. They are not going to do all of that work for functions that draw in 10 or 100 customers.

Remember when all computers were used from the command line? We all learned cryptic commands like ls, grep, chdir, chpwd, and hundreds more. With these and their endless list of arguments we could invoke thousands of different actions on the computer. But then we were presented with X-Windows, the Mac interface, and Windows. These hid the magic commands and allowed anyone to hunt-and-peck their way through a set of menus to invoke the same actions. The Wizards of Grep all proclaimed, "too slow", "for amateurs", "not flexible", "can't really see what is happening". But these interfaces opened the door to millions of new users of computers. They allowed people to use the machines without becoming wizards and they eliminated a lot of the tragic mistakes that even experts made. (Remember your first accidental "rm -rf" command? ...oops...) This led to computers as artistic devices, multi-media machines, and replacements for all office equipment.

Games will do for simulation, what windows and Windows have done for desktop computing. They are also undeniable and unstoppable.

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