The same game engine used to develop games like Batman: Arkham City, and the Gears of War and Mass Effect Series is now being licensed to the FBI and other government agencies for the development of training programs, the BBC is reporting. The licensing agreement is between Epic Games and Virtual Heroes, a division of Applied Research Associates (ARA).
Virtual Heroes is in turn licensing the technology to U.S. government agencies through the establishment of the Unreal Government Network (UGN). UGN projects underway include training programs designed to help intelligence offices remain objective in the field when assessing a situation as well as crime scene simulations for FBI officers.
Other applications include medical training in civilian and combat scenarios as well as visualization tools for weapons developers.
Though monetary details were not given for most of the programs, The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is said to have paid Virtual Heroes over $10 million in a multi-year contract to develop training software for intelligence officers.
Up until now, Virtual Heroes has developed Moonbase Alpha, a "serious" game that uses current NASA technology to help the user repair equipment on a fictitious moon base. They have also release Zero Hour: America's Medic, a training simulation that prepares first responders for a "mass casualty incident" like an earthquake or terrorist attack.
This comes after a speech given by Col. Robert White, deputy commander of the Combined Arms Center - Training, at an Army conference in Orlando earlier this week, in which he details the importance of video games in combat training.
"One of my responsibilities is setting the future course for training in the Army," White said. "And as you all know, gaming has a significant role in that future. Every leader struggles with limited time, dollars and resources. Those same leaders know it's better to practice something first before you do it for real in live training. Live training is where our highest risk and greatest expense comes from."
Col. White applauded gaming for its ability to take decision making scenarios to the individual soldier, and the ability to cost effectively complete scenarios multiple times it insure maximum retention.
With the realism present in modern games, it should be no surprise that games are being used in training simulations. The only problem will be attaining those lifelike graphics on a budget that is considerably less than what commercial game developers can afford.