By Jason B. Cutshaw (USASMDC/ARSTRAT)June 14, 2013
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- One member of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command is playing his part in helping show the American public that ultimately, the Army is about teamwork.
In 2002, Lt. Col. Joseph F. Crocitto, USASMDC/ARSTRAT G-38 Strategy and Policy Branch chief, started playing the online game "America's Army," and now he is helping as a design consultant to ensure its continued success.
"America's Army is the official game of the U.S. Army," Crocitto said. "It is an online, first-person shooter game that is a way for the Army to reach out and get their message across and interest a new generation of heroes. As it became better known, millions of people downloaded the game and it started being played worldwide, and not just in the United States.
"It became very popular, in the gaming community while also getting the Army's message out to the masses," he added. "The premise was to keep it as realistic as possible while still making it a playable game. It is a delicate balance; if you keep it too 'game-y' then you take away some of the pressures and the rewards of teamwork and communication that come along with Army operations. And if you make it too realistic, then you take away the enjoyment of the game. So striking a balance is the challenge when there is a new version or a change to the game."
The U.S. Army released the original version of America's Army, its free, multiplayer first-person shooter designed to be both a recruiting and public relations tool, on July 4, 2002. Since then, there have been more than 25 versions released. To date, more than 9 million copies have been downloaded.
America's Army is a 3D tactical shooter developed by the U.S Army. Part recruitment tool and part PR tool, it is a video game developed by Col. Casey Wardynski, who recognized that a video game might be helpful to the U.S. Army in the strategic communication efforts by providing more information to prospective Soldiers.
"The team's objective and challenge is to produce a game that is engaging as well as based in reality and providing as much realistic feedback as possible," Crocitto said. "I didn't realize the development center for the game is over at U. S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center's Software Engineering Directorate here at Redstone until I received an e-mail asking for input. I contacted them and let them know that I have played the game since its inception and they asked me to help out with the team.
"My experience as an enlisted Soldier as well as an officer with three combat deployments has allowed me to see both perspectives and I have been able to bring a broad perspective to the game," he added. "I have been able to help out and if I do not have an answer, I probably know someone with the expertise that is needed."
To play America's Army, the individual must set up an account. Each account can have multiple online Soldiers associated with it. Once logged in, the player will be prompted to create a Soldier. From there, after each login, the user will be asked to choose the Soldier he wishes to play and accrue experience with. Each new Soldier created will have to go through enlistment and training.
There are multiple roles players can choose from: including rifleman, automatic rifleman and squad designated marksman.
Everything is geared toward the idea of working as a squad of Army Soldiers. Attention to detail is as realistic as possible. Soldiers are armed with all the standard Army weaponry of the day and are outfitted with the latest uniforms and gear.
While killing the enemy is important, just like in the real Army, it is not as important as completing the main objective. Teamwork counts more than if a player tries to be a hero.
"Just like in the Army, the first thing you do in the game is train," Crocitto said. "Players get to go through an obstacle course, learn about equipment and then be incorporated into a team. The biggest message and objective is to work as a team.
"Players learn the value of taking care of the Soldier next to you and placing the mission first," he added.
There is also an online America's Army comic book to go along with the game. The comic adds to the learning experience of the game, and focuses on the benefits of teamwork and staying together.
"In the comic book, we check for interesting pieces of information to link to websites with more detailed information," Crocitto said "It's called an 'Intel' link in the online reader. We also check for consistent dialogue and realistic tactics and coloring. I use my knowledge to help make the final product appropriate and interesting, while not letting it get too far out of bounds with reality."
To check out the game, go to its website at www.americasarmy.com.