MMO War Games For The Military

There aren’t a lot of jobs that would allow (I said ALLOW) you to play MMOs at work.  This should come as no surprise, though; clearly there are reasons for that.  There are, however some careers that welcome massively multiplayer online gaming as a part of their work week.  Video game designers.  Blizzard employees. Escapist Magazine reviewers.  The Navy.

Yeah.  You read that right.  The U.S. Navy.

Ah-ah-ah, not so fast shipmates.  This doesn’t mean you can abandon your proverbial (or in some cases literal) ship and hop online to help your guild blaze through the next dungeon.

Okay, lemme explain.

No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.

em2-MMOWGLI-Screen-Shot

Introducing the Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI) exercise.  Ha.  Only the military could create such a crazy acronym for an already complicated acronym to describe online gaming.

Anyway…

MMOWGLI is a joint effort between the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Institute for the Future (IFTF).  It’s an online game designed to crowd source ideas and strategies that may provide insight into some of the Navy’s toughest problems.

Combining the military mission with online gaming, MMOWGLI creates an environment where players are asked to share new ideas and collaborate with others to earn innovation points and win the game.

The em2 MMOWGLI round that’s currently being played is an effort to generate innovative ideas advancing the Navy’s capabilities in the electromagnetic spectrum.

“em2 MMOWGLI is my first crowd sourcing experience and an idea that I viewed with skepticism before joining the fray,” says Gerald O’Donnell, concepts developer at Navy Warfare Development Command.  “Experiencing the game has made me a believer.”

Here are the details:

The game is being conducted at the unclassified level with the field of players limited to dot mil NMCI account holders and others with expertise in the field.

It has turned out to be a rare forum for practitioners of the dark arts of EM maneuver.  This means technical experts and Fleet operators can propose ideas, challenge and expand them, and generate action plans describing what is needed to implement these ideas.

For example…

The game designers asked: How can the Navy make emission control (EMCON) effective?

The discussion thread from this question generated 223 cards that expanded, countered, adapted ideas, and areas to explore. There were a number of ideas proposed that included employing new non-radio frequency communications technology and alternate means to provide positioning, navigation, and timing for ships and combat systems.

Game one and game two have included over 500 registered players and more than 3600 discussion cards.

You want to know why the Navy is doing this kind of gaming?  It’s because we don’t ever want THIS to happen (you have to see this mind-blowing video):

See what I mean?  Let’s not let this scenario become a reality.  Ever.

The real payoff from the game, Jerry says, is the action plans that are authored by players who participated in the discussion. These plans describe the recommended actions, who is involved, what is needed to implement the plans and their payoff for Fleet warfighters.

“As a game master, I am able to view the discussion among the action plan authors and have found some very valuable knowledge and insights there.”

MMOWLI, like all wargames, gives new insights and ideas to be explored and developed — not answers.

“As a warfighting concept developer I’m excited and energized by the innovative ideas I’m seeing,” Jerry said.  “Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) – who is co-sponsoring the game with ONR – is in the unique position of being able to take unrefined new ideas, get subject matter expert evaluation and input, develop them through experimentation and pass the well formed ideas to the organizations who can put them on the path to implementation.”

NWDC also serves as a direct conduit to senior Navy leadership; including Commander, Fleet Forces Command, Commander Pacific Fleet, and the CNO for their call on directing implementation of these innovative ideas to make a difference in the Fleet.

If you are curious about crowd sourcing and have some EM maneuver expertise or ideas, strap on you battle helmet and join the game.  Or just check it out.  Again, how often do you get to play an MMO on-the-job?  That said, you might want to check with your chain of command first.

Registration is easy and automatically granted to those with dot mil e-mail accounts. Others with DoD EM affiliation can request a waiver. Go to: https://mmowgli.nps.edu/em2 to get started.

Game on, guys!

Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.

Gerald O’Donnell, the contributor for this story,  is a game master and player in the Electromagnetic Maneuver (em2) MMOWGLI War Game series.  He is 6th on the leader board of over 500 registered players in game two.  Currently, he works at Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) developing innovative warfighting concepts and is a former AEGIS Cruiser CO & CSG Surface Operations Officer.

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    everybody likes playing games at work.