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Taliban infiltrate 'America's Army' - and why that's a good thing

Sep. 3, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A still from the siege map in 'America's Army: Proving Grounds.' The newest game in the Army's franchise emphasizes urban warfare-style training.
A still from the siege map in 'America's Army: Proving Grounds.' The newest game in the Army's franchise emphasizes urban warfare-style training. (Army photo)
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Players in the military’s new first-person shooter “America’s Army: Proving Grounds” just might find themselves facing off against real-world enemies in the online multiplayer game.

While the game’s scenario depicts simulated combat via training exercises using true-to-life weapons and tactics, the game is open and free to the public. In fact, the game serves as a kind of immersive recruiting and marketing tool designed to convey Army values through the fun of a team-based first-person shooter.

But that all-access availability means Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are as free to use the game as anyone else with an Internet connection. In fact, game developers are pretty sure the enemy has already played earlier versions of the franchise.

“We know the Taliban have been playing ‘America’s Army’ for years,” says chief developer Marsha Berry.

Through IP address tracking, she says, she knows the game at least is played at Internet cafes inside Taliban strongholds along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions. “We’ve also heard through other channels they’ve been playing it.”

No worries, she says.

First, by design everyone has to play as the “good guys” in the game.

“Also, there’s nothing in the game play that actually teaches tactics,” so Berry says there’s no concern that enemy fighters could be using the game as a training aid. But with the game’s positive messaging, she is hopeful they are learning something.

“Maybe it’s exposed them to something they didn’t know about our troops, like how great it is to be an American soldier.”

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