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CIA plans counter-terrorist sim

Too ambitious?

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

According to a report on The Washington Times website, the American CIA is planning to spend millions of dollars developing a videogame to help analysts think like terrorists. It's a project - underway at the Counter Terrorist Center and Los Angeles-based Institute for Creative Technologies (part of the University of Southern California) - aimed at helping them "think outside the box". At which point most of the people we've spoken to about this comment: "Why not think inside the box? They're all a bunch of sodding terrorists anyway!"

It sounds like a very complicated game. According to CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield, the goal is for "our analysts to become accustomed to looking at the world from the perspective of the terrorists we are chasing." CIA analysts will be able to play as an analyst (hrm), operations officer, US Customs agent, someone close to the terrorists, or even terrorist cell leaders or members, money movers or facilitators on the opposing side. "Analysts would have to think and act inside the character they choose or are assigned," according to Mr. Mansfield.

However we're a bit dubious - even the best developers in the world would have trouble turning out a game with enough critical incidental detail to make any sort of counter-terrorist exercise a worthwhile training tool, and surely the terrorists are only ever going to be as realistic as the developer's vision of them? At which point one has to ask - is this going to help analysts think like terrorists, or is it going to help analysts think like analysts trying to think like terrorists? To us, it sounds like folly (and judging by the ranks of naysayers hauled up by The Washington Times, we're not the only ones).

But for a government that thinks games like this are a good way to take the risk and expense out of training exercises ("We don't call them games; we call them computer-based training aids." - Institute executive director Richard Lindheim), and has already shelled out $45 million on Full Spectrum Warrior, this unnamed CIA terrorist sim probably sounds like the next logical step. If it gets the green light, we'd love to have a go on it someday, even if it sounds a lot like the US Government's Black & White...

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