Vol. 76, No. 3External submissions

Air Force recruits take video ‘challenge’


The U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service has developed a free online video game interface to introduce future airmen — and a generation of gamers already in Air Force Blue — to Air Force mission concepts, tactics and strategies through arcade-style gameplay.

Part puzzle, part test of Air Force knowledge on how to develop, deploy and deliver peacetime and combat missions, the Airman Challenge game focuses on the spirit of adventure that attracts people to service. It also reminds those currently serving of the bigger scope of the missions that airmen support everyday worldwide.

"The game is meant to appeal to the Airmen of tomorrow, giving them a perspective on the many ways in which the modern Air Force is protecting our nation and our coalition partners," says Col. Marcus Johnson, AFRS's Chief, Strategic Marketing Division. "Today's video games are more evolved than the push-button, Space Invaders-type platforms of yesterday. The Airman Challenge video game is an immersive experience that offers an interface where advanced technology and the human meet as entertainment."

The Air Force Recruiting Service sought out game writers to develop a game to attract tech-fluent recruits. Airman Challenge demonstrates how their skills benefit the Air Force, while also showing that the Air Force has an interest in developing their skills further.

Combining demands for weighted decisions and situational awareness in scenarios taken from the headlines, the Airman Challenge video game interface is Internet-based and free on the website.

While intended to target the 18–24 demographic, the game also appeals to serving airmen. Johnson said the game writers communicated with Air Force professionals across many career fields to keep the language, equipment and situations completely accurate.

The art of the game

Most gamers will tell you that what matters most in a video game is its playability. And because Airman Challenge is an online video game, the ability of the interface to support multiple players at the same time is a test to the skill of the game writers, Blockdot.

According to Kate Hansen, the Airman Challenge project lead for GSD&M (the contractors who co-ordinated the video game on behalf of AFRS), the website was load-balanced and load-tested in anticipation of heavy traffic. To date, the game has had nearly one million visitors.

Hansen said the average user is expected to play the game for between 20 and 30 minutes, during which time a gamer can play two or three missions, but the game currently has 11 missions already "live" and can accommodate additional missions as well as any adjustments and enhancements.

As experience points are earned through successful missions, gamers rise in the ranks from Airman 1st Class up to Brigadier General, giving a sense of achievement that contributes to online gaming enjoyment. Users can also use either their Facebook profile picture or a selection of avatars to identify themselves in the game.

"Airman Challenge cannot be played as an app through the Facebook interface at this time, but users can automatically — and manually — share various achievements from the game via Facebook Connect when they sign in with their Facebook account," says Hansen. "And because there's a leaderboard in place for Airman Challenge, there's an element of competitiveness around which gaming communities develop."

To date, more than 200,000 ranks have been earned by gamers.

For more information: www.airforce.com

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