US spies use custom video games to learn analytical skills

Spies now study video games to improve their craft - Image 1The Cold War may have ended a long time ago, but that doesn't mean that spies can rest on their laurels. In fact, US intelligence agents have been keeping busy lately. Doing what, you may ask? Why, studying video games in order to improve their analytical skills.

It seems that DIA analysts have now joined the likes of surgeons in using video games for training. More on this unorthodox method of training in the full article after the jump.

Sudden Thrust is one custom game designed for DIA analysts - Image 1Sudden Thrust is one custom game designed for DIA analysts - Image 2Sudden Thrust is one custom game designed for DIA analysts - Image 3


It would seem that a new generation of U.S. intelligence agents requires new methods of instruction. Just ask the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and contractor Concurrent Technologies. The two organizations recently secured the delivery of three PC games for the purpose of training students to analyze complex real world issues.

Visual Studios developed the games Rapid Onset, Vital Passage and Sudden Thrust under a US$ 2.6 million contract between the DIA and Concurrent Technologies. In all of them, players assume the role of a young DIA analyst. Each game has its own way of making the student think.

Visual Studios Rapid Onset, for instance, has the player analyzing such implications of a Chinese purchase of an ex-Soviet aircraft carrier using the Eight Questions of Intelligence Analysis. Vital Passage is a whodunit wherein the player must figure out who really attacked a tanker during the Iran-Iraq War of 1988.

Finally, while Sudden Thrust involves that of a crisis situation - terrorists sailing a hi-jacked natural gas tanker into New York Harbor - it really focuses on epistemology. Players are supposed to use whatever limited and inconclusive information is at hand to determine what the terrorists are up to, and then send the analysis to the Secretary of Defense.

With these three Visual Studios game, the DIA intends to train all personnel from rookie agents to old hands in need of refresher courses. With the amount of space and the number of instructors limited, the DIA estimates that every hour spent in training saves the students classroom instruction time, plus travel time and expenses for those working overseas.


Rapid Onset and Vital Passage are also used to train DIA analysts - Image 1Rapid Onset and Vital Passage are also used to train DIA analysts - Image 2Rapid Onset and Vital Passage are also used to train DIA analysts - Image 3