Technology 3 min read

Ender's Game is Real as U.S. Army Recruits Gamer Pilots

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Military drones can now be operated by young gamers whose prowess meet the requirements of the U.S. Army. Joystick in hand, these one-time video game enthusiasts can now play “for real” and pilot a drone on the other side of the world. Some of you immediately think of Ender’s Game.

Many countries are developing, deploying, and investing in drones. The drone industry and market are growing exponentially. A report by Goldman Sachs predicts that global spending on drones, including the commercial and civil sectors, will surpass $100 billion USD by 2020.

The U.S. Army continues to conduct drone air strikes against terrorist groups and now, many of their recruits were skilled gamers before taking up joysticks against ISIS.

The U.S. Army: Game Fairs as Recruitment Fairs

There is a long relationship between the entertainment industry and war. In 2002, the U.S. Army developed “America’s Army,” a first-person shooter game designed to evaluate potential gamer recruits from an early age.

Many U.S. Army Shadow Platoon drone operators were recruited for their gaming prowess.Click To Tweet

A keen video gamer fights for hours a day in virtual wars thus acquiring reflexes and abilities (patience, concentration, dedication, precision, hand-eye coordination and stress resistance) that armies require. There is no better place to find mentally fit candidates than competitions and game fairs that attract thousands of hardcore gaming enthusiasts. The U.S. Army uses video games for promotional purposes, but also to groom soldiers and drone pilots alike.

Many of drone operators in the Shadow Platoon who fight ISIS in Iraq are gamers. They are recruited in their early twenties and trained to do the job of a drone pilot. From unidentified locations on American soil, behind a joystick and a screen, these gamer-soldiers pilot the RQ-7Bv2 drone, aka The Shadow, which stalks real targets thousands of miles away.

Obviously, the U.S. Army’s program differs from Ender’s Game. The U.S. army recruits are not prepubescent teenagers nor are they lied to about the reality of their function. Shadow Platoon pilots know very well that their drones are conducting violent attacks on living targets.

The Drone Gamer

Released in 1985, Ender’s Game is a novel by Orson Scott Card (made into the eponymous 2013 movie) that recounts the fate of a child turned unwitting teen war hero. The war against the Buggers, an insectoid alien race, rages on throughout the story. Ender Wiggin is a gifted child who was sent to a school to be trained as a strategist and future soldier. Believing he was training on a simulator, Ender actually commanded a real army. Therefore, he unscrupulously, as in a video game, sacrifices his ships and crews in order to claim victory.

A drone “gamer” in the Shadow Platoon is well aware that they are in a real war. However, they are not immune to its aftereffects. Airstrikes are not without psychological traumas, especially when there are innocent victims and unnecessary collateral damage.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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