MMO: Department of Defense?

SL China

Thought I might introduce myself here as I am one of the new MMOCrunch writers. My name is Andrew and I am an avid gamer and MMO veteran. My first and favorite MMO is Anarchy Online and cannot wait for Age of Conan to launch. I have played just about every major MMO on the market and Beta tested quite a few. I work in Information Technology so look for some Tech related articles in the future. Hope you enjoy my first article!

For many years, video games have been used as educational and learning tools. Realistic flight simulators have been in use by the United States military for quite some time and even our National Champion LSU Tigers use a modified football video game to run offense and defensive playbooks, but how can online worlds bring education and video gaming together?

Second Life, an online multiplayer game, gives users free range to create whatever they can, using the 3D modeling tools provided. Large communities have been created and an entire virtual world emerged. Many educators saw this as an opportunity to create something unique. Several university and college campuses have been erected on private and public areas, where classes meet and students collaborate. Hospitals are created to educate medical students. Banks and businesses have started to follow suit, experimenting with virtualization of their storefront operations. Even a US Defense Department grant looks to takes video game education to a new level.

With a new SCORM compliant project, the US government takes education to new places, literally. Utilizing a team of programmers, 3D modelers, researchers, and educators, the US Department of Defense has begun building a virtual China within Second Life. Created on its own private island with the aid of photos and maps, the virtual world is being used as a supplement to current diplomatic training to educate US diplomats and other government employees about China’s history, geography, and even how to use Chinese ATM and Subway ticketing machines. More than just text books and slideshows, this training aims to ensure that government agents not only know China, but also how to function within China. If this virtual training succeeds, perhaps the scope of the project will grow to include more places, or even become a public learning tool. Why not model the entire world complete with historical landmarks, storefronts, and people? Learn to interact with people and machines from all around the world. Learn their customs, even their languages, all from this virtual world.

So where does this leave education in the future? Now that major universities and colleges have created there own campuses, can virtual education replace traditional online courses? With more virtual worlds in the works from Google and Sony, will virtual worlds start to become less of a game space and more of a living space? I just wonder how long the lines at the Virtual DMV will be.


  1. Welcome aboard Andrew!

    Great first article. I never even knew that the DoD was even interested in something like this but, I guess it makes sense. What better way to train diplomats of the surrounding area than to actually have them walk around a virtual version of it?

    Kind of makes me want to head on over to Second Life and try to find it. :)

  2. Thank you!

    Unfortunately, as the article states, it is in a private island, though I think it would be an interesting tool if it were to be made public.

  3. Wonderful little intro. What’s the source of your information about the DoD project, out of curiosity? I’m most curious because I find it a bit tough to believe that the project will be SCORM compliant – a bit of a feat considering that there are no standards within SL for tagging learning objects, or much tagging at all, really. Maybe the SCORM components are on an external learning engine? Would love to learn more!

    Also, did a bit of a summary of education in SL (not to self-promote but by way of sharing back) which is here:

  4. My source is someone working on the project. The SL side of things is not 100% SCORM compliant, but the entire project as a whole is, which integrates the SL world into the training using SLURLs.

    That is a great article. Thank you for linking it.

  5. Hmmm …. wow, that’s very cool. Was wondering, so the SLURLs themselves might be the SCORM objects? Anyways, really interesting. We develop a bit of SCORM courseware for DOD so it’s just fascinating to hear about.


  6. Not very sure as my source did not want to get into too much detail about the project. I was quite amazed to hear about it myself.

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