The United States Navy has just launched its latest ‘Virginia Class’ submarine. Designed as a reconnaissance and attack vessel, the submarine boasts a number of cutting-edge developments, including an upgraded periscope system. But it’s one of the cheapest components that will have young gamers reevaluating their career choices.
Rather than using a traditional control system, the submarine uses an Xbox controller for its periscope movements. Importantly, this is not a customised controller or something that has a striking resemblance – it’s exactly the same controller that sits in your lounge.
A spokesperson for the Navy said that this is part of a larger strategy designed to increase instinctive behaviours in submariners, pointing out that it’s easier to learn skills when using equipment you’re comfortable with.
This speaks to a broader military strategy that is coming into effect around the world. It’s no secret to anyone that gaming has touched the realm of realism, especially over the last five years. Now, with the advent of drone technology, good gamers are in high demand. With tank warfare, submarine battles and drone attacks almost entirely online now, many young gamers are better qualified, and have more practice, than professional military tacticians.
But this enters into murky ethical waters. Not only regarding the fact that – at least to a certain extent – children are being trained to be lifelong virtual warriors, but also the dehumanisation of war in general.
The argument has been made that within a few generations, virtual warfare will be utterly indistinguishable from war itself. As gaming technology advances and more and more young gamers become professional virtual soldiers, will deaths be measured as points, and strategy rooms come to resemble gaming conventions? As ridiculous as that sounds, with upgrades in global defence and offence capabilities, including Japan, China, Russia and the United States, it may be that the next great war will be fought online, but with real-world consequences. That means that countries will not be able to afford to ignore the talent that is sitting on a couch, playing Xbox.