Curious what effect sequestration is having on training? Thus far, it has produced a government-industry conference without the government.
The annual Defense GameTech Users’ Conference started Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., but members of the gaming and commercial industries found themselves without the audience they hoped to connect with.
Budget restrictions from sequestration mean that government and military travel to conferences such as GameTech is canceled. Curtailing participation means military trainers and policy-makers who typically attend seeking the latest advances in gaming technology can’t be there in the flesh, though the GameTech organizers are working to make the conference information available.
The keynotes and several smaller presentations will be placed on the GameTech website in the coming days. GameTech is also creating a series of videos that condense the presentations into five- to ten-minute presentations and interviews. These will be uploaded to YouTube in the coming weeks and available for those unable to attend.
Many of the participating exhibitors also set up shop a day before the conference to speak with members from Team Orlando and the training community who are located nearby. And while government employees could not attend the conference, the show is also used for industry networking.
“The military is just one customer,” said retired Lt. Gen. Tom Baptiste, president of the National Simulation Center, which puts on GameTech. “We see emerging opportunities in medical simulation, in transportation, in homeland security, in digital media, in entertainment, and, indeed, in the gaming industry. There’s a lot of business-to-business work being done at this conference.”
Baptiste said that while the number of attendees was down from previous years, with about 200 paid registrants, the content and agenda were among the best he has seen. Upcoming conferences, possibly for years, may face a similar fate of reduced participation.
Frank DiGiovanni, director of training readiness and strategy for the DoD, was given special permission to attend the conference, and gave the government keynote Wednesday morning.
“He was very clear about the budget situation: that we’re going to face, potentially, several years of austere budget environment in the Department of Defense,” Baptiste said. “That that is not only a challenge, but an opportunity.”
Other speakers from industry include the president of n-Space, an American video game developer; the CEO of Vastpark, a software company focused on virtual worlds; the managing director of Havok, a gaming technology development company; and Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari.
After sequestration was announced in March, GameTech organizers scrambled to update the agenda and remove any potential conflicts with government speakers. The conference includes presentations and tutorials on how gaming technology can be applied to military training.
GameTech’s agenda has a few common themes: speakers will discuss ways to use virtual reality to prevent or treat PTSD and the wounds of war, address pattern of life activity and avatar psychology in games used for training, and apply serious games to cyber training.
Other presentations at the conference recap important findings on gaming research in the past year and demo the Virtual World Framework, a web-based architecture for distributing training online securely.
Naturally, GameTech showcases serious games, how they are developed, and how sensors can factor into the simulations. Representatives will also announce the winner of the Federal Virtual Challenge, an Army Research Laboratory contest to develop an innovative new virtual program or feature.
This year, competitors developed virtual scenarios in either the navigation or critical thinking category. While the contest is designed to encourage innovation and does not have to be applicable to military training, there is always potential that developers’ work could be implemented into military education.