Military services are responding to a number of converging forces to obtain required technologies faster. Nowhere is this more evident than in US DoD training enterprises. As the Pentagon sharpens its focus on peer- and near-peer conflicts, it is seeking best-of-breed learning technologies from commercial markets and its traditional defense sources. 

One emerging bright spot is ‘game jams.’ Game jams have been around for 20 years, primarily in the commercial game development industry to accelerate the creation of initial prototypes of games. Fast forward to 2021 when the Central Florida Tech Grove partnered with the Indienomicon Foundation to host the inaugural Armed Forces Jam, utilizing the game jam strategy to quickly prototype solutions to military training needs.

MS&T attended an NTSA-sponsored webinar that explained more fully the efforts to advance game jams to support defense-industry teams. 

Short, Time-Boxed Events

Game jams are a short, time-boxed event, typically 48 continuous hours, in which small teams of programmers, artists, designers, and various other contributors use tools to make games or experiences. The envisioned outcome of game jams should resonate well with defense training teams, as they seek to compress the acquisition timeline and inexpensively confirm the viability of a solutions approach. 

The second annual Armed Forces Jam, convening last September, focused on maturing S&T “sweet spots” of increasing importance to military training and education audiences, including the metaverse, digital twins, electromagnetic spectrum, gaming, and cybersecurity. 

One representative product emerging from this jam was Sim Blocks’ Pilot Training Next Next, said to be “the evolution of Pilot Training Next. The game is built on Unity, and aims to bring the full training experience on low-cost simulators that take up little space.” 

Another game jam success was reported to be A Square’s Small Arms Collaborative Training Environment (SACTE). The product has the capability to provide a number of virtual reality users an environment to train with small arms weapons in a multiplayer networked experience. Players navigate a shoot house and train to determine friendly or hostile targets by following the rules of engagement.

Concurrently, defense industry teams also participate in game hackathons. While synchronous to game jams, hackathons are much more technology focused. In one instance, conventional and special forces collaborated with industry on the rapid integration of an artificial intelligence event 

Expanding Multi-National Focus 

Carol Ann Logue, Director, Central Florida Tech Grove, noted plans are underway to convene another annual Armed Forces Hackathon and an initial event this year for the NATO Modeling and Simulation Working Group.