Video games are beginning to see an increase in popularity as a training tool and many training games have been developed across most industries. One of the biggest users of video game training is the U.S. Military, with over 50 different video game training courses used across a wide range of skills. The most well-known and successful video game used by the military is America’s Army, created for the Army in 2002. The game allows players to go through basic training in a virtual settings before playing through team-based missions. It has been successfully used as both a recruiting tool by familiarizing learners with what they will go through in basic training, and as a training tool once learners graduate basic training.

Raytheon is also using video game training to teach new military trainees how to operate Patriot Missile Systems. One of the biggest advantages Raytheon cites for using video game training is that it allows soldiers to train on a real missile system using a real-world scenario. Training in the virtual environment gives the trainees hands-on practice that is significantly safer and more cost-effective than using the systems in the real world. With these same ideas in mind, the Navy, Alion, and Raytheon created the “Virtual Maintenance Performance Aid” (VMPA) training game which allows sailors to practice damage control, tactical team training, and force protection in fully functioning virtual ships. The game also has the ability to integrate with ship driving simulations for larger team training.

The success of video games as training tools lies in the inherent ability of video games to provide us with rich and engaging experiences. Video games promote active learning by requiring the learner to play the game and gain knowledge to advance. This is a big distinction between video game training and other training methods. As seen by Raytheon, video games allow participants to essentially learn while doing the job, which is especially useful in high-risk training situations. This is one of the primary reasons why video game training has seen such success in the medical field as a training tool for surgeons.

One other factor in the success of video games as training tools is the strength they have when it comes to scaffolding. Instructional scaffolding is a way to promote learning at a deeper level. When used correctly, support is given to the learners during the learning process which is tailored to the individual. The goal is to help the learner achieve his/her learning goals while maintaining appropriate levels of difficulty to engage the learner. Well-designed video game training uses just-in-time training, in-game tutorials, and realistic feedback to continuously assist and challenge the leaner as they successfully complete increasingly difficult levels of the game.

One of game-based training’s biggest drawbacks is the upfront time and cost necessary to develop it compared to more traditional course-based training. Some estimate the development hours for one hour of instructional content being as high as 220 hours for course-based training and 1,000 hours for game-based training. This large difference in developmental hours means that the development for game-based training is also more costly. With these higher up-front costs comes the potential for better return-on-investment. For each instructional hour of course-based training it is estimated that a learner will spend one hour using that content, while a learner may spend as much as 20.8 hours interacting with one hour of game-based training instructional content. This increased amount of use should lead to higher gains in knowledge and skill from one instructional hour of game-based training.

The chart below provides examples of ways gaming has been used in the transit and non-transit industry, as well as possible applications for the transit industry.

Examples from the Transit Industry
Train Simulator 2016 A video game sold on steam which offers players the ability to take the controls of virtual steam, diesel, and electric trains. Players get full control of the throttles, brakes, and switches that they would on actual trains. The game offers different scenarios utilizing simulations of both actual trains and routes. Some of the simulated routes and locomotives included are from companies such as British Rail, First Great Western Freightliner, Norfolk Southern, British Railway, Union Pacific, and more.

The game has a mode called TS Academy which teaches players different things from basic passenger operations to freight terminals that require pin-point accuracy or understanding complex and unique signaling systems.

There is also a Driver Assist mode which helps players learn how to operate a steam locomotive by providing real time information based on each locomotives’ performance and handling. This mode will guide the player through operating each locomotive by highlighting controls in the cab and telling the player how to move them to get the best out of the engine.
XpanXpan is an organization that develops training for companies both in and outside of the transit industry. They utilize games as a training tool in many of their training courses. Xpan focuses on using technology and game mechanics to bring ideas to life in engaging learning solutions. They develop games and virtual worlds with graphics that are able to stand up to other commercial games. Their use of game play preserves engagement yet focuses learners on important concerns, generating real learning and helping transform assumptions, skills, and behaviors.

Xpan also uses gamification of other applications to engage learners. For example, in one program, workers identified with their favorite hockey team, and as they progressed through the training courses they were able to advance on the NHL Leaderboard.
Examples Beyond the Transit Industry
America’s ArmyHas been in use as a recruiting and training tool since 2002. Learners get to play through basic training in the game before ever doing the real thing. They play through mini-games and earn points in game while learning the basics of Army rules and regulation while in basic training. Once soldiers complete basic training in real life, they can once again play America’s Army to practice team-based missions in a safe virtual environment.
Patriot Missile SystemsThe military is using a video game to train young learners how to operate the Patriot Missile Systems. Due to the age of the Patriot Missile Systems, many new members of the military are unfamiliar with how to operate it. The virtual environment of the game offers learners hand-on experience with the system in realistic scenarios. Learning in the game environment is engaging, safe, and cost effective.
Virtual Maintenance Performance Aid (VMPA)A 3D virtual game environment used by the Navy allows learners to practice damage control, tactical team training, and force protection in fully functioning virtual ships. The game also has the ability to integrate with ship driving simulations for larger team training.
Possible Applications for the Transit Industry
Maintenance Training Game for TechniciansSimilar to simulations, video game training offers novice technicians the chance to learn and get hands-on experience in a virtual hands-on environment. In situations where it could be expensive or dangerous to allow learners to practice on real systems, this virtual game environment can help mitigate those factors. Gaming adds extra motivational factors through points, missions, and other gaming elements. This type of training can be especially motivating for younger learners.
Operator Training GameSimilar to simulations, video game training offers novice operators the chance to practice operating systems in a virtual environment that is safer and less costly than its real life counterpart. The extra motivational factors of points, missions, and other gaming elements can make this type of training especially motivating for younger learners. Video game training also has the advantage of being available to learners in more settings than just the physical location of a simulator.