The Air Force Wants You to Play Video Games in the Name of National Security

Wargaming is about to meet actual gamers. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Williamson)

This is a call to arms for anyone who was told playing video games would never get them anywhere in the real world.

MITRE, a nonprofit national security company, has opened registration for its esports tournament, GameX: Mission Generation Under Attack, a collaboration with the Air Force to help the service "better understand mission logistics choices and prioritization while under attack," according to MITRE.

Participants in the esports tournament will play the game "Drone Guardians," a mix of a first-person shooter, strategy and puzzle games that requires teams of five to defend a deployed location while still launching fighter aircraft missions.

But defending your airbase won't be as easy as tasking some F-35s to kill the enemy. Attacks on your team will be multi-domain, which means they could come from the land, air, sea, space or cyberspace -- or all at once. Your team will have to decide which is more important while balancing base defense with sortie generation.

For anyone wondering how fighting fake battles against a determined but fictional enemy helps anything, the competition is gathering data for a "human-in-the-loop" experiment. This means the game could be helping the Air Force build and test algorithms for machine learning that could help the U.S. Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center keep real airbases supplied, happy and alive, which are all very important to the airmen and guardians who run them.

"Even without adversary intervention, military logistics networks can be brittle and chaotic while also having single points of failure, creating ripe opportunities for attacks," Eliahu Niewood, vice president of Air and Space Forces for MITRE said in a statement. "Plus, as the military plans and carries out the movement, supply and maintenance of its forces, they easily could already be under attack in the next global conflict. GameX uses both military and civilian participants to test which logistics decisions will best enable the mission."

This wouldn't be the first time the U.S. military used video games to prepare for real-world situations. In 1993, the Army used a Super Nintendo specially designed to gauge its soldiers' marksmanship. Called "Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator" (or MACS), it featured targets used on any military range while teaching soldiers to zero their weapon.

Raytheon later created a virtual reality combat simulator that could track a soldier's whole-body movement. Later, gaming companies got involved with video-game training. By 2004, THQ created "Full Spectrum Warrior," which was released to the public. The Army's version of the game could be unlocked using a code. The most famous example of video-game training, however, is probably 2002's "America's Army," an award-winning, first-person shooter that has lived on through PC, Xbox and mobile devices.

Read: 6 Military Video Games Used to Train Troops on the Battlefield

These games were used for recruitment and training to help real-world troops win battles, but as the old saying goes, "Logistics wins wars." Players entering the GameX eSports Tournament will be helping the Air Force's logistics readiness by using skills only years of gameplay could provide.

On top of potentially securing America's future and the lives of those who serve, daily winners will receive $1,000, and door prizes will be handed out throughout the day. Participants must be at least 18 years old to enter. Individuals and teams can register at the GameX eSports Tournament site. Tournaments will be held in three locations during three different time periods.

Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C., Sept. 22-23

• MITRE headquarters in McLean, Va., Oct. 13-14

• MITRE regional office in San Antonio, Oct. 20-21

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

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