Gaming in Defence

11 November 2022
Defence scientists, Mr Alex Rohl (right) and Dr Susannah Whitney (second from the left), featured on a panel at PAX Aus 2022

Defence uses game techniques, technologies, and innovation to help deliver training and capability across the Defence ecosystem. Defence scientists, Mr Alex Rohl and Dr Susannah Whitney, featured on a panel at PAX Aus 2022, Australia's largest gaming convention, discussing the use of game tech and practices to better prepare our Defence forces for future challenges.

PAX Aus is a celebration of gaming and gaming culture, featuring panels, game demos, tournaments, STEM initiatives and an expo hall filled with publishers and independent studios. Held this year from October 7 – 9, in Melbourne, PAX Aus 2022 attracted just over 80,000 attendees from around Australia and internationally.

Defence participated in the Games Career Expo @ PAX, a three-day event within PAX Aus 2022 that showcases educational pathways and career opportunities in the interactive games and entertainment industry. Defence scientists Mr Alex Rohl and Dr Susannah Whitney, along with Ms Erica Hediger (EDGY Air Force – The Creative Element), LTCOL Yong Yi (SO1 Synthetic Training Capability, Army HQ), and panel moderator Mr Adrian Webb (Intelligence Futures Analyst, Defence Intelligence), took part in the Games in Defence: Innovation, Research and Engagement panel discussion.

Mr Rohl presented on his team's work regarding the application of cutting-edge data-science research and machine-learning techniques to automatically determine the functional roles of military cyber assets.
"Our research is being applied to both dynamic enterprise systems, as well as static, bespoke systems, in a military context," he said.

Mr Rohl spoke about using the multiplayer co-op game Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator as a combat management simulator analogue, where his team's focus is data-driven cyber situational awareness to support missions. To achieve this goal, the team is developing cyber asset characterisation and network event modelling tools and technologies.

"Under the hood, networked games share enough similarities to real systems to enable fundamental research at the unclassified level, while also allowing universities, students, and industry to participate in the work," Mr Rohl explained.

Dr Whitney spoke about her work within the serious games field and human sciences. Serious games are those used for non-entertainment purposes, such as training, teaching, or practising a skill (think Microsoft Flight Simulator). More and more, games and gaming technology are perceived as the preferred training tool by younger generations, and there is considerable enthusiasm for their use to support military training. However, this doesn't always mean they translate seamlessly into training tools.

"Games and games technologies may have training potential but it's important that decisions about the use of games and gaming technology are informed by evidence," said Dr Whitney.
This is at the heart of Dr Whitney's research. "We need to understand if the technology works, and how best it can be employed," she explained.

Defence scientists are using and investigating games-based technologies for everything from training and simulation, to research and innovation, and in doing so are raising Defence's profile in Australian cyber- and technology-related industries. They are also opening doors for engagement with future talent, and collaboration and partnerships at large.

"Using videogames as an analogue for these simulators provides the perfect testbed for research collaboration with the wider community. Perhaps in the future, Defence might sponsor the creation of video games as a platform for further research collaboration," said Mr Rohl.

Over 200 people attended the Defence panel session which included great audience interaction with the panellists through the #PaxDefence hashtag. For the Defence science panellists, a highlight was speaking to STEM students after the event.

"I spoke to some Honours and PhD students, who were so excited to think that there could be an opportunity for them to work in Defence," said Dr Whitney. "It's so important for us to grow the next generation of researchers, so this was a really great opportunity to engage."