US Army Seeks to Prevent Suicides by Deploying Video Games

Posted by | November 30, 2008

The high-stress environment of the Iraq occupation, combined with longer tours of duty, has taken a deep toll on US soldiers. One grim result of these unfortunate conditions is the suicide rate among personnel, which has jumped up over 45 percent since 2003.

The Army has responded with various measures, but the most interesting is a program called Beyond the Front, a sort of role-playing video game, designed to encourage at-risk soldiers to seek the help they need. The game presents situations and scenarios that might affect the mental health of a soldier; a “Dear John” letter from home, a roadside bomb that kills a friend, and other stressful events that are part of the military life. How the player reacts to these events in the game determines the ending of the scenario, be it happy or deadly.

WILL Interactive, the creators of Beyond the Front, feel the game will benefit soldiers by giving them the chance to play out the dark spiral of suicide before they actually live it. Hopefully, the gaming experience will give them the training they need to save their own lives.

Check out a demo of Beyond the Front over at WILL Interactive’s site.

Read this Christian Science Monitor article for more information about the program and how the Army is trying to blunt the rise in suicides among their ranks.


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