Air Force video game aimed at young recruits coming out this summer

This summer you may have the opportunity to play your way into the Air Force. The service plans on releasing a new video game app that will evaluate players’ skills and possibly offer them a place in the skies.

Brig. Gen. Jim Sears, director of plans, programs and requirements, Air Education and Training Command

The app is part of an Air Force effort to expand the way it recruits as the service grows in size and to change recruiting methods so they are more appealing to Generation Z.

“The app will grow into the gamification of assessing those people who are coming in,” Brig. Gen. Jim Sears, director of plans, programs and requirements for Air Education and Training Command told Federal News Network. “We’re trying to develop games that have assessment mechanisms going on behind the scenes to be able to see how people think, how they learn. Are they a moral and ethical thinker as they go through the game, or do they make decisions that will not conform with Air Force core values? When you can bring that data into the ecosystem, it can not only allow the recruiters to be able to see the best prospects that are coming toward the Air Force — so we can focus on the best talent— it will also allow that data to come forward, so we can see how people grow and progress from when people enter the Air Force.”

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, said last May that the game will be able to hone in on IP addresses to figure out who is exceptional at playing the game.

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander, Air Education and Training Command

“It’s amazing what we know,” Kwast said. “Our team of psychologists, sociologists and cultural anthropologists, when they get together and you look at the body of knowledge out there. It’s amazing that by looking at a couple of scenarios and making you make some decisions  and answer some questions through a game I can measure things like critical thinking, creative thinking, conceptual thinking, contextual thinking, collaborative thinking, constructive thinking. I can tell if you are empathetic, I can tell if you cheat, I can tell if you cut corners, I can tell if you are morally courageous under pressure or whether you save your own skin.”

The game gives the Air Force an opportunity to use big data and analytics to learn more about its recruits.

The service plans to release more games in the future, but is sticking with just one for this summer.

Generation Z challenge

The military services are finding they need to change the way they reach out to Generation Z.

Generation Z members, the oldest of which are now coming of age, were born in 1995 or later and are most likely too young to remember 9/11 or were born after it. Without the “call to action” created by the terrorist attacks, the military services are looking for new ways to reach out to recruits.

“The average age watching the NFL right now is 55-years-old, and they can’t track a percentage of 30 and below that are actually watching the NFL. We are getting into the E-sports world right now. We attended the national convention there last week in Los Angeles,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, the Army’s recruiting commander last October.

Television and websites are old media. Those in prime recruitment age watch Hulu and Netflix and are on social media like Twitch and Instagram.

The world of technology is the future for recruitment.

Sears said the beauty of the app is that it turns every airman into a recruiter.

“It will be great when Airman Jones, who is not a recruiter, is walking around an airshow one day and is wearing a uniform and someone walks up to him and says ‘I want to join the Air Force,’” Sears said. Jones “can say ‘Well download this app’ and that will take people right into the Air Force.”

While the Air Force has been meeting is recruiting goals, other services are feeling the divide between Generation Z and current military recruiting.

Last year, the Army fell short of its recruiting goal by about 6,500 soldiers. It’s now doing a full-court press for 2019 and completely revamping its recruiting techniques.

The Air Force is one of the fastest growing services and is authorized to grow to 329,100 airmen in 2019. The service will need keep its foot on the recruitment gas pedal to fill those spots.