Near the end of 1980, Atari released the first-person combat simulator Battlezone in arcades. With its twin stick controls, overhead radar, and innovative plastic periscope, it mimicked an early construct of today’s virtual reality set-ups. Since the viewfinder directed the player’s line of sight, essentially shutting out the outside world, it gave players the sensation of being in an actual tank as they traversed a barren landscape in three dimensions, hunting enemy tanks and UFOs.

Major Jack Thorpe of the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) stated, “It’s important to have training devices that don’t appear so obviously to be training devices.” Perhaps that is why Army General Donn A. Starry, with a consul- tant group of retired generals, requested a “training potential” study to determine if video game technology could meet Army training requirements.

Captain Steven J. Cox of the Army Training Support Center (ATSC) reported that there were numerous games with the “potential for military training use” and followed up by stating, “the continu- ing rise in the cost of fuel, ammunition, and training, plus the constant need for the Army ’s combat divisions to maintain a high degree of proficiency while saving money, has made us look at any possible training device.”

At the time, logistics limited real-world firing exercises to only once or twice a year. Major Boyd Duncan described the root of the problem, stating that “between these exercise periods gunners lose so much of their skill that a practice period is usually needed before the normal firing exercises are conducted.” Hence the need for a practical solution.


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Michael Thomasson Michael Thomasson (63 Posts)

Michael Thomasson is one of the most widely respected videogame historians in the field today. He currently teaches college level videogame history, design, and graphics courses. For television, Michael conducted research for MTV's videogame related program Video MODS. In print, he authored Downright Bizarre Games, and has contributed to nearly a dozen gaming texts. Michael’s historical columns have been distributed in newspapers and magazines worldwide. He has written business plans for several vendors and managed a dozen game-related retail stores spanning three decades. Michael consults for multiple video game and computer museums and has worked on nearly a hundred game titles on Atari, Coleco, Sega and other console platforms. In 2014, The Guinness Book of World Records declared that Thomasson had “The Largest Videogame Collection” in the world. His businesses sponsor gaming tradeshows and expos across the US and Canada.  Visit