Either there are more gamers out there than anyone expected, or Somali pirates have more enemies than they realize.
No matter the case, overwhelming interest from prospective players has forced the Office of Naval Research to delay the start of a counter-piracy wargame that was supposed to have its opening salvo May 16. About 1,000 players were expected, but major media outlets across the country picked up on ONA’s plans, and more than 12,000 people registered.
“We are overwhelmed at the positive response this game has generated. We are delaying the launch to be sure to extract the very most for the Navy from this, and our future online game series,” said Larry Schuette, ONR’s director of innovation.
While people were probably attracted to the game because it’s about piracy, ONR is more interested in the game’s platform, the Massive Multiplayer Online Leveraging the Internet system, or MMOWGLI, as a research tool. The platform is kind of a blend of social media, reddit and a turn-based strategy game. Basically, players will break into teams and will be presented with videos and graphics about piracy. Teams will then have to develop a response, with players then voting on the best course of action. In all, the game lasts three weeks and has three phases. ONR wants to use all the data generated in this process to figure out how effective policies are developed.
“Attracting good ideas is the lifeblood of ONR’s cutting-edge science and technology,” said Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, chief of naval research. “I am encouraged by the enormity of interest in MMOWGLI and hope that this crowdsourcing tool will harness the power of collective thought to help drive external innovation for the Navy.”
ONR hasn’t said when it will re-schedule the game (the website says “Coming soon, spring 2011”), but a spokesman said that they are trying to increase capacity and usability. Until then, you can still sign up to play.
Who knows, maybe 11,999 of the “players” are really Somali pirates determined to delay the game as long as possible? When the game does start though, they should be easy to pick out — they’ll be the ones who campaign to keep Navy SEALs far, far away.