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Angelini Talks Gaming With DEVGRU Operator Craig Sawyer

Minimizing The Fog Of War Without A Mini-Map

Tom’s Hardware: Naturally, much of what happens during wartime, from confidential scenarios to the way special operations forces work together, simply cannot be used in games or movies. What aspects of your experiences can't be appropriately captured, either for national security reasons or because of purely technical limitations? I’ll admit to adrenaline rushes during action-packed game sequences, but surely it’s impossible to convey what your body experiences in combat.

Craig Sawyer: Well, we certainly wouldn't ever show unique mission capability options we haven't used yet, or that haven't been made known to our enemies. The precise way we shoot, move, and communicate should never be made known to our enemies. The good news is that those things wouldn't make the games better, anyway. There are plenty of creative options available to make games more realistic without drawing from the playbook real operators use to survive.

Let's face it, you'll have more fun playing through a title with certain aspects that defy reality than working through the application of a tourniquet to your buddy's arterial wound.

These guys learn how to communicate effectively and cope with stressors to avoid confusion on the battlefield

Tom’s Hardware: Conversely, games sometimes give us more information than you’re privy to on a battlefield. We’re accustomed to certain management aids, such as squad member positions on a mini-map. How do soldiers keep tabs on the men around them in the real-world, and is the emphasis on voice or signal communication? How do the elite forces reduce the fog of war?

Craig Sawyer: Well, there are lots of ways our soldiers keep up with each other in combat. Some of those have already been shown to the rest of the world in recent movies. The only way to effectively reduce the fog of war is to inoculate the troops to it. By that, I mean introduce those stressors into training until the subjects are more relaxed and efficient in a chaotic environment.

Let's take the civilian sport of skydiving as an example. When people jump out of a perfectly good airplane for the first time, their heart rate is often so fast that they experience multiple undesirable symptoms, including auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills and dexterity, and impaired judgment. This overloaded sensation wanes with familiarization. By the time someone has thousands of jumps, they notice every little thing that happens during the experience. The first-timer often sees nothing but sky, ground, sky, ground, altimeter, sky, ground, sky ground. Ground! Altimeter? Yikes! Pull!

Maintaining peak physical condition is of the utmost importance

Tom’s Hardware: We also have the benefit of seemingly limitless endurance. Can you give our audience some idea of what it’d take to maintain the physical condition required to be combat-effective with a full equipment load-out? What would your daily routine entail?

Craig Sawyer: Let's face it, even the most modern "lightweight" weapons, ammo, med kit, communications equipment, and navigational aids still add up to a heavy final load-out. Getting all that gear into enemy territory is no easy task. It requires extreme physical conditioning, especially when you consider that, once you get it there, you have to win a fight and get the heck out!

With that in mind, there is no specific routine for conditioning, other than the fact that conditioning, itself, must be routine. We break it up and challenge ourselves with every kind of physical demand we can think of: running, obstacle courses, swimming, weight lifting, calisthenics, and fighting. In the end, we have nobody to blame if we're in harm's way and have to perform, but are somehow not fit enough to pull off the big task. It could cost us our lives or the mission itself. So, we stay hard to avoid such a catastrophic scenario.

"The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war!"

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.