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Navy Plans To Use Online Game To Fight Real-Life Pirates

An armed Somali pirate along the coastline with Greek cargo ship, MV Filitsa, is seen anchored just off the shores of Hobyo town in northeastern Somalia where its being held by pirates.
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An armed Somali pirate along the coastline with Greek cargo ship, MV Filitsa, is seen anchored just off the shores of Hobyo town in northeastern Somalia where its being held by pirates.

Here's a piece of curious news from the Office of Naval Research: In a bid to find out how much they can learn from a large group of people, the Navy plans to use an online war game to find solutions to real-life problems.

The game, called Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet, will present players with piracy scenes off the coast of Somalia and, as Wired describes it, will ask the players to put forth "their best suggestions for clearing the seas of the resurgent maritime scourge."

In one scenario, for example, the game tells a player that pirate ships are holding the world hostage. U.S.-Chinese relations are at a breaking point and both countries have naval ships in the area. What do you do?

Wired adds that the game is a social experiment:

"We want to test this proposition: can you get a crowd to provide you with good information?" Larry Schuette, the director for innovation at the Office of Naval Research, the Navy's mad scientists, asks Danger Room. "Is the wisdom of the crowd really that wise?"

Working with the , a Silicon Valley nonprofit, Schuette produced the Navy's first foray into the gaming world. Other services have put together videogames before, like the America's Army recruitment game. In fact, the Army has a whole office dedicated to gaming. But those games have been internal affairs, aimed at getting people to enlist or sharpen a servicemember's skills. MMOWGLI wants you involved, even if your only experience with the Navy comes from Village People songs or Charlie Sheen movies.

The game launches May 16 on the Naval Postgraduate School's website.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.