US Navy Launches Official Anti-Pirate Video Game

Pirates Navy Video Game
Suspected pirates surrender to crew members of the CGC Boutwell. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by LCDR Tyson Weinert)

Tired of reading about piracy online? Think you have what it takes to outsmart pirates? Well the US Navy is offering you an opportunity to help!

At the Annual MARLO Conference, representatives from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA presented a new video game that encourages gamers to use innovative thinking and new approaches to combat Somali pirates.

In the game players earn points for collaboration and “crowd-sourcing” the support of others, but the real prize comes in knowing you are working a solution to spare mariners from the cruel and inhumane treatment by pirates, and ransoms to opportunistic bullies and thugs.

The goal of the game, called MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet) , is to explore the potential of an Internet-based gaming to enlist new and creative approaches for complex geopolitical problems.

But those looking for a point-and-shoot action game might be disappointed. Players are not issued weapons but are rather challenged by ‘Call to Action’ videos that define the critical problems being tackled in the real world. They must then submit ideas and ask their fellow gamers for help in perfecting their ideas. 

According to to an interview FastCompany conducted with Dr. Larry Schutte, Director of Innovation at the ONR, “We hope MMOWGLI will help us to understand what happens when your insights are combined with the observations and actions of another player–will that fusion result in a game-changing idea or solution, or will the MMOWGLI platform teach us something about our traditional thought processes?”

The game developers at the  Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Institute For The Future are hoping that harnessing “wisdom in the crowd” will assist real navy commanders test and develop new anti-pirate strategies. In addition to the gamers, many stakeholder communities are involved including diplomatic, military, maritime industry,  insurance industry, and others. Informed dialog by individuals with different kinds of  expertise build new cross-cutting solutions to shared challenges and wicked problems. From the pirates themselves to shipping companies to foreign navies and international institutions, the diversity of interests and perspectives will challenge future solutions,  military or otherwise.

The game is open not just to American gamers but players from around the world. Email [email protected] to request an invitation to join the game.