New training video game helps fight the war on substance abuse

15 Mar 2006 | Cpl. Rose A. Muth

Leading a fire team of Marines on night patrol takes full concentration, but when one person is high on drugs, a mission can turn deadly.

After years of development, “First to Fight,”  a video game which has been designed by the Marine Corps, was released in early 2005.The game is a training tool to help teach Marines about the effects of drugs while on duty.

“I think it’s a great idea the game is being used for drug demand reduction training,” said Col. James N. Flowers, commanding officer, Marine Corps Engineer School. “The concept of the game is unique and it might deter Marines from doing bad things out there if they’re busy trying to make it to the next level of the game.”

Semper Fit health promotions held a game demonstration March 9 at the French Creek recreation center for commanders aboard the base to view the game and let Marines play as well.

“Headquarters Marine Corps wanted to do something different to get the word out about substance abuse, and so a drug component was integrated into this game to aid as a teaching tool,” said Caroline Graham, drug demand prevention specialist, Semper Fit, Marine Corps Community Services. “The game is based on strategy so the player can see how the effect of drugs can impact a mission.”

Marines are put into teams of two and separated into a red and green with four interlinked computers. The objective of the game is not just to finish the mission, but to figure out who on the team may be under the influence of drugs. After the game is over, a screen pops up and tells the individual player the statistics of the game, who on the team was under the influence of drugs and what type of drug they were on.

“When you’re on these games it’s vital to work as a team and to make sure everyone is one hundred percent mission capable, or other lives are at risk,” Graham said. “Just as in real life, the effects could be deadly in either combat or elsewhere. Hopefully, the game’s ideas can link to real life and get the idea of not doing drugs out there.”

After the computers were initially installed, months of planning went into the grand opening of the game and future ideas were discussed as well.

“We started planning this event with the idea of making it an ongoing challenge event,” said Susan Goodrich, Single Marine Program Coordinator, MCCS. “The computers will be moving every six weeks to different recreation centers and we will have tournaments with prizes being awarded also. We want to get as many Marines involved as possible.”
With the realistic look and feel of the game, Marines who are playing for the first time enjoy the graphics as well as the message it sends to fellow devil dogs, said Goodrich.

“Learning how to use the different types of buttons on the computer was a little confusing at first, but after a while I got the hang of it,” said Lance Cpl. John A. Lake, heavy equipment operator, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion. “I just returned from Iraq yesterday and it was nice to get back to speed time on all the new games out in stores. Not only does the game have great graphics, it’s teaching Marines a good lesson also.”

After rounds of junior Marines came into the recreation center to play the game, it was time for the higher ups to get their hands on.

“Lots of Marines don’t get a chance to practice combat arms or use their tactics without going to the field,” said Sgt. Maj. Carl H. Rodriguez, sergeant major, Marine Corps Engineer School. “I am definitely going to play this game at home for sure. Once my daughter gets done doing her homework, the computer is all mine.”

For more information on “First to Fight” or to find out about the next tournament, call Goodrich at (910) 451-1767 or Graham at (910) 451-0021.