The last time "America's Army" came to Fort Hays State University, more than 20 people fought it out in a computer lab in Tomanek Hall.
Combat begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, and runs until 3 p.m. Food and drinks will be provided free. There is no fee to play.
"They don't even have to RSVP," said Marthann Schulte, academic liaison for FHSU's Virtual College. "They can just show up."
This time, the assault and defense teams will go at it from two different rooms. Schulte said that computers in Tomanek Hall, room 127, are being upgraded to handle the game's graphics. Room 121 was upgraded for the first round, what Schulte called the "Beta test," which was played on Nov. 1.
"The last one was a good, extended Beta test," said Schulte. Players came from as far away as Phillipsburg, in Phillips County, and Gaylord, in Smith County; Capt. Erik O. Hinckley, commander of the Manhattan Recruiting Company of the Kansas City, MO, Recruiting Battalion, and three area recruiters along with recruits on delayed entry showed up to play.
This time, said Schulte, the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Michael McMurphy, will also be on hand for the gaming.
FHSU's Virtual College is an official Navy Ratings Partner. Its articulation agreement with the Navy allows certain Navy occupational training to transfer to FHSU just as it would if it came from another accredited college or university. The American Council of Education is the agency responsible for analyzing military training and granting academic credits according to its analyses.
The Virtual College has similar articulation agreements with the Coast Guard and with the Army National Guard. While there is no formal articulation agreement with the U.S. Army, the Virtual College can do for soldiers what it does for sailors.
"It's a win-win situation," said Schulte. "It's a win for us and it's a win for the soldiers. They can continue to take college courses while on active duty or deployed. There are also a number of Army Reservists who are full-time FHSU students. Flexibility in taking courses is really important to a lot of new soldiers in the military, because normally their choice is between college and the military. But with Fort Hays State's Virtual College, they can do both."
"Also, the Army is right in our back yard. So, this has always been a cordial agreement and now we are trying to strengthen that cordiality and expand it through our contacts in the Kansas City recruiting battalion."
It was just such cordial contacts which led to the first round of "America's Army," which Schulte said resulted from a suggestion by Capt. Hinckley.
One of the good signs from that first event, said Schulte, was that when the scheduled time ended, players wanted to stay and play more, which is why the second event is an hour longer than the first.
"America's Army: Operations," first released in 2002, is the official U.S. Army game. The purpose is to teach teamwork, leadership and communication. Sixteen different mission scenarios have been created for the game. A second game in the series, "America's Army: Special Forces," was released on Nov. 6.
More than 50 stations will be available in the two labs, but that does not mean that the number of players will be limited by that. The game's design allows for players to shift in and out.
"America's Army," according to its Web site, has more than 2 million registered users, hosts monthly tournaments and other events. One link from the site is for registering to host an event.
Schulte said she hopes eventually to get to that point. Certainly, she said, she hopes to keep the games continue at FHSU.
"We hope to keep it going in the spring," she said. "Depending on whether Dec. 6 is a good response and if the players like it. We certainly don't want it to be a one-time event."
While people interested in playing can simply show up, said Schulte, those who want more information can call her, (785) 628-4005, or Darrick Kimbrel, (785) 623-4704.