RETAIN evaluation of America’s Army Proving Grounds

AA Proving Grounds

America’s Army Proving Grounds was released in 2013 as a recruitment tool for the United States Army.


The RETAIN model was proposed by Gunter, Kenny, and Vick (2008) as a rubric to assess both the educational and entertainment value of games to be used for educational technology.

Using the RETAIN model, I am analyzing the game America’s Army Proving Grounds as an educational technology tool. This game has an interesting history. The America’s Army games have been developed by the United States Army as a recruitment tool with 41 versions since the 2002 initial release  with the latest game in the series, entitled Proving Grounds, being released in August 2013 (“America’s Army”, 2014).


Proving Grounds did not get a better rating because learning objectives are inferred, instead of clearly defined. As an example, one of the key points is to have cover, instead of just concealment. While the player-learner can determine success based on survivability, this dimension is neither tracked nor reinforced during game play.


Proving Grounds does a fantastic job of embedding the “teachable moments” into game play so that they are completely endogenous to the fantasy. An example of this is a player-learner sustaining a wound or lethal injury from failing to recognize any learning objective.


Regarding educational value, Proving Grounds provides little opportunity for transfer. The lines of thought are similar throughout the game, requiring little active problem solving to “level up”. Instead, the opportunity for advancement lies in the mastery of a relatively isolated set of learning objectives.


There is no evidence of the adaptation element in Proving Grounds. In addition to having a small breadth of objectives, there is no sequencing of them during the game play.


With regard to its ability to immerse the player-learner, Proving Grounds demonstrates excellence. One easily becomes involved on cognitive, physical, psychological, and emotional levels during game play with mutual modeling creating a shared responsibility for learning. An example would be observing another player’s error and recognizing a need to improve upon that learning objective.


Not unlike other simulation and first-person shooter games, Proving Grounds causes player-learners to spontaneously utilize the knowledge habitually and consistently.


Proving Grounds clearly is effective in motivating and promoting social interaction, but the exclusive focus of this evaluation is the value of using this game for instruction. There are many deficiencies related to the game when viewed as an educational adjunct. Using the RETAIN model, it is clear to me that, while motivating and immersive, instructional design theories were not well referenced prior to the development of America’s Army: Proving Grounds. Opportunities to increase educational value in subsequent games of this series may be best recognized though collaboration between game designers and educational technologists.


America’s Army. (2014, October 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:39, October 28, 2014, from

AmericasArmy. (2013, August 28). America’s Army: Proving Grounds Game Trailer [Video file]. Retrieved from

Gunter, G., Kenny, R., & Vick, E.H. (2008). Taking educational games seriously: using the RETAIN model to design endogenous fantasy into standalone educational games. Educational Tech Research Dev, 511- 537.


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