There’s a rumor running around my council about a new program called “Virtual Scouting” that’s going to be introduced in late 2017. Do you happen to have any advance information on what this is all about? (Dylan Marshall, Happy Trails Council)
Yes, this is in beta-testing right now and is expected to be launched nationwide in two phases. After several years of negotiations, the BSA has formed a joint venture with Microsoft, Samsung, and Nintendo, to offer Virtual Scouting for all Boy Scouts by the end of 2017 and for Cub Scouts in early 2018.
Research has shown that many boys just don’t have the opportunity to enjoy Scout meetings the way they used to. School team sports and individually-selected sports activities like Karate, traveling soccer, and others; plus piano, violin, drum, and tuba lessons simply require too much time for our sons to go to troop meetings, especially on school nights with lots of homework and other non-sedentary activities, and weekends with games and performances overlapping with hikes and campouts. For Cub Scouts, den meetings are becoming more and more unpopular with working parents, and pack meetings demand that parents stay, instead of being able to get their weekly shopping done. These problems are accelerating at a fast pace, and Scouting’s objective here is simple: To keep boys engaged, we need to stay current with changing societal dynamics. Virtual Scouting provides a pathway to that mission. Here’s how it’ll work…
Instead of buying a uniform, handbook, and camping gear, boys joining Scouting will instead be equipped with a set of CDs and DVDs, a portable CD-DVD player, a VR headset and earphones, and a modified Wii system. With these, he’ll be able to attend virtual troop meetings and even virtual hikes and campouts. VS (for “Virtual Scouting”) will include traditional patrols, adult leaders, and of course advancement opportunities.
Imagine! As soon as he joins a VS troop, your son can pick his patrol-mates from a bunch of interesting options: Jack Legstrong, the born leader and future NFL place-kicker; Corey Colander, Jack’s comic sidekick; Boomer, the loud-mouth pushy one with a heart of gold who still sleeps with his Teddy bear; Dwayne Dovetonsils, the book worm who knows all the trees, birds, and animals in a 200-mile radius; Heather-now-Heath, who’s doesn’t quite care for using the gang showers at camp; Bruce Betterlookin, the Patrol Leader’s wing-man, Crazy Calisto, who likes to play with Bic lighters in tents, Allen-called-Alice, who likes wearing kilts; Knife-Happy Kenny, who can toss a foot-long Bowie knife at a tree 21 feet away without ever missing; Johnny Tacklebox, with more piercings and tattoos than you can count, and many, many more!
Imagine! Your son even can choose the kind of Scoutmaster he wants: The kind-hearted uncle-type, the former Army drill sergeant, the stone-faced geology teacher, the super-jock Pop Warner coach, the soft-spoken grandma, the guy who likes to be called “Snake,” who carries a side-arm wherever he goes (he says he has a permit for it, but can never find it), and so on.
My sources tell me the powers-that-be in the BSA plan on VS saving thousands of dollars for years to come. For one, maintaining facilities like Philmont, Northern Tier, Sea Base, and even the Summit Bechtel Reserve will be things of the past once they’re converted to the new VR software, because your kids can participate in VS treks and bag every peak at what used to be Philmont, and sail to every island in the Caribbean, because they won’t be limited to strict itineraries or bad weather. Jamborees? Just sign up and you’re there…in VR of course!
By the end of 2017, advancement will be VR too; all handled by special, individualized data bases that will record and save all of your son’s requirement completions…even for merit badges!
One high-level source who can’t be identified here tells me the VS system will be so sophisticated that, when it comes to holding a leadership position, VR Scouts your son will lead will be selected randomly from the pre-programed options. This will give your son the kind of leadership challenges he’ll need to succeed in life in a way that’s even better than reality!
And, for boards of review, there will be another built in sub-routine that will randomize other adult personality types, including “The Examiner,” who wants to re-test every Scout skill; “Confabulating Conrad,” who asks each question three or four different ways; “Barney Blow-Hard,” who likes to tell stories about himself or his own son; “Da Judge,” who thinks this is Scouting’s answer to the U.S. Supreme Court. Just imagine how exciting this will be for your son!
Better yet, we won’t have to worry about safety or even youth protection anymore, either. Now, little Fargus can set the whole tent afire…virtually! Or break a leg…virtually! Or shoot his eye out at the rifle range…virtually! Plus, we won’t have to worry about youth-adult interactions anymore, because all virtual adults will be pre-programmed to act and speak in accordance with YPT standards and guidelines. With these protocols in place, we just know nothing can go wrong!
And, when it comes to courts of honor, 100 percent attendance by the whole troop and all parents is equally guaranteed, so our sons will always feel completely supported by friends and family, especially since everyone will receive—virtually, of course—a personalized participation certificate.
Interactive games like Capture-the-Flag will be played virtually, too, and without injury or anyone getting lost. And the best part is that little Fargus will always be the winner. What better way to build self-esteem!
Virtual Scouting… the way of the future. And remember, you heard it here first!
Happy (Virtual) Scouting!
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to email@example.com. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)
[No. 524 – 4/1/2017 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2017]