PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Testing the waters: A science-policy simulation in an ice-free Arctic

The following report was prepared for PAXsims by Hubert Brychczyński, Łukasz Jarząbek, Nicole Arbour, and Brendan James Frank.


Let us travel to 2035. According to scientists, the Arctic is going to become ice-free by the end of the decade. Vessels will soon start rushing there, enticed by the promise of year-round sailing opportunities. An international organization, called the Arctic League, safeguards the region’s future development while balancing economic, societal, and environmental considerations… This is the premise to the Arctic Future simulation, which was presented during the Canadian Science Policy Conference in 2020. Coincidentally, 2020 was also the second hottest year in recorded history. With global ice reserves melting at a record rate of 1.2 trillion tons per year, we can see how the trends that inspired the simulation play out before our eyes.

How to bridge science, policy, and society

The unprecedented rate of climate change calls for adequately unprecedented measures, especially at the intersection of science and policy. The WHOUNESCO, and the EEAC, among others, all recognize that successful cooperation between the two areas is key for developing globally consistent and robust responses to climate change. Right now, however, the cooperation is far from ideal. In fact, there is a gap between science and “science users” (policy makers and practitioners) that prevents optimal use of existing knowledge. For example, scientists in their research activities often don’t take into account what kind of results will actually be useful for science users. On the other hand, policy makers often make their decisions based on information that may not be the best available scientific knowledge. How to bridge these gaps and improve the development of both science and policy? Science-policy simulations can help. They create a safe interface for stakeholders, scientists, and policy makers to effectively work on strategies toward a better future.

What are science-policy simulations?

Science-policy simulations are a type of social simulations. The easiest way of thinking about the social simulation is to picture it as an interactive, multiplayer role-playing game. Run either offline or online, it recreates – or simulates – the dynamics of a complex, real-world system by using game elements, such as problem cards, pictures, tokens, boards, etc. Social simulations focus on the social aspect – the freedom of each individual to make their own decisions and explore possible options in interaction with other players and within the simulated reality.

Social simulations belong to a broader category of tools that use mechanisms known from games for purposes other than entertainment. The oldest kind of such tools are strategy games used for military purposes. In the 20th century, wargaming techniques became more and more often applied to non-military contexts. The beginnings of this change can be traced back to World War II, when the approach to wargaming shifted from “rehearsing for war” to “simulation gaming as a (…) method for military policy and planning” (Mayer, 2009, p. 827). It was in that time that applied mathematics and engineering started to inform military strategy development more prominently. This led to the establishment of operations research, a discipline used for military planning in the US, which laid the foundation for the emergence of systems analysis and policy analysis. Called “decision sciences”, the two disciplines started to apply various kinds of gaming methods to non-military contexts, for example to urban and social planning, health care, economy, and more. As a result, such methods as policy gaming, simulation games, planning games, policy exercises, serious games and others were developed to address challenges in different fields.

Social simulation approach was heavily influenced by the abovementioned traditions, combining them with a strong role-playing and performative aspect. It puts emphasis on combining learning through direct experience (Kolb, 2015) with social learning – “a process of iterative reflection that occurs when we share our experiences, ideas and environments with others” (Keen et al., 2005, p. 9). This process of learning is possible because social simulations involve participants with different experiences, types of expertise, and worldviews, who impersonate different roles within the simulation – for example ones in research, administration, business, and NGOs. Within the safe confines of the simulation, they can jointly discuss problems, devise strategies, propose solutions, and diffuse tensions through negotiating and debating. They can also implement the potential solutions and see them play out right away in the condensed environment of the simulation.

Science-policy simulations build on social simulation approach, adding to it an extended narrative layer. The participants take on the roles of different policy makers, scientists, activists, and business people. They face a series of dramatic events. While this storyline unfolds, the participants work in different thematic groups to respond to the changing situation. The storyline is presented using a series of professionally-made videos, news articles, social media accounts, and other materials, such as maps or infographics. The storyline is always created based on available scientific data on the subject matter and consulted with experts from the field. Such crafted simulation allows the participants to gaze into the future and explore how to use the available scientific knowledge to craft better policies to address upcoming problems – and how to conduct research to produce results that will be actionable to support such policies.

The Arctic Future Policy Simulation

The Arctic Future Simulation was prepared for the Canadian Science Policy Conference 2020 in collaboration between Centre for Systems Solutions, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University of Ottawa. It was created based upon the Cascading Climate Impacts simulation that was developed within the CASCADES project

Building on the premise of a future ice-free Arctic, the simulation explores possible challenges and tensions anticipated to arise in the region with regards to international trade routes and security. Participants, assuming the roles of high officials from Arctic countries, negotiate and vote on a treaty that regulates economic, social, and environmental issues in the region. The debate, revolving around trade routes, extra fees, and marine environment, is interrupted by a series of unexpected, narrative interludes – like news about the blockade of Suez and Panama canal.

The design process of such simulation requires close collaboration between a core team of game designers, researchers, writers, filmmakers, and graphic designers, and external subject matter experts. The first step is to prepare a plausible scenario of chains of events based on available literature and expert knowledge. After a few iterations and consultations, we turned it then into a draft storyline. In parallel, we selected the organizations to be included in the simulation (national ministries, business organizations, Indigenous People’s organizations, NGOs, citizen initiatives) – and then created a detailed matrix of negotiation positions for each role, with an emphasis on conflicting values and interests. Iterating the whole process allowed us to reach the desired interplay between the gameplay and narrative layer. 

Striking the right balance between the exploratory function and narrative immersion was the biggest challenge in making the simulation. After all, the purpose of social simulations is to imitate a system as closely as possible and offer the participants a testing ground for problem-solving. On the other hand, the storyline had to be attractive and well-paced to keep the participants curious about what will happen next. This meant that we had to make the narrative as dramatic as possible while staying true to the scientific background it was based upon. We found this tension between the need for representing real-world systems plausibly and for incorporating fictional elements both challenging and fascinating. 

Ultimately, the simulation was successful. In after-game surveys, the participants not only reported the representation of reality as plausible but the experience as immersive and engaging thanks to the surprising narrative elements. What’s more, they felt like actual diplomats, learning about difficult diplomacy concepts in the heat of the moment.

Summary

In our increasingly interconnected world, the need for close collaboration between science, policy, and society is only expected to grow. Science-policy simulations are a promising tool for mediating this collaboration. They offer stakeholders a safe and life-like testing ground for exploring difficult issues before facing them in reality. Moreover, such simulations are highly adaptable and applicable in many diverse contexts and environments, both offline and online. So far, the Arctic Future simulation alone has been successfully deployed two times already. Cascading Climate Impacts – the simulation it was based upon – was also used two times, with more workshops to come in 2021. Needless to say, we plan to continue delivering such narrative science-policy simulations in the future. 

References

  • Kolb, D. A. (2014). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT press.
  • Keen, M., Brown, V. A., & Dyball, R. (Eds.). (2005). Social learning in environmental management: towards a sustainable future. Routledge.
  • Duke, R. D., & Geurts, J. L. (2004). Policy Games for Strategic Management: Pathways to the Unknown West Lafayette, IN.
  • Mayer, I. S. (2009). The gaming of policy and the politics of gaming: A review. Simulation & Gaming, 40(6), 825-862.
  • Susi, T., Johannesson, M., & Backlund, P. (2007). Serious games: An overview.
  • Caffrey, M. B. (2019). On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future (Vol. 43). Naval War College Press.
  • Wilkinson, P. (2016). A brief history of serious games. Entertainment computing and serious games, 17-41.
  • Weichselgartner, J., & Pigeon, P. (2015). The role of knowledge in disaster risk reduction. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 6(2), 107-116.

About the Authors

Hubert Brychczyński is a Content Writer at the Centre for Systems Solutions. By night, he doubles as an English teacher and translator – the latter with a focus on visual arts, such as graphic novels and films. A graduate of The School of English at Adam Mickiewicz University, he loves the written word, storytelling, and science communication.

Łukasz Jarząbek is a Senior Game Designer at the Centre for Systems Solutions. He worked on social simulations and serious games in different fields, including disaster risk management, resilience, cultural and natural heritage, climate change, cultural theory, and business sustainability. He is interested in using experiential methods such as games and simulations to aid co-production of knowledge and bridging scientists and stakeholders. 

Dr. Nicole Arbour is the External Relations Manager at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), where she plays an active role in building and maintaining relationships with IIASAs national member organisations (NMOs). She is passionate about the science-to-policy interface, evidence-based decision making, and science diplomacy. She holds a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Ottawa.

Brendan Frank is a Senior Research Associate with the Institute for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP) at the University of Ottawa, currently serving as Interim Research Director. He hosts the ISSP’s new podcast, Disruption Discovered. His training is in science (Bachelor’s in Environmental Science, Queen’s University) and public policy (Master’s in Public Policy, University of Calgary), and he possesses strong research and knowledge mobilisation experience in the public, private and civic sectors

Why is it still so hard?

Another Connections event comes around…and the initial vision of the panel I’m asked to speak at is to have a bunch of straight white men explain how women won the war and the importance of diversity. 

Really ??

Absolutely enormous props to Tom Mouat for refusing the chair the manel, and replacing the proposed men—all of whom got their ‘expertise’ from regurgitating Paul Strong’s paper and my PAXsims articles—with women who have actual subject matter expertise. [Watch the Connections Online WATU panel here]

Why is it so hard? Why are wargaming leaders still reacting with surprise when someone points out the abject lack of diversity in their plans, and sitting back helplessly waiting for women and minorities and heroic allies like Tom to come and diversity! for them instead of taking personal responsibility?

I love that people are talking about WATU. I love that men are talking about what women and lesbian and refugee and Indian and Muslim and Sikh and Hindu and disabled wargamers achieved with WATU. But guys: you absolutely have to stop congratulating yourselves on how awesome WATU was in place of doing anything to address the diversity problems in wargaming today.

It’s as simple as: straight white men, you have to step back and yield the floor. 

If you support diversity and inclusion in wargaming you have to recognise that means you personally—as an over-represented straight white male—have to give up some of your time in the spotlight and make space for women and minorities to take the floor.

It’s not about someone else will take the hit so there’s diversity but I still get to speak 100% of the time I want to, it’s realising that when you personally hold forth on a subject, you personally are silencing a woman or minority wargamer by hogging the space—and you personally have to honestly consider:

Have I said enough already? Can I yield the floor to let someone else speak and not die (psychologically, professionally, literally—since we’re talking about scarcity and threat-focused mindsets.)

Does she/he/they know more about this subject than I do? Don’t be a Mansplainer, don’t presume to know more about a subject because you once held a book about it, don’t assume women and minority wargamers are less-qualified, less-experienced, or only here to do the secretarial work.

Does she/he/they have a different perspective to the same-old-same-old that straight white men have been focusing on since forever? Chances of this are extremely high. Women and minority wargamers experience so much in life that straight white men are oblivious to because it doesn’t happen to straight white men. That’s literally the unknown unknown you need to shut up and listen to, to learn something you didn’t already know.

Is she/he/they perfectly capable of making the exact same point I was going to make, thus scratching my itch that it be aired and making space for other people to contribute? Win win win. Seriously, what is wrong about this? The only reason not to like this scenario is if you’re more interested in who scores the conversational points than the actual furthering of knowledge/understanding/wargaming.

And before you cry “This is silencing men! The outrage!”

Of course that’s not what I’m advocating. 

An idealistic rule of thumb: you have two ears, one mouth. If you’re a straight white man you could try yeilding the floor to women and minority wargamers 50% of the time you would otherwise speak. Yeilding just means giving other people who don’t normally get to speak the opportunity to go first—you may find they say everything and more you wanted to hear, you may learn something new.

Bare in mind, cognitive bias is such that when women make up 30% of a group they are perceived to be in the majority, and when they speak 17% of the time they are preceived by men to be dominating the conversation—so I think it’s incredibly safe to say just stopping to think and maybe letting a woman or minority wargamer go first is not going to cause the breakdown of society. You’d have to try excessively over-the-top hard to actually make space for women and minority wargamers to dominate a conversation—ignoring the fact that women are way more conscious of taking up more than fair space in a conversation than men are, and will yield the floor out of politeness before it’s genuinely silencing men.

That feeling you have? Of tensing up slightly at the thought of being silenced, the scarcity and threat-mindset, the need to be heard? The unfairness of it? …women and minority wargamers feel that all the time when straight white men interupt us, talk over us, don’t invite us to be speakers at conferences, have all-male panels discussing obviously women/minority interest subjects, or complain that wargaming should not be about gender or sexual orientation or skin colour or disability. Newsflash for you straight white men: it already is about those things, you just don’t notice it because you’re in the favoured group and don’t experience the being sidelined, ignored, discounted, and told to shut up and act like straight white men or go somewhere else if you don’t like it. Have you ever had to deal with work e-mails responding to your research/paper/presentation that is not engaging with content at all but an attack on your personhood, intelligence, legitimacy, and right to exist in wargaming? Because I have, and other women and minority wargamers get that while straight white men get to Advance Straight To Go and only discuss the merits of their work.

Before you cry “This is woke nonsense, unfairly priviliging minorities!”

Just stop. Stop and think about the ugly ugly thought behind the knee-jerk reaction to efforts to increase women’s and minority representation: that they’re taking our opportunities and giving them to under-qualified, inexperienced people instead. Presuming that women and minority wargamers couldn’t possibly be equally—if not more—qualified and experienced than straight white men.

I have a First in rocket science. Yuna Wong has five degrees. Look at WATU: everybody loves to say WATU was Roberts’ brainchild, his genius—he never rose above Captain, WATU was the highlight of his career. Syed Ahsan, Number One at the Bombay Tactical Table, went on to head the Pakistan Navy and hold senior government positions. It’s the same dynamic as the Tuskegee Airmen: barriers to entry for minority folks select for exceptional participants. Until gender parity and proportionate representation of minority wargamers is universal, across the board, at every wargaming conference and event, and discriminatory behaviour is a thing of the past, there is literally no danger of diversity efforts privilidging underqualified minority wargamers at the expence of mediocre straight white men.

I’m down with this, what can I do?

Use inclusive language: it signals to women and minorities that the space is welcoming. Historically these spaces were not, and the omission of women and minorities are welcome in the invite was deliberate, so it’s not enough to have changed your mindset without changing the language you use too. @ManWhoHasItAll would not be such delicious satire if we didn’t all buy into gendered presumptions about so many things.

If you don’t say “anyone who identifies as a woman” then trans women will not know if you mean they are just as welcome. If you don’t even make the barest minimum effort of “Please get in touch if you have accessibility needs so we can make this work for everyone” then you’re sending a message to disabled wargamers that we’re not even interested in trying when, in fact, you have a legal (and moral) obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

Allow women and minorities the space to step up—hold back the stampeed of men, because men will apply and volunteer and show up even when you explicitly say this is an opportunity for women. Don’t allow men to fill up all the spaces before women and minorities have had the chance to beleive you really mean they’re welcome. It’s not enough to say you accepted submissions regardless of gender etc, you actually have to make an effort to ensure diversity.

Invite women and minority folks directly—don’t assume a general announcement or group e-mail will actually come across as, “Yes, you! Reading this now, I want you!” Approach them directly, personally. If you don’t know who to ask, ask other people to recommend women and minority wargamers you could ask. Six degrees of separation, people.

If you—straight white man—are invited as a speaker or audience member, ask the organisers: how many women and minority speakers do you have? Are they here as experts in their own right, or are you just using them to facilitate men? Refuse to participate in manels. Refuse to participate in all-white panels. Point them at women and minority wargamers you want to hear from instead. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

Make an effort to understand the experiences of women and minority wargamers. Develop your empathy muscles. It’ll make you a better wargamer, and improve wargaming culture for everyone.

Who do you want to include?

Look at your panel, and your event as a whole: who are your speakers? Are they all men, are they all white, are they all straight/cishet, are they all non-disabled? …do they all look like you, in other words.

Doesn’t seem like a thing to you, because all you see are people like you, and unconsciously that gives your brain a rush of I belong here vibes. For women and minority wargamers it’s sending a message of exclusion. If you’ve ever been the only white person in a room, or the only man in the room, or the only non-disabled person in the room, or the only straight person in the room, you’ll understand it’s not about hostile behaviour or the intention to exclude, but that it feels uncomfortable to you because you stick out like a sore thumb.

You need diversity in your organising committee to get buy-in from diverse speakers and a diverse audience.

It is an absolute delight to join Women’s Wargaming Network gatherings and see 50/50 white and non-white attendees—in large part because Yuna Wong’s visible presence as founder of the network signals to black and asian wargamers this is a place you are welcome and wanted and will be respected. That’s at least half-a-dozen not-white US wargamers you could look to instead of piling all your diversity hopes and dreams into “Yuna! Come fix us, diversity for us!” That’s a whole cohort of smart, capable, diverse wargamers you could actively raise up instead of ignoring in favour of the same old guys.

Straight white men: diversity does not happen by magic. It does not happen by good intentions alone. It happens by conscious and constant effort by you personally. You have so much power to set the tone and influence others by your behaviour—you are already doing it. The question is who do you want to include?


Read more about the Derby House Principles for diveristy and inclusion in professional wargaming here.

Game Labs returns to Connections US — Call for topics

Game Lab is an opportunity for short (40 minute) small group discussions of specific gaming-related issues among Connections attendees. Originally conceived and organized by Scott Chambers, they were a highly successful feature of past face-to-face Connections conferences.

This year we will be running Game Lab online — similar concept, different implementation! So, if you have a game related challenge or question you wish discussed at Connections US 2021 then use this form to propose it (you can propose more than one question by submitting the form several times).

Conference attendees have the option to join whatever discussion they like, and the participants who submitted questions lead the subsequent conversations. The Game Lab fosters conversations across experience levels and backgrounds, resulting in some of the most focused exchanges of the conference.

If your proposal is accepted you agree to facilitate and lead your discussion, to submit all data gathered during your discussion to the Conference organizers for inclusion in the public online Conference proceedings, and to participate in a training session which we will set up with you covering the online collaboration tool we will use for Game Lab. We will work with you to make your Game Lab session a success!

NOTE — You have to be registered for the Connections US 2021 Conference to participate in the Game Lab. You may submit Game Lab questions before you register, but If you have not yet registered for the Conference please do so as soon as registration opens at the Conference website.

Game Lab Question/Challenge Proposal Form

Psychological Barriers to Distributed Wargaming

Much has been written about the practical issues of doing professional wargaming in a distributed environment — for example the role of simulation, the difficulties of dealing with security, facilitation and adjudication, scheduling, etc. However, I have not seen much written or discussed about the psychological effects on stakeholders during distributed wargaming, who these effects impact, whether they are barriers or advantages, and how should we respond to them.

The Simulation and Wargaming Standing Study Group of the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization’s Working Group on “Distributed Wargaming” is reaching out to the wargaming and simulation communities for your insights on this topic.

Please consider providing your ideas via this survey form. Your name and email address are voluntary, helps me get in touch with you later. You may provide as many answers as you wish by responding multiple times to this survey form.

Click here for live results (without names and email addresses), assuming of course anyone has submitted ideas! So check back occasionally.

I will publish a final report will be published later this Summer.

Click here for Survey Form

Click here for Live Results

Contact me with questions or if you cannot access the live results page.

Thank you for your inputs!

Stephen Downes-Martin
stephen.downesmartin@gmail.com

EWC wargame design competition finalists announced

Two finalists have been announced in the Educational Wargaming Cooperative Designer Challenge 2021 wargame design competition. According to Nina Kollars and Amanda Rosen:

We are pleased to announce Michael Fowler’s Hunt for Red Rat and Duane Clark and Ben Griffin’s Counter-fire! as the winners of the EWC’s Designer Challenge 2021: Portable & Adaptable. The winning designers will be advanced to the next step where their games will be featured in game sessions with professional game designers – either virtually or in-person at the Naval War College depending on COVID conditions. 

This year’s competition challenge aimed to foster bootstrapped and/or portable games that educators could easily leverage for training and education. As a result, submissions were evaluated in terms of:

• Adaptability of the game design;

• Ease of play and accessibility;

• Pace of gameplay;

• Originality;

• Distributed nature or portability of the game.

The winning designs – Hunt for Red Rat and Counter-fire! – truly met these metric of the portable and adaptable game challenge. Both of the winning games really bootstrap students into the learning environment in under 3-hours which is really quite remarkable! 

Counter-Fire! is an educational game designed to “emphasize the immense importance of the sensor to shooter relationship and develop skills in field artillery and military intelligence professionals to support targeting and defeating enemy fires formations at extended ranges.” Hunt for Red Rat is intended to “introduce US Navy maritime capabilities with specific emphasis on anti-submarine warfare, missile defense, and long-range strike capabilities.”

You can download copies of both games at the link above.

Zenobia Award update

The Zenobia Award has posted an update which includes a very impressive visual summary of the 46 game designs still in the competition, broken down by the theme, time period, and geographic focus of the entry (click to enlarge). After reviewing 145 applications and receiving 86 game concept proposals, Zenobia Award volunteers in March 2021 selected 46 games to advance in the competition.

The Zenobia Award is a competition among submitted historical tabletop game prototypes by designers from underrepresented groups, with mentoring and industry exposure available to selectees and cash prizes and industry access benefits to the winners. 

In an email to Zenobia contestants, mentors, judges, sponsors, and board members, Volko Ruhnke notes:

We have just gone public with the attached and linked synopsis of our 46 active Zenobia Award Game Proposals. Please give our contestants and their game ideas as much positive exposure as you can!

Last summer and fall, 13 volunteers assembled into a board and, with your help and that of so many other volunteers, put out a call to women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people to compete in designing a top historical boardgame from whatever perspective they chose. By that January, we were overwhelmed with 145 applications. 

Through a judging process that we have tried to make as expert, diverse, and fair as we could, we have narrowed that amazing field down to these 46 game concepts from 46 diverse designers and teams. Many of us saw some of our favorite entries declined for advancement, in the need of the competition to narrow to an eventual winner. Yet the breadth, depth, and freshness of the remaining field of talent is clear.

We had asked Zenobia contestants to simulate any historical setting that inspired them—political, social, cultural, scientific, economic, military, or any other human affairs in any combination, up to the present day. Look how much history we got back to explore—I hope that you will agree, the results include something for everyone!

Shortly, designers will submit their game material drafts for feedback that will augment what they are already receiving from our dedicated mentors. In just over two months, designers will submit their playable prototypes to our judges panels, to zero in on a handful of finalists whose work will exemplify historicity, originality, and gameplay.

Let’s cheer our Zenobia designers on as they devise and tighten their prototypes. We have some great historical gaming in store for all of us!

WarPaths

A few weeks ago, a number of us at PAXsims had a opportunity to see a demonstration of WarPaths—an online, browser-based application for managing distributed, asynchronous matrix games. WarPaths is the brainchild of Dr. Tom Nagle, a retired US Army strategist and former armor officer.

I think we were all very impressed. The application offers a lot of functionality, from mapping and icons to tools for communications, matrix arguments, and adjudication. Moreover, Tom was also enormously responsive to comments and suggestions. Since recording the walk-through above he has added support for probability polling of participants as well as percentage dice resolution (in addition to the traditional d6s).

Despite the military theming, warPaths has utility well beyond military or POL-MIL wargames—it could be used in any serious game setting where a matrix games might be useful. To this end he now also plans to develop a non-military version on the same principles, but politically/humanitarian oriented.

For more information on WarPaths, contact Tom at the weblink above.

Game design advice from POLI 452

With the game projects for my McGill University POLI 452 (Conflict Simulation) course due in a little over a week, I asked my students today what advice they would have for future students and other neophyte game designers. The comments they offered represent some pretty good suggestions for all game designers, no matter how experienced:

  • While thinking about including new aspects and rules to the game, we always need to think over whether it would complicate the game too much, or if it’s important enough to include it.
  • Be realistic in your ideas, keep it simple enough.
  • Be ready to change a lot of things all the time in the process.
  • Consult relevant people.
  • Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to design and do your research.
  • Getting the map right is very important.
  • Playtest early!!!!!
  • Playtest as early as you can.
  • I was shocked at how many ideas never survived a practical playtest!
  • Playtest!
  • Map design balance is very important.
  • It’s important to pretest early to understand whether there are [game elements missing].
  • Playtest and feedback.
  • Don’t have too many die rolls.
  • Excel is a pain in the butt to work with [from a group developing an Excel-based fog of war system].
  • Be realistic about your timeline.

Inside James Bond’s gaming lair

We’re inside the UK’s Defence Academy. It’s where Bond would come if he lived in the real world. Today, Major Tom Mouat MBE a specialist in gaming, modelling and simulation is briefing his visitors the Guild of Entrepreneurs on the importance of gaming.

…so begins an article by David Dunkley Gyimah at Viewmagazine (Medium) on “How to be a global leader in leadership by simply playing games.”

PAXsims associate editor Tom Mouat is indeed an international man of mystery. He can pick locks (most of the time). He’s a private eye. He’s fought zombies. He has a pseudonym. He’s building a secret safe house in the Oxfordshire countryside. And he reports to a mysterious boss known only as “K.”

Read more about the value of serious gaming at the link above.

Gaming Disease Response

Ed McGrady just published his book on “Gaming Disease Response.” The book focuses on how to build games in support of public health professionals. It covers all types of subjects, from chronic conditions to mental health to infectious disease. The book focuses on the intersection of games and disease, with chapters detailing how to incorporate disease into games, and how the structure of the public health system in the US matters for game creation. Each chapter is followed by a game outline that takes you through the process of designing and executing a game on a particular disease response. Ed has been working on games in the public heath arena for many years, and has run them at literally every level of the government.

Published by the History of Wargaming Project (http://www.wargaming.co/serious/details/rolltosave.htm) and available on Amazon.

Connections UK 2021 update

Graham Longley-Brown has shared with us some information on the next Connections UK professional wargaming conference, which will be held virtually on 14 – 16 September 2021:

  • Learning by doing. We will run three days of hands-on virtual gaming, for all levels and numbers, and on a multitude of online platforms. Think our traditional ½-day Games Fair over three days! You will be able to run, play or just observe games. All will be ‘safe to fail’ environments, where you can experiment with different gaming approaches and formats, develop gaming ideas, see what others’ are doing – or just play to meet people and have fun!
  • Community building. This will include:
    • Occasional central plenaries designed to strengthen the community. Topics will include ‘bringing on the next generation’ and ‘diversity and inclusion’. These will be participative sessions.
    • Educational events.
    • Multiple, often intimate, break-out rooms where anyone can talk to anyone. Some will be pre-programmed; many will be spontaneous.
  • Deep dive workshops. Breakout rooms will be available to explore topics in depth.

There will be a small charge to cover administration and technical support, but also to encourage commitment.

Details will follow presently, but please save the dates 14 – 16 September.

Taiwan Strait matrix game

A Sea of Fire is a matrix game of the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, by Evan D’Alessandro. It includes an overview of matrix game rules, scenario briefings, map, counters and event cards, plus designer notes.

Krulak Center: Director of Wargaming wanted

The Krulak Centre at Marine Corps University is looking for a Director of Wargaming:

The Director of Wargaming serves as Marine Corps University’s Chief Wargaming Expert. The primary purpose of this position is to advance Marine Corps warfighting excellence through the employment of wargaming methodologies within an academic institution delivering world class education to military and government professionals. The incumbent will serve as the Director of Wargaming, located at the Krulak Center, and is responsible for identifying requirements and resources, providing input to and assisting faculty development, and devising innovative approaches to employing wargaming through all levels of the Marine Corps Professional Military Education (PME) system.

Full details can be found in the document below. The deadline to apply is April 15. Applicants must be US citizens able to obtain a TS/SCI clearance.

Review: Simulations and Student Learning

Matthew A. Schnurr and Anna MacLeod, eds., Simulations and Student Learning (University of Toronto Press, 2020). CAD$56.25 hc, CAD$22.46 pb or ebook.

This edited volume provides a vitally important basis that will enable colleagues and students to understand the role of simulations in their teaching and learning. I identify three central contributions of this book:

  • First, it tackles the transdisciplinary opportunities of using simulations in teaching and learning. The book is divided into three sections: social sciences, natural sciences, and health sciences. Each section explores approaches to how simulations can contribute to the teaching in these areas, however, readers can gain a lot of insights from reading the sections that they may consider to be outside ‘their’ disciplinary home. The accessible writing style makes doing this possible. 
  • Second, the book is honest about what simulations can and cannot achieve in educational contexts and the need for effective management, incorporation and evaluation of their contribution to achieving intended learning outcomes. 
  • Third, the book carefully considers that not all students are the same, all will react to and engage with experiential learning differently. As a result, there are many moving parts to getting the simulation type, the design, the objectives and the outcomes, right. 

The book itself promises a lot, especially in terms of its objective to cross-disciplinary lines and to fill a gap (p.2) identified by Ellett, Esperanza, and Phan (2014). From my reading this book makes an exceptional contribution to achieving this objective. Overall, the book treads a delicate line here between presenting the challenges but also the payoffs for teachers and students. I think a particular strength of this book is that the authors haven’t ‘advocated’ but instead adopted a highly practical and pragmatic approach to using simulations in the classroom.

As I am developing a training course on simulations as tools for assessments. To do this effectively, I need to engage with a range of disciplines and demonstrate the utility of simulations to them, rather than inviting them into my research space and asking them to adapt and apply the tools for themselves. This book provides me with a language to be able to start that conversation. The accessible and jargon free writing style is particularly helpful as it will enable me to assign this text as reading for the course participants especially those who have never used simulations before. 

A particularly well-considered element of the book is that it clearly acknowledges that games and simulations are not a “silver bullet” (p.32) and it is possible to identify unintended insights. Throughout the book I think there is a considered view that games and simulations are reflective activities, they require the teacher, student, observers and any teaching evaluators to reflect on how the game was designed, run, played, adjudicated and evaluated. I would argue that games reveal to teachers the gaps in their knowledge and show the ability of the decision-making and the adeptness of thinking, in a way that other forms of teaching do not. As a result, like all learning tools and opportunities they need to be well run and selected to match the intended learning outcome (p.89). This binding of the simulation within the course or module is also effectives demonstrated in other chapters. For example, chapter eight by Gentry (pp.135-6; and 138) clearly maps how the simulation activity combines with other homework to enable the students to achieve the intended outcomes. 

In considering how to build-in simulations into teaching chapters of the book fairly consider constraints and offer practical and pragmatic methods to manage these challenges. For example, in chapter three, Donohue and Forcese discuss “liberating 40 hours of teaching time” (p.52) and utilising the tools available more effectively. This requires teachers to identify what learning is passive and can be done away from the tutor and what learning is active and needs or is enhanced by tutor-student and student-student interaction. This in itself is demanding and requires more time from teachers, not only in terms of preparation of the simulation materials, but also the jiggling of other course contents to fit. 

In other sections of the book (for example by Chamberlain in chapter 7) authors also highlights the physical constraints and potential barriers to running simulations for students of chemistry. The chapter then clearly expresses the requirements for running a simulation for these students (p.117). Again, as in other chapters this exploration of the challenges is then matched with an articulation of potential solutions including some free resources (p.118). 

The chapters also consider and highlight how simulations and their assessment can augment and add-value to different programmes. For example, in the chapter on social work the author identifies a limitation in how students are observed in practice and how simulations can contribute to the assessment process, enabling a more holistic approach to evaluating the student’s performance. A central message throughout the book is to provide an awareness of challenges in building simulations into teaching and learning spaces and programmes but matching this with practical and pragmatic solutions to overcome any problems. From this approach, the reader is therefore prepared, and well equipped, to start to incorporate these ideas into their own work. 

The book should not be read as being solely a ‘how to guide’, nor a piece of advocacy to convert teachers and lecturers to add-in simulations wholesale to their course. The authors do highlight the strengths and problems of simulations, but they also tackle head-on some of the potential problems of whether the performance in a simulation affects the practice that follows (chapter 14 by Picketts and MacLeod, in particular p.238). The findings of the research indicate that in the simulation the students acted in a ritualised way but when applying the same methods in practice they flexibly adapted to the situation (p.240). 

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone considering how to add simulations to their learning environment, but I think it is always very useful for people who have used simulations for years as there are nuggets of gold within each chapter that may enable a different way to reflect on your own practice. The book has certainly given me some new approaches and ideas. 

Simulation & Gaming, April 2021

The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 52, 2 (April 2021) is now available.

  • Wired to Exit: Exploring the Effects of Wayfinding Affordances in Underground Facilities Using Virtual Reality
    • Panos Kostakos, Paula Alavesa, Mikko Korkiakoski, Mario Monteiro Marques, Victor Lobo, and Filipe Duarte
  • Challenges in Serious Game Design and Development: Educators’ Experiences 
    • Anastasia Dimitriadou, Naza Djafarova, Ozgur Turetken, Margaret Verkuyl, and Alexander Ferworn
  • Designing Game-Based Writing Projects to Foster Critical Ethical Reasoning in the English Classroom: A Case Study Using Plague Inc: Evolved 
    • Matthew Kelly
  • A multi-site study examining the usability of a virtual reality game designed to improve retention of sterile catheterization skills in nursing students 
    • Karen R. Breitkreuz, Suzan Kardong-Edgren, Gregory E. Gilbert, Connie DeBlieck, Mariam Maske, Christy Hallock, Susan Lanzara, Kathryn Parrish, Kelly Rossler, Carman Turkelson, Anthony Ellertson, Kimberly N. Brown, Taylor Swetavage, Michael Werb, Elizabeth G. Kuchler, Lori S. Saiki, and Shelly R. Noe
  • Distributed Leadership in Collegiate Esports 
    • Evan Falkenthal and Andrew M. Byrne
  • Using Game-Based Virtual Classroom Simulation in Teacher Training: User Experience Research 
    • Özge Kelleci and Nuri Can Aksoy
  • Simulating Peace Operations: New Digital Possibilities for Training and Public Education 
    • A. Walter Dorn and Peter F. Dawson
<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: