PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

CSIS course on wargaming, simulatoons, and competitive strategy exercises

The Center for Strategic Studies will be offering a three day course on Wargaming: Constructing Simulations and Competitive Strategy Exercises on 26-28 September 2022, intended for “mid – to senior level professionals from across the government, private sector, nonprofit, military, and academic communities who are interested in learning how to organize and lead a team tasked with conducting an alternative assessment.”

Wargaming: Constructing Simulations and Competitive Strategy Exercises is Washington’s innovative, new course for mid-to senior-level professionals responsible for designing, managing, and interpreting the results of wargames and other strategic simulations. Participants will work alongside CSIS scholars with decades of experience developing and running wargames, simulations, and strategic exercises for the defense and intelligence communities, and apply these lessons to their own organizations and industries. Through a combination of interactive seminars and exercises, they will learn how to design games that help leaders and executives better assess strategic choices and risks. At the conclusion of the course, each participant will be able to differentiate the types of simulations they could employ in their organization, design purpose-built games, and analyze and present the results.  

The course will take place in Washington DC, although virtual participation is available upon request.

The course brochure can be found here. Full details and registration at the link above.

Connections US 2022 Presentations now online

The Connections US 2022 Wargaming Conference materials are now available on the Connections USA Wargaming Conference Proceedings website.

If you presented materials at the conference, and do not find them in the 2022 tab, then upload them via this form. Thank you.

Armchair Dragoons: Connections US 2022 AAR

At Armchair Dragoons, Betsy Joslyn, Sarah Chen, and Andrew Olson provide a report on the recent Connections US 2022 professional wargaming conference.

US NWC: Assistant/Associate Professor, War Gaming Department

The US Naval War College is currently advertising a position for an Assistant or Associate Professor in the War Gaming Department.

Responsibilities. Specific responsibilities include: working in teams to manage data, interpret game designs, and develop player interfaces and game tools to develop research, analysis, and gaming to assess challenges with respect to the Navy and the Nation; conducting focused research, analysis, and gaming to help define future Navy challenges within the maritime domain at the operational level-of- war and to support development of concepts of operations and innovation in the employment of operational and functional capabilities; assisting in the development of the Nation’s security, defense and national military strategies and the Navy’s future maritime strategy; and providing warfare innovation, analysis and decision support capabilities to support senior Navy leadership and other national security decision-makers on a wide range of operational and strategic challenges. The incumbent will be expected to have the academic, educational, and experiential background relevant to developing war games that examine strategic, operational, and tactical warfare concepts.

Qualifications. Qualified applicants must have an advanced degree from an accredited university. A Master’s Degree is required; a Ph.D. is preferred. Significant experience in designing and executing analytical projects, and integrating multiple research efforts is also required. Desirable qualifications include knowledge of military organization and experience on research teams or war gaming, in support of analyzing or planning armed conflict. Proficiency in using relational databases, creating SQL queries, and geographic information systems, to include proficiency in software such as Python, R, Stata, Excel, and Access in support of extracting and formatting data to generate reports is also preferred.

Candidates must be U.S. citizens capable of obtaining a Department of Defense security clearance at the TOP SECRET/SCI level. The selected candidate will be subject to a pre-employment drug screening test and random drug testing thereafter. Any current or prior military service should be described including assignments, positions held, highest rank attained, and dates of service.

Full details can be found the advertisement below. The deadline for application is 14 September 2022.

Wargaming positions at BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman

BAE Systems is looking for a Wargaming Analyst in Quantico, VA.

On-site position to serve as a Wargame Analyst in support of major Marine Corps Wargaming programs. Responsible for assessing the results of multiple wargames and writing reports. Work with small teams of government and contractor wargame designers, staff officers, analysts, and writers. Working with sponsors and game designers, assist in the shaping of problem, purpose and objectives of each game. Develop wargame research questions and associated Collection, Assessment, and Production plans. Conduct background research and literature reviews in support of wargame design and post-game assessment. Develop requirements for qualitative and quantitative analysis and integrate results into overall assessment. Coordinate and integrate the application of analytical methods, models, and tools in support of wargame data collection and analysis. Lead and coordinate a team of recorders for capturing wargame data. Conduct post-game assessment, to include leading assessment workshops, conducting data analysis and synthesizing wargame results. Structure and write wargame reports and post-game briefing products.
The ideal candidate will possess solid analytical skills, be a strong writer who has experience writing for a military audience, a good critical thinker, possess a strong background in Marine Corps and Navy issues, and be able to perform in high-paced, multi-tasking office environments.

The position requires 10 years of active military service and graduation from a military service intermediate level school, plus an active DOD Secret clearance (and the ability to obtain TS/SCI clearance).


Northrup Grumman is seeking a Strategic Planner.

This position will be located at our Aeronautics Systems Sector in Falls Church, VA. The qualified candidate will become part of Northrop Grumman’s Strategy and Business Development organization and part of an integrated team supporting advanced weapon systems programs in the National Capital Region.

Among the essential functions listed are “supporting and executing wargames and campaign analysis.”

Applicants must have a BA in political science, international relations, strategic studies, military history, or a related field and “be able to obtain and maintain a U.S. Government security clearance (U.S. citizenship is a pre-requisite) and Special Program Access within a reasonable time frame.”

Does Wargaming influence US Strategy?

This question comes from Professor Hiroyasu (Hiro) AKUTSU, Professor of International Politics and Security Studies at Heisei International University, Japan.

In what ways has wargaming contributed to the shaping and making of US (DoD and Government) Strategic documents?

(For example the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, National Military Strategy, QDR, National Intelligence Strategy, National Security Space Strategy, National Strategy for Maritime Security, etc.)

Email from Hiro, 29 July 2022

Has wargaming contributed to these? Which documents, and where are the wargames written up? Please post responses as comments to this post. Thank you in advance.

Entry-level wargaming positions

Slitherine is looking for an “Assistant Producer – Hardcore Wargaming.”

As an Assistant Producer at Slitherine, you will have the opportunity to work with a range of teams on a varied roster of internal and external hardcore wargame projects, helping to ensure their success and maintaining the quality that they have become known for. You will have the support of producers and senior producers and the opportunity to mentor you and help you progress your career towards becoming a associate producer and beyond. This is a remote position available to anyone worldwide. This is an ideal role for someone trying to break in to the industry as no prior experience is required. 

Further details can be found here. They are also currently looking for a Junior PR Manager.


The Telemus Group seeks a graduate student for a part-time paid internship between September 2022 and May 2023, with a commitment of 10-15 hours per week. Work may either be done remotely or at the Telemus Group office in McLean, VA. Intern residency in the greater Washington, DC area is looked on favorably, but not a requirement for strong candidates.

Additional details can be found below. The deadline for applications is September 15.

Position: Wargaming research fellow

The US Army War College is seeking a Wargaming Research Fellow:

This is a full-time civilian position at the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) as provided under Title 10 USC 4021. Initial appointment will be for 6 months. The appointment may be renewed for up to one year in total. The position is structured for recently matriculated undergraduates with an interest in developing and teaching educational wargames for use in strategic-level education.

Duties

•Collaborate with professional strategic game developers and faculty to design, develop and teach custom strategic games in graduate-level curriculum and to inform senior leader decision making

•Collaborate with Department of Defense Officials to determine the scope and applicability of wargames as a technique for conducting research into issue of military strategic importance

•Serve as a member of a gaming team in teaching games in graduate-level education and in developing games that inform senior leader decision making

•Participate in wargames and workshops, and write and publish on matters of importance related to strategic wargaming

•Engage in internal and external service in support of institutional missions

•Support faculty in the execution of wargames

Conditions of Employment

•Appointment may be subject to a suitability or fitness determination, as determined by a completed background investigation.

•Must be able to obtain and maintain a SECRET security clearance.

Qualifications

Who May Apply: US Citizens

Full details at USAJobs at the link above. The competition closes on 4 August 2022.

Wargames in the Pink Tower

“Wargames in the Pink Tower” (part two of a four part BBC miniseries on nuclear weapons and war) is about nuclear deterrence and the use of wargaming during the Cold War. The producers used parts of the audio recording of Thomas Schelling’s keynote to the Connections US 2014 Conference along with material from Fred Kaplan, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Graham Allison, and Paul Bracken. A fascinating glimpse into how nuclear deterrence and wargaming is presented to the general public.

IDA researchers discuss wargaming innovation

The Institute for Defense Analyses has released a new video in which Dan Chiu, Yuna Wong and Akar Bharadvaj discuss the value of wargaming—and the importance of innovation and diversity in wargame design.

IDA will be hosting the Connections US 2022 professional wargaming conference later this month.

MORS: Gaming cyber and information operations

The Military Operations Research Society will offer a short online course on gaming cyber and information operations from 30 August to 1 September 2023, taught by Ed McGrady. Further details and registration information are available at the link.

Games are tools that professionals can use to understand complex problems. Problems where there really is no good solution. Problems where there are two opposing sides. Problems of deterrence and belief. 

Cyber security and information operations incorporate all of these challenges and more. But cyber games are often seen solely through the focus of computer-based games. Information operations games are thought to be too hard to execute and adjudicate. And while computer mediated exercises and games have a role in cyber preparedness, so do manual games that focus on organization, conceptualization, and experimentation. In this game design course, we will focus on building manual, professional, games designed to explore, train, or educate on issues surrounding cyber security and information operations. 

MORS currently offers a one week certificate course in Cyber Game Design in collaboration with Virginia Tech. In this shortened version of the week long course we will focus on how to build the best cyber game for the sponsor’s objectives. We will also add information operations to the mix. Information operations are important to understand because they broaden the conflict landscape to include all types of information, not just information that flows on digital networks and their components. 

Our framework for the class will be understanding the types of games that are available to us, and how they relate to gaming at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of cyber. What is the role of matrix games in cyber? How do we build realistic tactical games without becoming overwhelmed with detail? How do we build analytical tools for tactical adjudication of cyber games? How do we handle adjudication of social engineering or deception? 

Gaming information operations will focus on practical tips and techniques for either building games that focus on information operations, or incorporating information operations into large game systems. 

The class will consist of three primary sections: game design, gaming cyber security at the tactical operational, and strategic levels, and gaming information operations. As much as possible we will incorporate class exercises and engagements as part of the learning process.  

A critical look at serious game design

Yes, PAXsims does memes.

A new online-first article in Simulation & Gaming by Kristy de Salas (University of Tasmania) et al should be required reading for all serious game designers. In it, she and her colleagues undertook a systematic review of the English-language literature on “gameful interventions to improve behaviour related to environmental outcomes” published between 2015 and 2020. Only original, peer-reviewed articles on digital games were included. With these criteria 52 relevant papers identified and assessed.

What did they find? The article is paywalled, so I’ll excerpt some key findings below.

Regarding the types and contexts of pro-environmental games being developed, our study identified that the environmentally oriented gameful interventions were split between those classifying themselves as gamification – the use of game elements within a non-entertainment context – and serious games – full games designed for a behavioural outcome. While both gamification and serious games aim to influence a player to achieve a desired behaviour, the processes to achieve this outcome are vastly different in gamification and serious games, and clarity in classifying these interventions is important (Coreaxis, 2020). For example, within an environmental context, the intention of serious games is to directly improve long-term pro-environmental behaviours in a target group, whereas gamification aims to alter the attitude of a player – for example, increasing a player’s motivation and engagement towards participating in a short-term pro-environmental activity (Aubert et al., 2018). It is not the intention of gamification to influence long-term behaviour directly.

In reviewing these insights, we learn that designers with desires towards longer-term behavioural outcomes may be relying on a gamification model in the hope of bringing about change, despite the increasingly large volume of literature reporting its failure as an effective long-term strategy (dating back to 2011) (Bogost, 2015). This is of concern, for if we design gameful interventions with inaccurate underlying assumptions (i.e. believing that gamification in itself will bring about long-term change), outcomes will likely be compromised.

…there was a distinct absence of behavioural model informed design, justification for the use of these specific intervention functions, and the assessment of their affordability, practicability, effectiveness, acceptability, safety and equity. This is of particular concern as intervention design theory tells us that it is important to consider these design elements in order to make effective choices about which intervention functions are most appropriate or have the best potential chance of success in bringing about change in a particular context (Michie, Hyder et al., 2011). This lack of reporting on the consideration and application of design theory in our reviewed studies mirrors the limitations identified in other studies (Akl et al., 2010; Alanne, 2016; Alessandra et al., 2019; Battistella & von Wangenheim, 2016; Bodnar et al., 2016; da Silva et al., 2019; Farcas & Szamoskozi, 2016; Hersh et al., 2018; Lämsä et al., 2018; Leal et al., 2018; Mora et al., 2017; Osatuyi et al., 2018). This further reinforces the call for more thorough articulation of the current state of design to ensure best-practice design is being employed to bring about the target change.

Of further concern was the apparent lack of any articulated exploration of the appropriateness of games to their target audience. Designers of these gameful interventions were following the example of others trying to improve environmental outcomes, with only half of the studies describing the inclusion of any specific selection of specific behaviour change techniques to the improvement of either the capability, the opportunity or the motivation of the target audience to achieve the target behaviour or to engage with a game as the delivery mechanism, as is recommended by intervention design theory (Michie, Hyder et al., 2011). Rather, designers’ perceptions of games being efficient and low-cost approaches to achieve pro-environmental outcomes were the driving force for the intervention design rather than being informed by their suitability for the target audience. This finding mirrors that found by others when games are introduced for behaviour change outcomes in various disciplines (see, for example, Sharifzadeh et al., 2020).

Only one of our reviewed studies included the subject-matter expertise of environmental scientists, and only three included the discipline expertise of behavioural intervention designers, with the majority being developed by technological experts. This style of design team composition is consistent with practice recorded in much technology-informed intervention design in which design is often given over to technical developers (Salah et al., 2014); however, it is counter to best-practice user-centred design practice that suggests the need for multidisciplinary expertise in design teams to support the development of useful and usable interventions and systems (Gurses & Xiao, 2006; O’Brien et al., 2003).

Interestingly, despite the technical focus of the majority of gameful intervention development teams as just described, our reviewed papers included little to describe the influences on, and practice of, the technical design process of the interventions. Consequently, comparisons cannot be drawn across the design methodologies of the studies.

The extent of our knowledge from these design descriptions is limited to an understanding that these interventions were designed as mobile and web-based games that included traditional games elements such as points, levels, loot, feedback and badges to incentivise players.

Our reviewed papers did not sufficiently report the reasoning for incorporating specific game elements and difficulties arise therefore in determining the impact of reported game elements on a conceptual level such as the difference between implementing tasks and challenges. This lack of design description inhibits our opportunities to identify those elements of games and their design that have direct impact of the achievement of the targeted behavioural outcomes, a finding that is mirrored by other authors calling for more description in design to better inform the future design decisions of others

A further limitation to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the usefulness of games to bring about pro-environmental behavioural change is that not all reviewed studies undertook an evaluation of their intervention.

For those studies that did include an evaluation of their gameful intervention, a range of outcomes were reported across them, with the largest single proportion (28%) of studies reporting a positive change in either the target behaviour or the achievement of participant motivation towards conducting the target behaviour, followed by equal studies indicating mixed results or no difference (28%).

Difficulties arise in attempts to understand the differences in these reported outcomes as these results are influenced by many factors, including the range of outcomes being measured (including effectiveness, ease of use and usefulness); the nature of the data being collected (including survey and questionnaires, player metrics and interviews) and the range of evaluation tools (including single experiments with no control conditions, randomised control trials, observational studies and focus groups…

They conclude:

In this article, 52 articles reporting on gameful interventions were reviewed to determine the scope of games to support pro-environmental outcomes, the design of these systems and the evaluation of these interventions towards supporting the needs of the target audience. Our review has identified a lack of comprehensive articulation of the behavioural design elements to guide the intervention, including an absence of information regarding the process undertaken to gain an understanding the target behaviour and audience; a lack of justification for the selection of intervention functions and a failure to substantiate the use of a game as an appropriate delivery mode for the intervention.

We further identified that the reviewed gameful intervention designs do not include (or at least fail to articulate) best-practice activities such as multidisciplinary team composition, user-centred design or iterative design and feedback. In fact, the papers yield very little insight into the technical development practices of these interventions.

The reports use a range of primary measures, data collection tools and data sources to report on the outcomes of their interventions. This heterogeneity further limits opportunities for comparison.

In conclusion, our review of these 52 articles reporting on pro-environment gameful interventions has highlighted that despite the reported full or partial achievement of the goals of the interventions across these reviewed articles, we cannot yet be convinced that gameful interventions included in this specific review

•have been designed according to best-practice intervention design – including practices to understand the existing behaviour and the likelihood of changing that behaviour;

• have been designed according to best-practice technology development – including multidisciplinary teams and user-centred design;

• have considered thoroughly why a game is the most suitable delivery mechanism for the intervention;

• have selected evidence-based behaviour change techniques and mapped those to specific game elements within the design to ensure these act as ‘active ingredients’ of the intervention and

• are being evaluated based on best practice and can therefore report confidently on evidence-based outcomes of short-term engagement (in gamification interventions) or long-term behaviour change (in serious game interventions.

We suggest that future articles on gameful interventions should present information regarding their intervention design, and justification for their design choices, both behaviourally and technologically. In doing so, future reports on gameful interventions can better contribute to our body of knowledge on best-practice intervention design and evaluation practices, further contributing to the successful adoption of such interventions and the achievement of positive behavioural outcomes.

It’s a quite scathing critique—and one, I am confident, that applies to almost all serious gaming, including professional wargaming. Only in medical simulation and gaming, I think, do we see somewhat greater attention to some of these issues.

I would add that the problem may be even deeper than this, because I’m not confident that all of the literature on gaming, learning, and behavioural change rests on especially strong theoretical foundations. All too often, when designers or researchers invoke a theoretical paradigm, it is little more than a typology weakly supported by empirical research (such as the oft-cited “learning styles”).

What parts of a professional wargame design can be defined by the sponsor’s objective (and what parts require designer creativity)?

Wargame design has been described as a creative art with a science component. Identifying which parts of the design can be defined based on the sponsor’s objectives will free the designer to focus all their efforts on the creative components.

There are three one hour Game Lab sessions scheduled at the Connections US 2022 Wargaming Conference during which multiple parallel small groups will meet and discuss different questions or topics.

I will run a three part Game Lab on the question “How much of a professional wargame design can be defined by the sponsor’s objective?” broken into three sub questions, one question per one-hour facilitated discussion.

  1. “What parts of the professional wargame design process can and should be routinized and what characteristics of the sponsor’s objectives should we seek to assist us in doing so?”

  2. “What information in addition to the sponsor’s objectives do we need and how can this help define the design of the professional wargame?”

  3. “What are the barriers to obtaining the information necessary to design a professional wargame and how can we overcome them?”

If you are registered to participate in the conference, you may come to any or all of the sessions.

Even if you are not coming to Connections, or are coming but choose to participate in other Game Labs, I invite you to provide your answers to each of the above sub questions via this form (click here or on the image). You may submit this form as often as you like, and I will ensure you receive a copy of the final report.

Thank you in advance for your inputs.

Stephen Downes-Martin

MORS: Gaming emergency response to disease course

The Military Operations Research Society will be offering a three day online course on “gaming emergency response to disease” on 27-29 September 2022, featuring Roger Mason, Ed McGrady, and Pete Pellegrino.

In this three-day course we will focus on the application of professional games to the problems associated with disease response and will cover pandemic response games, both national and international. The objective throughout the course will be to identify unique or challenging aspects involved in designing games involving disease response.

Day 1:

  • ​Introduction: The Problem of Disease Response
  • Game Design Fundamentals
  • Ways to Apply Games to Disease Response
  • Basic Biology and Epidemiology in Games

Day 2:

  • ​Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Game Examples
  • PANDEMIC TEMPEST
  • Exercise: Nature or Nurture
  • Matrix Games
  • Exercise: Building a Disease Response Game

Day 3:

  • ​Emergency Response Process
  • Disease and Emergency Response
  • Emergency Response Games
  • Exercise: Building Emergency Response Games
  • Exercise: Practicum and Discussion

More information and registration at the link above.

Review: Influence, Inc.

Influence, Inc. Curious Bird, 2022. Game designer: Amanda Warner. USD$11.99 via Steam and Humble, for Mac and PC.


As a political scientist, influence games have always interested me. Information management, message framing, propaganda and disinformation figured prominently in the Brynania peacebuilding simulation and in many of the megagames I’ve designed or helped run. Last year I was involved in several influence games being conducted by or for NATO members, variously swaying elections, undermining democracies, and supporting all sorts of nefarious activities as a leader of the Red team. Most of the matrix games I’ve been involved in—whether exploring the war against ISIS or the dangers of African Swine Fever—have had messgaing and influence as a central game dynamic. Even as I write this review, I’m involved in two game design projects that have information as a central elements: the second phase of the READY project on infectious disease response (which will focus, in part on, risk communication and community engagement), and a newsgathering simulation for CNN Academy.

I’m also impressed with Amanda Warner’s work as a game designer. For those reasons, I was excited to play her latest game, Influence, Inc.

In Influence, Inc. you are a senior executive in advertising/social media firm, seeking to influence public perceptions to support your clients. Some of this is quite benign, for example adding clout to a new product launch. Some of it is a little more dubious, like helping public figures recover from scandals. And some of it is downright nefarious, working for political leaders and governments to defame opponents, undermine (or support) popular protests, and influence elections—often covertly, in a way that provides your client with a degree of plausible deniability. It’s all very Madison Avenue meets Cambridge Analytica.

To do all this, you have access to a network of social media accounts (“online persona” or bots) to insert and signal-boost messages. You can use your team to turn boring press releases and other information into potentially viral content and memes. You can target social media advertising at selected demographics. On the darker side, your “compromiser” can dig up dirt on selected targets, and you can leak information to various media outlets if you would prefer to insert it into the public domain through an intermediary.

Throughout, you’ll have access to information on what content is trending, opinion polling, and the status of petitions. The objective of the game is to earn as much money as possible by accepting and completing contracts within specified periods of time. Be careful which contracts you accept, however, or you might be messaging against yourself!

I though Influence, Inc. was lively, witty, and addressed key elements of modern influence operations and social/media ecosystems. Anyone designing an influence game—including manual ones—would be well advised to play it for inspiration.

I also see the game having potential instructional value as a homework “play” assignment for courses on the media or modern information technology. My only caveat here is that, despite a tutorial mode that explains game controls and options as they become available, some students will feel overwhelmed by the plethora of information, choices, and interface options presented to them—despite everything you hear about Gen-Z “digital natives,” a quite significant proportion of contemporary students still struggle when asked to play an unfamiliar game. Here, I recommend you explain the main interface items in class before sending them off to play it at home. You should also urge students to make liberal use of the pause button to stop the clock as they decide what to do. In the longer term, an instructional guide addressing core game components and interface, key assumptions and game dynamics, and debrief questions to consider after the game is over would be very useful.

Give it a try yourself!

No shadowy foreign interests, bots, media leaks, or covert funding were involved in the writing of this review.

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