Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 09/02/2009

What Do NDU Gamers Do All Day?

Ever wondered what the National Strategic Gaming Center at National Defense University does? Now you know:

Gaming the 21st Century: National Strategic Gaming Center

Joint Force Quarterly 52 (1st Quarter, 2009).

The discipline has long lacked an energized professional discourse about how games are best put together and what consumers can (and cannot) learn from them. This lack of substantive activity is costly to the wider policy and analytical community, whose members are left with few reference points for evaluating how seriously they should take the findings from games and how useful participation in them might be, and with little awareness of the interesting topics and exercises being run throughout the national security community. Despite some admirable attempts to stimulate debate and research, even Defense Department university-based wargaming groups have avoided publishing, lecturing, and generally competitively comparing ideas about why and how we do what we do.

A research initiative launched in 2008 seeks to fill this void and to invite colleagues in other gaming shops and the wider policy community to engage with us by participating in events, criticizing, contesting, elaborating, or extending research ideas. We want to challenge practitioners to reexamine how they write games and draw conclusions. We similarly wish to encourage and enable consumers of games to critically assess them. Our overarching focus is on gaming 21st-century challenges-both identifying issues and trends that could be well served by gaming and weighing whether and where exercise design needs to adapt in order to reflect these new issues.

You’ll also find an earlier and more detailed piece on Strategic Gaming for the National Security Community in Joint Force Quarterly 39 (4th Quarter 2005).

Hat-tip to NDU’s Margaret McCown for passing on what promises to be the first of a regular series of articles on their activities—and apologies to the late Richard Scarry for the blog post title.

roleplaying a refugee camp

Although this report is from last year, I thought it was worth posting:

NORTH ANDOVER – This weekend, Jamille Bigio is pretending that the ponds and woods of Harold Parker State Forest are the arid countryside on the Chad-Sudan border. When she hears gunshots fired by turkey hunters, she will pretend that it is the sound of clashing militias in the war-torn Darfur region.

The Harvard graduate student is planning to go abroad to do humanitarian work when she graduates this spring, even if the thought of gunfire in a foreign country gives her a twist “in her gut.”

“For me the struggle is to get an appreciation of what’s going on on the ground,” the 26-year-old said yesterday. “I don’t want to be a policy wonk.”

Many college students have protested the humanitarian crisis and the killings in Darfur. But about 50 medical residents and graduate students from Harvard and Tufts are getting a taste of what the conflict might look and feel like up close.

Campers in the tick-infested forest will eat only military rations and pretend that they work for organizations like Oxfam, CARE, and Doctors Without Borders. As part of training to become the next generation of leaders of such relief organizations, they must learn how to manage a refugee camp.

Peter Walker, a Tufts professor and one of the organizers, said the program is designed to help students see whether they are cut out for humanitarian work and the sacrifices it requires. As part of the exercise, the students are responsible for helping 5,000 refugees survive in makeshift camps.

It certainly looks like a very interesting case of experiential learning.

A hat tip to  Toby Bonthrone at Tufts for bring this to my attention. Toby is  teaching a course on counter-insurgency, and who will be taking his own class out to the woods for some sim-COIN in March (and no, I won’t tip off his students to what will be happening to them!)

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