PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Blog-based wargaming?

In addition to a shout-out to a very good piece by Peter Perla and Ed McGrady on Why Wargaming Works from the Summer 2011 issue of Naval War College Review, the Information Dissemination maritime strategy/strategic communications blog currently features an interesting discussion of using a blog as the basis for an online wargame/crowd-sourcing exercise.

There are already a few hobby wargamers who have tried this. I’ve certainly used blogs in a variety of ways in my own simulations, whether as mechanisms for players to articulate their positions, as repositories of background material, or as the primary vehicle for disseminating scenario events. At the 2008 Chatham House simulation on Palestinian refugee negotiations, for example, a simple WordPress blog (the “Chatham House News Service“) was used to transmit information to the participants in real time. Partly, the game moderators wrote the blog posts based on actions taken by the players, but also we had a few experienced Middle East journalists acting as journalists, interviewing players in-character and then filing their stories through us. Teams were also able to use the blog to issue public statements. Finally, the blog acted as a source of scenario background information, and contained links to outside resources that players might find useful. All-in-all it worked very well (despite a failure of the wifi system in the conference venue the night before—thankfully fixed before we started through the simple expediency of unplugging and replugging the router.)

Ideas on the topic? Post them here or there.

8 responses to “Blog-based wargaming?

  1. hipshotau 28/10/2011 at 4:00 pm

    This is interesting to me. As a technology guy (sans programmer) who is a student of history and a historical board gamer, I am intrigued by how we can leverage technology in simulations. At a very simple level I have experimented with these metaphors myself.
    I have streamed live play, and taken interactions from comments posted realtime, used polls to solicit decisions and most recently begun an exercise in 100% Poll driven simulation, using forums, Facebook and other interactions. Where I am in essence Game Master for participants. These participants do not need to know the intricacies of the specific game system, just make judicious decisions regarding strategy, tactics, appetite for risk etc, based on the situations they see via video blog, pictorial essay and typical session reports.
    How these modes can be applied to real world scenario modeling and learning is fascinating. Great post.

  2. Rex Brynen 28/10/2011 at 4:04 pm

    Great comment, thanks! I’ll go back and link to your blog in the original piece.

  3. Skip Cole 28/10/2011 at 4:17 pm

    How does one keep people concise? The signal to noise problem seems a big one to me. I’ve been in many a forum, and discussion chain, where there was just too much to read. To the point where I gave up.
    Has anyone coined the term ‘electronic filibustering’ ? If not, I want to do so. I think that is how a lot of people try to ‘win’ debates online, and often they do. Given enough spare time in Dad’s basement, anyone can get in the last 20,000 word post. But it may not drive the group toward any deeper shared conception of the truth. I’m assume this may sometimes apply here.

    Conciseness is gold.

  4. hipshotau 28/10/2011 at 4:35 pm

    Good thought there Skip. There is a balance I imagine between moderation and open social exchange. If the participant is wanting to be part of a solution or an exercise, one would hope they exercise their best judgement. Failing that, resorting to a vote on who is allowed to participate going forward ( via IP ban/blocking or muting ) is the ultimate behavioral democracy at work.

  5. Rex Brynen 28/10/2011 at 4:42 pm

    Is there a crowd-source vs wargame trade-off here, perhaps?

    In crowd-sourcing one is often attempting to flatten hierarchies, encourage online pluralism, and lower the barriers to participation so that many wisdoms–conventional and unconventional–can flourish.

    In a wargame, as in war and the other things it might attempt to model, hierarchies are both common and, in most cases, desirable. Indeed, losing too much of that hierarchy might rob the game of a dangerous degree of “realism.”

    The desirable compromise, I suppose, is something that works rather like a staff discussion. Participants are free to offer input and ideas, but in the end not all participants have an equal ability to determine outcomes (or have their influence confined in some way to “their” area of responsibility).

  6. brtrain 28/10/2011 at 6:53 pm

    There are many ways to use the Internet to mediate play of wargames like this. As Rex points out, a basic and very useful method is to use a blog like the old mimeograph machine, for one-way dissemination of information. Now, asynchronous mediated play over the Internet is possible through any number of free or low-cost programs and services (bulletin board, play-by-forum, Skip’s Open Simulation Platform, Moodle, even a simple mailing list), and permits a great deal of discussion and flexibility among players, as well as a great deal of “fog of war” being generated. I have played games with COIN themes myself through these methods and think this method offers a lot of hope.
    Though, as Skip concisely points out, brevity should be the sould of wit, or at least a feature of your post. Though the 140 characters of a Twitter post won’t cut it either. As often happens, the quality of the game exprience is largely derived from the people you’re playing it with – another pitfall of crowd-sourcing.

  7. hipshotau 28/10/2011 at 7:20 pm

    I think Rex, that the manner of participation is going to be driven by the decisions required to be made. In a mil sim or COIN situation you may want many opinions or a few? The venue, and avenues of aggregating the social construct will often drive the participation rate and thereby give you a manageable population.
    For instance I use a time based criteria and different media if I want a larger audience versus a narrower more ‘qualified’ to engage audience.

  8. Bryan Alexander 29/10/2011 at 9:15 am

    It might be worth seeing the variety of ways educators use blogging.
    For instance, there’s the mass-authored model, where all students + staff have access to posting.
    Compare with the motherblog model, where the instructor maintains a single organizing blog, while each student runs their own. M-blog blogroll links to each student.
    Or the blog seminar model, where each discussant blogs over a specific schedule.
    I can see games using any of these.

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