Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

CASL roundtable summary: October 2011

On Wednesday, the Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defense University held the most recent of its quarterly roundtables on strategic gaming. I was only able to listen to part of it online, but Gary attended the whole thing and will be providing an account on PAXsims soon.

In the meantime, our good friend Archipelago Annie has sent us a report of the previous CASL roundtable, held in October 2011. We’re pleased to present it below.

* * *

CASL Strategic Gaming Round Table

Summary of Oct 25, 2011 Meeting

Joe Lombardo “Gaming in support of the Civilian Response Corps”

Games can play a critical role as part of a course by enhancing learning, however the game must be designing to compliment and reinforce the broader objectives of the course.  Mr. Lombardo spoke on two games designing in support of courses to training the Civilian Response Corps (CRC), and addressed key lessons learned.

For both games, the fact that they supported short courses that were run repeatedly over a several year period allowed for refining of game mechanics and elements over time.  Because these revisions were conducted in close conversation with course instructors and administrators, it was much easier to insure that changes to the course objectives were reflected in the games, and that the game elements were fully embedded in the course.  Both games also relied strongly on the use of rolls: in one highly scripted roles were used to simulate the tensions of the interagency process, in the other, teams took on the role of a red team to critique their own strategic document.

Peter Perla “Separating Sudan”

The Joint Irregular Warfare Analytic Baseline Project (JIWAB) has been developed by a team based out of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) to produce a scenario for use in future irregular warfare planning.  The team has developed an interdisciplinary process to produce the final set of baseline products. This process includes scenario development via general morphological analysis, counterfactual reasoning, structured scenario fusion, and stakeholder analysis.  Separating Sudan gamed the scenarios developed during this process to flesh out the consequences of each scenario for use in later stages of the JIWAB.  The game itself involved several innovative mechanisms for gaining participant buy-in, including prolonged interaction with key experts and a role auction.  The game also subscribed to the philosophy of using the players as adjudicators whenever possible. The JIWAB team also applied Dr. Stephen Downes-Martin’s technique to analyze the control group as if it were another player.  That analytical team created an ethnography of the game, which pointed to the critical role of buy-in and experience in the gaming process.  The analysis also highlighted the role of the facilitator in drawing out specific actions participants would take, then eliciting the reactive actions of other players representing other stakeholders in the region.  While these techniques may not be generally reproducible, Separating Sudan was an “interactive story living experience” that was able to create a rich world for participants to think though consequences and futures.

Selected points of Discussion from the Q & A

Role of Emotion in Games

  • Trust, both between participants themselves and the participants and the staff, was a critical force as it allowed participants to fully inhabit the roles.
  • Players often needed to use break time to differentiate the choices being made in the game from their personal preferences, particularly when ethnically trick decisions were being made.  This often causes more conservative play then we might expect in reality and is worth noting in game analysis.
  • Self-censorship in asynchronous games can mask the very emotions we look for in face to face exercises, suggesting the need for an alternative paradigm.

Value of Asynchronous Play

  • The value of asynchronous play was agreed to vary based on what you want out of the game.  Generally, if the environment being simulated is asynchronous it makes sense that the game should be as well.  However, by its nature gaming is going to require more artificial limits then reality, and often will need forcing functions such as meetings to insure deliverables are done.  The big advantage might be logistical, but asynchronous games will almost always require more time to play then the same event run face to face.

One response to “CASL roundtable summary: October 2011

  1. Brant 20/01/2012 at 11:07 am

    we’ve got the liveblog over at GrogNews, too :)

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