Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 31/03/2012

Government Executive on games in the government

As mentioned earlier, I’m busy at the moment running the annual “Brynania” civil war simulation for 100+ undergraduate and graduate students at McGill University. We’re just about to start Day Four, and already we’ve had faltering ceasefire negotiations, a short-lived government military offensive, attacks on humanitarian operations, terrorism, refugee flows, labour unrest, mass arrests, missing aid workers, evacuation of a wounded UK national (“Amelia Pond”), coordination problems, ethnic tensions, and politically-charged football matches. I’ve also had to read 5,129 emails to date. (You can follow a tiny part of the action on Twitter by following the #Brynania hashtag, but it isless than 1% of what is going on).

In the meantime, I thought I would quickly flag an article that appears in the 1 April 2012 edition of Government Executive magazine on the growing use of games in government, focussing on their use as a mechanism for crowdsourcing ideas:

Military boardrooms and government laboratories aren’t always the most conducive spaces for flashes of insight and creative thought. Nor do they attract Silicon Valley types. But by mining the crowd for answers agencies can’t find on their own—with games that reward ingenuity and play—they are accessing a wealth of ingenuity beyond the civil servants, military personnel and contractors who comprise the federal workforce. Freed from the constraints of reality, gamers are able to conjure ideas that an expert in a cubicle might never think of. If these games and puzzles feed bright ideas to government leaders, they could upend the perceptions many people hold about computer games, from black holes that suck resources from society to tools with real-world impact.

Citizen “crowdsourcing and scientific discovery really challenge notions of expertise that are fine for some, but uncomfortable for others,” says Constance Steinkuehler, a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Steinkuehler, a game researcher on an 18-month stint from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aims to steer the Obama administration to get serious about games.

If government leaders can overcome  biases against games and crowdsourcing, there’s untapped brainpower at stake: In the United States alone, 72 percent of households play computer or video games, according to a 2011 report by the Entertainment Software Association. Government could boost a growing game industry that’s already racking up more than $25 billion in annual sales, according to the ESA report “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry.” In the United States there are an estimated 145 million active gamers and 215 million hours a day are spent on game play, according to market research group Newzoo. The question remains, however, is the government ready to take advantage of these trends?

Read the full article for discussion of MMOWGLI and several other examples. As for me, I’m back to the civil war…

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