Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

simulations miscellany, 14 June 2012

For no particular reason at all, it’s the lolcat edition of simulations miscellany—with recent news on games and simulations that may be of interest to our readers:

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The folks at NDU’s Center for Applied Strategic Learning offer a “demo strategic game” online, in which players can choose a course of action in response to a terrorist threat. (It may have been on their CASL website a while, but I’ve only just noticed it.) Go give it a try.

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Volko Ruhnke’s long-awaited boardgame of insurgency and counterinsurgency in Colombia, Andean Abyss, is likely to be shipped by GMT Games next. While you’re anxiously awaiting your chance to play a drug lord or right-wing paramilitary, you can have a look at the final version of the rulebook and playbook on the GMT Games website.

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Also on the insurgency/counterinsurgency theme, over at Grogheads Christopher Davos has posted the second part of his “developer’s diary” for The Long War, a strategic card-driven game about the current war in Afghanistan. There’s also a forum to discuss the game concept.

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It’s an old thread (2009) but a good one: if you’re thinking of using the classic board game Diplomacy in the classroom, have a look at this informative post (and subsequent discussion) at BoardGameGeek.

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Speaking of games of nations, Reddit user “Lycerius” has been playing the computer game Civilization II (1996) for ten years—that is to say, the same game of Civ II over 10 years:

I’ve been playing the same game of Civ II for 10 years. Though long outdated, I grew fascinated with this particular game because by the time Civ III was released, I was already well into the distant future. I then thought that it might be interesting to see just how far into the future I could get and see what the ramifications would be. Naturally I play other games and have a life, but I often return to this game when I’m not doing anything and carry on. The results are as follows.

  • The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.
  • There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.

-The ice caps have melted over 20 times (somehow) due primarily to the many nuclear wars. As a result, every inch of land in the world that isn’t a mountain is inundated swamp land, useless to farming. Most of which is irradiated anyway.

-As a result, big cities are a thing of the distant past. Roughly 90% of the world’s population (at its peak 2000 years ago) has died either from nuclear annihilation or famine caused by the global warming that has left absolutely zero arable land to farm. Engineers (late game worker units) are always busy continuously building roads so that new armies can reach the front lines. Roads that are destroyed the very next turn when the enemy goes. So there isn’t any time to clear swamps or clean up the nuclear fallout.

-Only 3 super massive nations are left. The Celts (me), The Vikings, And the Americans. Between the three of us, we have conquered all the other nations that have ever existed and assimilated them into our respective empires.

-You’ve heard of the 100 year war? Try the 1700 year war. The three remaining nations have been locked in an eternal death struggle for almost 2000 years….

The epic game has provoked much discussion online, both in terms of strategy for ending the war and with regard to the situation that has developed on his virtual earth after a decade of game play.

(Interestingly, part of the fascination here is that the game is a digital one, where the “half-life” for continuous play is expected to be quite low due to the eventual obsolescence of software or the lure of upgraded editions or subsequent more sophisticated competing games. By contrast, there would be quite a few manual pen-and-paper role-playing games that have been going for two or more decades without attracting attention from NPRThe Guardian, The AtlanticForbes, news agencies, and hundreds of electronic gaming and technology publications and blogs.)

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Tiltfactor is “a conceptual design lab that researches, designs, launches, and publishes games and interactive experiences related to technology and human values” founded by Mary Flanagan. It produces some very interesting games, including POX—a game that educates about vaccination and group immunity. Now they are introducing ZOMBIEPOX, a zombie-themed variant of that same game. The reason for doing so isn’t just because they’ve seen the blood-spattered writing on the apocalyptic wall, but rather to see whether reconfiguring a health education game with a zombie theme will affect the way players accept and learn from it:

…ZOMBIEPOX is an evolution of POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE®, which was originally conceived as a game of disease control that came out of a partnership with the Mascoma Valley Health Initiative to stop the spread of misinformation concerning the effects of vaccination.

Previous research at Tiltfactor has found that players can apply concepts and systems thinking learned through playing POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE to problems outside the game. Currently, Tiltfactor is conducting research to examine the gameplay and learning outcomes of ZOMBIEPOX and how the zombie narrative compares with the original POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE game….

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