Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 06/07/2012

Comments wanted: Draft CGSC “stability operations” simulation requirements

The US Army Command and General Staff College is currently developing its ideas and requirements for a stability operations simulation that would be used in professional military education at the CGSC and elsewhere. They’re also crowd-sourcing ideas and feedback—and so they’ve asked for your help, via PAXsims. There is a summary of the challenge below, and two attached documents to look over (here and here).

The US military defines stability operations as “various military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.” This might involve foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster response, peace operations, counterinsurgency, or combinations of these—usually undertaken in fragile and conflict-affected states. (For more detail, have a look at the US Army field manual on the subject, FM 3-07.)

For those of you who aren’t used to the jargon of the military and the military simulation community some of the material attached below will be unfamiliar. Don’t worry about that, however—the core question here is really one of “what do simulation users need to learn about stability operations, and how might a simulation best teach them that?” Folks who work in the humanitarian and development communities, or who work on the politics and economics of fragile and conflict-affected states, may have especially valuable “outside” perspectives to offer.

If you do have comments, ideas, or suggestions, please post them here in the comments section.

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Attached below is a very rough draft of requirements for a stability operations simulation intended to support staff exercises at the US Army Command and General Staff College. We’re looking for comments, and we’re interested in any simulations that might already fit these.

Overview: This document outlines required functional capabilities and training effects for a Stability Operations simulation enabling student staff exercises at echelons from battalion through brigade. There is no requirement to interface with the Live, Virtual, Constructive – Integrating Architecture (LVC-IA). At this time, the only Mission Command System that needs to be populated is Command Post of the Future (CPoF). There is no requirement to federate with other simulations. Stimulating additional Mission Command systems, federating with other simulations, and working with LVC-IA is acceptable if and only if there is no additional workload or cost associated with the capability and those systems are not required for fully capable operation. This document will assist the Material Developer to better understand the required functional capabilities and training effects to be included in the Simulation.
Description: The purpose of this Use Case is to provide requirements for a simulation to support competitive-play low-overhead educational staff-centric stability operations exercises conducted at battalion through brigade level by Professional Military Education (PME) students acting as commanders and key staff officers. This simulation is focused on Stability Operations and enables experiential educational environments. It adjudicates the results of student staff planning and decisions, requiring students to adapt their plans to an evolving situation. This is not a predictive simulation. It is intended to produce generally plausible outcomes whose dilemmas will drive student learning.

More detailed technical specifications can be found in this enclosure.

This is not a formal statement of requirements, nor is it a solicitation for bids. There will be a long and difficult road between these documents and spending money (and us getting the simulation we need). Eventually, the final version of these documents will go to the National Simulation Center (NSC). Assuming it makes it through a Requirements Board process, the NSC will turn them over to PEO-STRI, who will contract out to have it made. There are no guarantees that the process will go through all those steps.

However, we’d like to have the best thinking on this we can, in hopes of getting the best product at the far end should we get there.

A few other notes, framing what this is supposed to be:

  • As noted above, this is not a predictive simulation. It is intended to produce generally plausible outcomes whose dilemmas will drive student learning.
  • There will not be a full staff, let alone all the supporting & subordinate staffs. Thus, the simulation has to produce data directly into a student-useful format. Correlating spot reports isn’t a useful employment of student’s time; analyzing the meaning of the summary of activity reports is. This allows for a lot of abstraction in the simulation.

Last but not least, apologies for the format. Yes, there is a lot of overlap between the primary document and Enclosure 1. This may give you a window into the “wonderful” world of requirements writing, though.

James Sterrett
Deputy Chief, Simulations
Digital Leader Development Center
US Army Command and General Staff College

Jeremy Antley on 1989: Dawn of Freedom

The website Play the Past always has great material on “the intersection of cultural heritage (very broadly defined) and games/meaningful play (equally broadly defined)”—which is why we feature it in the RSS feed here at PAXsims. Most recently, Jeremy Antley examines the boardgame 1989: Dawn of Freedom (which we reviewed here), and in the process makes a couple of important points about the way in which we intellectually engage with games themselves.

First, Jeremy rightly emphasizes that to understand a game one must experience it. As he puts it, “games are kinetic objects that surrender the nuances of their design only through active operation.  Just as you cannot fully understand the feeling of riding a roller-coaster by sight alone, so too will the integration of a games play-design mechanics elude you if you do not engage with the game on its own terms.”

This is true not only for what might be termed (to use the kinetic metaphor) as the “physics” of the game, but also especially for its “metaphysics.” By this I refer to the many intangible ways in which its game creates the experience of play, such as the sense of excitement that it generates, or the degree to which rules, player interactions, and physical presentation all combine to create an immersive sense of being elsewhere (whether that be in in Eastern Europe as communism falls, exploring  derelict spaceship, or anywhere else that a game seeks to depict). Even games that don’t aim at immersion in a historical or imagined world derive much of their value from things like the social interactions they encourage among players, something that is hard to envisage from the rules alone.

Second, Jeremy emphasizes the extent to which our ability to understand the features, designer’s intent, and played experience of a game is greatly enhanced today by a vibrant community of online discussion. BoardGameGeek, ConSimWorld, and other sites provide opportunity not only for player discussions and reviews, but also for thoughtful interaction with designers themselves. The result is a truly rich array of perspectives, experiences, and analysis.

For more of Jeremy’s thoughts on games, history, knowledge, and understanding, visit his blog Peasant Muse.

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