Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Forthcoming Simulation & Gaming articles on peacebuilding

Several more articles from the forthcoming special issue of Simulation & Gaming on peacebuilding have now been made available in advance by SAGE, including our own short introduction to the collection:

Rex Brynen and Gary Milante, “Peacebuilding With Games and Simulations.”

Simulations and games can offer valuable insight into the management of conflict and the achievement of peace. This special symposium issue of Simulation & Gaming examines several such approaches, used in both educational settings and to prepare practitioners to deal with the concrete challenges of peacebuilding. In the introduction, the authors offer some brief thoughts on the how and why of simulations and games-based approaches, scenario choices (abstract, fictional, and real world), intended audiences, and design approaches. They also address the question of how games might (or might not) contribute to policy making in this field.

Tucker B. Harding and Mark A. Whitlock, “Leveraging Web-Based Environments for Mass Atrocity Prevention.”

A growing literature exploring large-scale, identity-based political violence, including mass killing and genocide, debates the plausibility of, and prospects for, early warning and prevention. An extension of the debate involves the prospects for creating educational experiences that result in more sophisticated analytical products that enhance preventive policy action. This article details an attempt to bridge the theory to practice gap. It describes the role of a simulation COUNTRY X within the educational contexts of both a graduate course in prevention of mass killing and genocide at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and a practitioner training workshop designed for regional conflict early warning analysts in Africa. The authors review educational theory describing problem-based learning and apply it to a web-based educational simulation. Using a recent training of professional conflict early warning analysts as their case study, they explore several assumptions regarding the utility of simulated environments as educational tools in moving from theory to practice. Use of the simulation resulted in active and engaged participation by learners, increased capacity for well-reasoned perspective taking, and improved analytical confidence in complex scenarios.

Richard B. Powers and Kat Kirkpatrick, “Playing With Conflict: Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Simulations and Games.”

Playing With Conflict is a weekend course for graduate students in Portland State University’s Conflict Resolution program and undergraduates in all majors. Students participate in simulations, games, and experiential exercises to learn and practice conflict resolution skills. Graduate students create a guided role-play of a conflict. In addition to an oral debriefing, students wrote a debriefing report following the Description, Interpretation, Evaluation (DIE) model of debriefing. The written debriefing report gave all students an opportunity to reflect, analyze, and evaluate their experience in depth. The use of two facilitators allows one to facilitate while the other observes and rests, makes 2 points of view available for the debriefing, and offers a model for resolving minor disagreements between them. Trust among students increased across the weekend as evidenced by an increase in cooperative choices and estimates of the likelihood that others would cooperate in the TAKE-A-CHANCE game, a version of PRISONER’S DILEMMA. Most reported having fun while they learned about themselves, interpersonal conflict, and some large-scale social conflicts.

Julian Schofield, “Modeling Choices in Nuclear Warfighting: Two Classroom Simulations on Escalation and Retaliation.”

Two classroom simulations—SUPERPOWER CONFRONTATION and MULTIPOLAR ASIAN SIMULATION—are used to teach and test various aspects of the Borden versus Brodie debate on the Schelling versus Lanchester approach to nuclear conflict modeling and resolution. The author applies a Schelling test to segregate high from low empathic students, and assigns them to hard case positions in three simulations to test whether high empathy students can engage in tactic bargaining and whether low empathetic students are necessarily as escalation prone. He has a bipolar nuclear simulation that is an easy case for the Brodie set of assumptions about nuclear war, avoidance, and Schelling-esque tacit bargaining. He expects the system structure and high empathy leader selection to contain escalation, despite the temptation of relying on accelerated Single Integrated Operational Plan solutions and the counterincentive of diminished tacit bargaining through decapitation attacks. The second simulation is a multipolar nuclear simulation set in the near future of Asia, and emulates the Borden-esque logic of nuclear war as artillery exchanges, with a Lanchester square law logic encouraging rapid escalation, coupled with a selection for the most autistic leadership. The author expects rapid nuclear escalation under these structural and decision-making conditions. His conclusions are anecdotal, but seem to indicate, from student feedback during class discussions, that the failure to model fear may be a factor in undermining successful tacit bargaining by players, suggesting that Borden rather than Brodie better conceptualized nuclear conflict. Therefore, peace is about restraining war initiation, as there are great pressures for escalation once war is initiated.

These and other forthcoming articles can be found here.

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