Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

MORS professional wargaming workshop (26-28 March 2013)


The Military Operations Research Society will be holding a workshop on professional wargaming on 26-28 March 2013 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland:

This special meeting focuses on professional gaming  as an analytic practice and will produce initial content for a Professional Gaming Practitioner’s Handbook. The meeting will bring together members of the community of practice to consider best practices, taxonomy, existing applications and appropriate analytic methodologies in an effort to codify the fundamentals of game design and analysis. The meeting is designed for information exchange and participant exposure to professional practice; there is no intention to conduct a game or for attendees to participate in game play.

Military and business leaders throughout history have practiced gaming with storied successes in planning and education so much so that the Department of Defense offers professional education in and develops war games. Gaming is popular and nearly everyone has played complex and informative games as well as participated in the seemingly ubiquitous military ‘war game.’ The term itself is used to describe a very wide range of activities and has come to mean nothing specific. Gaming comes in many levels of fidelity and scope; there is a big difference between a tactical board game and a strategic computer assisted game. Game designers who change organizations find that previously successful techniques and approaches do not align with differing organizational perspectives.

The principles of war gaming have changed little over time while methods and tools have continued to develop. Historically, games were kept small in scope, ‘moving pieces’ were limited and adjudication was performed manually. Modern technologies provide infinite fidelity storing millions of individual data and allowing players to select the ‘level of play’ while software aggregation provides a meta-data operational picture commensurate with that level of play. Efficiencies in data collection, processing and visualization that significantly improve capability. Concerns of old that ‘games are too abstract’ are based somewhat on limits to player cognitive capability but mainly due to limited identification and tracking of second/third order details. This, however, can lead the game designer to include many extraneous metrics, overwhelming players and generating confounded results.

Gaming is an analytic methodology that seeks to provide, for example, empirical support for hypothesis testing or virtual exposure to complex interactions, but struggles with acceptance possibly due to non-repeatability, lack of rigid methodology and the qualitative nature of data. There is a need within the gaming community to establish baseline practices for design of professional games as well as quality data collection procedures and assessment techniques. Designers should have a quality threshold against which professional games can be measured to ensure minimal standards are met. Junior analysts should have a reference of terminology, design processes, assessment tools and best practices.

The workshop will be based on the discussions and output of several working groups, plus a synthesis group:

  • WG 1: Gaming Ontology and Taxonomy
  • WG 2: Objective Development
  • WG 3: Game Design & Development
  • WG 4: Data Collection and Analysis Methods and Tools
  • WG 5: Adjudication Procedures
  • WG 6: Aligning Games with Larger Studies and Methods
  • WG 7: Professional Game Execution
  • WG 8: Quick-Turn Design or Rapid Development

Registration fees for the event are $575/$675 for government/non-government MORS members, and $650/$750 for government/non-government MORS members (this being the peculiar defence and security world where “non-government” is assumed to be richer defence contractors, not poorer academics, NGOs, and commercial/hobbyist designers). Further details are at the link above.

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