PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: May 2014

1000 Days of Syria

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1000 Days of Syria is an online interactive story (or series of stories) by Mitch Swenson that is intended to raise awareness of the current Syrian civil war through the eyes of three fictional characters:

1000 Days of Syria is a text-based historical fiction game that timelines the first 1000 days of the Syrian uprising through interactive narratives. From the start of the opposition protests on March 15th, 2011 to the dismantling of Assad’s chemical stockpile on December 9th, 2013, 1000 Days of Syria seeks to illuminate the smaller stories of a civil conflict.

The impetus for the project was born out of a trip to northern Syria in late September, 2013. There I found that the war was not only vastly under-reported but also further reaching than I originally anticipated. I found that not a single person within Syria’s borders was left untouched by the violence. Even more disconcerting, however, was when I returned to the United States to find a pervasive lack of interest in the atrocities taking place in Syria and the rest of the Levant.

Coverage of conflict abroad may never overshadow news of Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus, but if 1000 Days of Syria can at least inform and perhaps motivate an otherwise naive few, the mission of the game will have been a success.

In many ways, the following is an exercise in transmedia storytelling. Part electric literature; part newscast; and part choose-your-own-adventure, 1000 Days of Syria is as much about exploration of players within an architecture as it is about exploration of characters throughout a narrative.

It is important to know that as you navigate the nearly three-year chronology of the conflict, you will be asked to make decisions based on political, emotional, and economical climate. Many times, much like real life, there will not be perfect solutions to these complexities. The crisis in Syria is immensely complex and it is one that humanity has yet to solve. Please do not be dejected by this.

Although the characters here are fictional, their predicaments are very much real. The personalities and scenarios you will encounter have roots in the true accounts of those Syrians fortunate enough to tell them.

With that said, it is impossible to be perfectly accurate with these things. I apologize in advance to anyone who might be offended by the following narratives. My intention is neither to entertain players with, nor benefit from, the deaths that have resulted from the instability in Syria. In fact my aim is just the opposite. Sometimes the word “game” can be misconstrued into something that seems removed and reductive in the context of real life danger and death. In that way some might say that 1000 Days of Syria should not be considered a game at all, but rather an interactive education. That is for you to decide.

More so than ever before, reportage of the Syrian conflict epitomizes a shift in the way news is consumed in the modern era. My initial conclusions about reporting from the region was that reporters, for the first time, might be of better use from behind the computer than from behind the frontlines. This begs the question: how does one make an ultimate difference in the modern-day conflict?

It is astounding how much open source intelligence (OSINT) flows out of Syria everyday. So much, in fact, that there aren’t enough analysts to decrypt it all. 1000 Days of Syria is culled from that open source material. This is an attempt to make that ultimate difference. After exploring the following, I invite you to do your own sifting. You don’t know what you’ll find until you start searching.

Finally, at the bottom of the page, you can find information on the small ways to make an ultimate difference in Syria.

You’ll find additional details in this article in The Guardian.

Previously at PAXsims we’ve discussed other examples of interactive fiction being used to explore issues of conflict, humanitarian assistance, or development. An excellent example is Inside the Haiti Earthquake, an outstanding and very immersive online multimedia “choose your own adventure” in which participants assume the role of an aid worker, journalist, or earthquake survivor. You’ll find student feedback on it here.

I’ve also allowed students to complete interactive writing projects of their own, as an alternative to regular research papers (see examples here and here). Among the examples is Aleppo: Mother of All Battles, which also examines the Syrian civil war.

 

UPDATE (25/5/2015): There’s more on the game at War is Boring.

Simulations miscellany, 21 May 2014

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Some recent items on conflict simulations and serious games that may be of interest to PAXsims readers:

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btr-logoBrian Train is making many of his innovative wargame designs available in print-to-play format via his new publishing initiative, BTR games. Those that are currently available include:

  • 1848 (European uprisings)
  • Andartes (1947-49 Greek Civil War)
  • Civil Power (“a tactical study of urban disorder”)
  • Green Beret (1964-5 in the Central Highlands of Vietnam)
  • Kandahar (southern Afghanistan, 2008-10)
  • Land of the Free (radical politics in the USA during the Great Depression)
  • Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso” insurgency in Peru)
  • Tupamaro (Urban guerrillas in Uruguay, 1968-72)

…with more to come. You’ll find the details at Ludic Futurism.

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Virtual Battlespace 2 (VBS2) by Bohemia Interactive has merged as a standard simulator for NATO ground forces training in recent years. Now VBS3 is being rolled out. It not only allows the appearance of avatars to be customized to reflect the physical characteristics of actual soldiers, but also enables their in-game performance to be linked to data on their real-life weapons qualifications and physical fitness. Thus skinny soldiers who can run but shoot poorly (that was me!) are skinny, run well, and shoot poorly.

The newest version also contains many other changes, included the ability to customize the appearance and behaviour of civilians and irregular forces through plug-ins. According to Ars Technica:

VBS3 can be used by Army units to train on a variety of tasks anywhere they can get access to networked computers. It should provide training on over 100 types of Army-specified “combined arms” tasks—including setting up and operating a checkpoint, aerial assaults, and calling for artillery support. Using its multiple map support and procedural terrain filling, it can model a three-dimensional operational area of up to four million square kilometers, with “high detail insets” for areas of specific interest. It also includes improved artificial intelligence for civilians and adversary forces, using “ambience” plug-ins to model urban or rural civilian activity and insurgent group behavior.

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This year’s Origins Game Fair (11-15 June, Columbus OH) will again feature staff wargaming. This piece at GrogHeads will tell you what to expect.

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This year’s Serious Play Conference will be held at the University of Southern California (USC) on July 22 – 24. Details at the link.

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Now that game designer Mark Herman has retired from Booz Allen Hamilton, he promises to be more prolific on his wargame design blog. You’ll find it here.

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Interested in the classroom use of historical simulations? Have a look at Charles Gleek’s blog Games Without Frontiers.

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IveBeenDiced3The latest version of Tom Grant’s podcast I’ve Been Diced features John Ponsike discussing insurgency and wargame design:

John Poniske, designer of Hearts & Minds, King Philip’s War, and Lincoln’s War, discusses the reasons why he developed a different game system for each of these games. Plus, John tells us about some upcoming designs, including games about the Plains Indians Wars and the Haitian rebellion.

 

Pentagon’s secret counter-zombie plan revealed

Move over, Edward Snowden—at Foreign Policy magazine, Gordon Lubold has blown the lid on what is undoubtedly the national security secret of the decade, namely CONPLAN 8888—the secret Pentagon plan to defend American citizens against the zombie apocalypse.

CONPLAN8888The thirty page plan was actually developed as a training tool:

(U) CONPLAN 8888 DISCLAIMER: This plan was not actually designed as a joke. During the summers o f2009 and 2010, while training augmentees from a local training squadron about the JOPP, members of a USSTRATCOM component found out (by accident) that the hyperbole involved in writing a “zombie survival plan’· actually provided a very useful and effective training tool. Planners who attended JPME II at the Joint Combined Warfighting School also realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan. Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional “Tunisia” or “Nigeria” scenarios used at JCWS, we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken as a real plan.

Because the plan was so ridiculous, our students not only enjoyed the lessons; they actually were able to explore the basic concepts of plan and order development (fact, assumptions. specified and implied tasks, references etc) very effectively.

We posted this plan because we feel it is a very enjoyable way to train new planners and boost retention of critical knowledge. We posted this to Intellipedia after reading about the benefits of crowd sourcing phenomena in the business management book “The Starfish and the Spider”. Our intent was to place this training tool “in the wild” so that others who were interested in finding new and innovative ways to train planners could have an alternative and admittedly unconventional tool at their disposal that could be modified and updated over time. We also hoped that this type of non-traditional training approach would provide inspiration for other personnel trying to teach topics that can be very boring. Finally we figured that an entry like this would not only be instructive, but possibly entertaining for personnel deployed away from their families supporting military ops abroad. If this plan helps illustrate how JOPP works and brings a smile or a brief laugh in the process, so much the better,

If you suspend reality for a few minutes, this type of training scenario can actually take a very dry, monotonous topic and turn it into something rather enjoyable.

It was then subsequently posted to Intellipedia, the online data sharing platform used by the US intelligence and defence communities.

This isn’t the first time zombie scenarios have been used as the basis for training exercises—we’ve covered several past cases here at PAXsims:

And, somewhat less seriously:

h/t Sean Anderson 

“Football Remembers” and the Christmas truce of 1914

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As the UK marks the centenary of World War One, the British Council, Football Association, Premier League, and Football League have come together to produce educational materials for British schools that examine the various local truces that spontaneously occurred along parts of the Western Front during Christmas 1914. As the Guardian comments:

It was spontaneous, reciprocal and became one of the most recognisable moments of first world war.

The fraternisation across no man’s land between enemy troops during the “Christmas Truce” of 1914 saw weapons set aside, yuletide greetings and gifts exchanged and even, it was reported, football matches played on the western front.

Still the subject of debate among historians, the centenary of this historic event is to be marked in schools across the UK through Football Remembers, a national commemoration launched by the Duke of Cambridge today.

Education packs aimed at engaging a new generation of young people in what took place on Christmas Day 1914 in Flanders will be available to more than 30,000 schools from Monday.

A competition for schools to design a permanent memorial to the football played during the truce is also being launched, with the winning design, chosen by Prince William and the Arsenal and England forward Theo Walcott, to be built at the National Memorial Arboretum.

“It promises to be a powerful way to engage and educate young people about such an important moment in our history,” said Prince William, president of the Football Association, which together with the Premier League and the Football League has joined forces with the British Council to launch the initiative as part of WWI centenary commemorations this year.

“We all grew up with the story of soldiers from both sides putting down their arms on Christmas Day, and it remains wholly relevant today as a message of hope over adversity, even in the bleakest of times,” he said.

The Christmas Truce was never repeated. Evidence of football matches, exactly where they took place and between whom, is fragmented. Reports of frontline matches between enemy troops emerged in letters home on both sides. One account appeared in a letter to the Times on 1 January 1915. Other accounts include those of trench-weary troops taking advantage of the unofficial ceasefire to kick a ball among themselves.

Now pupils, aged between 9-14 years, are being encouraged to explore the truce through the perspectives of British, French, Belgian, German and Indian witnesses. The activities include improvisation, short plays, recreating football matches, even finding out about local footballers who fought in the Great War.

OXAY7RKCTNKUquqK0mnET0_9iZXxOQYE5EbSa-ecilQ,5HNZAUmqCPQo_BH5ykWIcieeLWtNoMMeUIHqFTlAR-wThe education pack is available for download at the British Council website. Among the materials included in the package is a “Friend or Foe Conflict Simulation” (Activity #10):

 What is the game about?

A conflict resolution game for upper primary and lower secondary students based around the Christmas Truce on the Western Front in 1914. The game will challenge your students to think about their actions, as well as the cause and effect of conflicts.

You can see a video of a school playing this game at http://schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/football-remembers.

 Why play the game?

The Friend and Foe game explores a process the two sides might have used to reach a truce. In this game cooperation (playing the Friend card) results in the best pay-off for both sides, even if the temptation to double cross (playing the Foe card) is high.

A version of this game has been used in many communities in conflict including Kosovo, Northern Ireland, northern Nigeria, Sri Lanka and gangs in Colombia.

 The Scenario (read this to the students)

It is Christmas 1914 and the First World War started almost four months ago. German, Belgian, French, Indian and British troops have dug themselves into trenches in northern France and Belgium. From the trenches they fight one another across No Man’s Land.

Around this time some enemy soldiers start to share Christmas greetings. Gradually the soldiers begin to rise out of the trenches and meet each other in No Man’s Land. Carols are sung, presents exchanged and it is rumoured that football matches are played. What might have happened if both sides had carried forward this good feeling and tried to sort out their differences? Could the war have ended then, without millions of lives being lost?

The game itself is a fairly straight-forward iterated implementation of prisoners’ dilemma, with increasing levels of communication enabled as the game progresses.

 The possible plays in the card game are:

  • Two Red Friend cards—both cooperate and are rewarded for cooperation by receiving three points each.
  • One Red Friend and Blue Foe card—one cooperates and the other defects. The defecting player gets six points, while the cooperator gets none.
  • Two Blue Foe cards—both defect and are punished for their mutual defection by having three points deducted each.

After each round, each team discusses what card to play next.

Rounds 1–4: During the first four rounds students may not communicate with the other team in any way. After each play, record the score.

After Round 4: Each team chooses an envoy or representative to talk to the other team (these are the brave soldiers who first stepped out into No Man’s Land). They spend two minutes talking to each other about how they will move forward but they do not have to stick to what they promise. They then report back to their teams ahead of round five.

Rounds 5–8: Resume play. After each play, record the score.

After Round 8: Both teams meet to discuss how to move forward. The teacher should facilitate this and students should speak only when asked, to avoid a shouting match.

Rounds 9–10: Resume play. The final two rounds are worth double points. Add up the final scores and explain the conclusions below.

 Secret strategy advice for teachers: The best strategy is to cooperate on the first move and then repeat the play made by the opponent on the previous move. Students should not find this out until the end of the game.

The latter, of course, is a classic tit-for-tat strategy.

Whether WW I trench warfare and the Christmas truces actually embodied a true prisoners’ dilemma dynamic has been hotly debated among game theorists. For the purposes of classroom use, however, it doesn’t much matter—the simulation seems an interesting (and fun) way of getting students to think about cooperation in context of conflict. More generally, the theme of football and war seems a creative way of engaging students with history and historical materials.

I do think, however, that the module risks overstating the potential role that such localized truces might have played in resolving the underlying conflicts, tensions, and suspicions that created the First World War. In particular, this part of the briefing:

What might have happened if both sides had carried forward this good feeling and tried to sort out their differences? Could the war have ended then, without millions of lives being lost?

…seems problematic, unless coupled with a much fuller examination of the interstate rivalries, suspicions, and competing interests that gave rise to the war.

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Wargaming articles at CIMSEC

Simulations miscellany, 10 May 2014

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Some recent items on conflict simulations, serious games, and the politics of not-so-serious games that may be of interest to PAXsims readers.

Come across an interesting story? Send it to us!

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On May 9, many of the folks associated with Connections UK participated in an Army Wargaming Symposium held at the Defence Academy of the UK . According to the organizers, “[i]t was a great success, with over 100 participants from the Army, DSTL and academia…. The intention is to follow this up with an investigation as to how to spread best practice for this intellectual fitness regime to the wider military community.”

Army Wargaming Symposium PictureSome of the presentations are available on the Connections UK website:

  • Introduction by Major General Skeates.
  • What is Wargaming and Why Do it? by Graham Longley-Brown.
  • Modelling Effects by Major Tom Mouat.
  • Wargaming in the Military by Major General Sharpe.
  • Wargame Experience by Professor Phil Sabin (Kings College London).
    • Schlieffen.   Schlieffen Colour Map.
    • Kriegsspiel 1914 (with design notes).
    • Take That Hill!.
  • Red Teaming and Course of Action Wargaming by Brigadier Tom Longland.
  • A Swedish Army Wargame by Major Johan Elg, Swedish Army.
  • A Commanding Officer’s Experience by Lt Col Ivor Gardner, 1 R IRISH
  • Concept Demonstration by 1 R IRISH Subalterns.

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On April 25, American University (Washington DC) held a “Gaming with a Purpose” workshop, featuring Volko Ruhnke as the guest designer. Volko describes the evening at ConSimWorld:

Last night, two American University professors hosted a game night in the AU Library in Washington DC that gathered some 40 students around 4 sessions of A Distant Plain, 1 of Cuba Libre, and 2 of LABYRINTH—The War on Terror. I attended as guest game designer.

Photo by Dylan Craig.

School of International Service professors Dylan Craig and Leah Gates organized the event under AU’s new “Gaming with a Purpose” initiative. As step 1 of the initiative, the AU Library has acquired a sizable collection of boardgames, including the entire COIN Series, many funded via a donors event. Step 2 is to invite students into the Library for game nights such as this one, with the added lure of pizza. Step 3 once students are more familiar with the artform will be to incorporate more boardgames such as these into curriculum that teaches strategy in global affairs, such as in 1-credit weekend courses focused on specific conflicts, Afghanistan among them.

In addition to the Library, campus groups such as the boardgame-focused AU Gamers, the Global Politics Student Association, and the War Studies Club participated. The professors had organized a cadre of facilitators to teach the games at each table.

AU’s initiative is very exciting to me not only because of its effort to leverage specifically the COIN Series for learning, but also because of my strong sense that boardgames in general remain vastly under-used as a teaching method.

I have no idea yet what the student attendees thought of these particular games, but regardless of that, they sure seemed engaged!

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Recently, Denmark created a scale model of the entire country in Minecraft.

Not surprisingly, it soon came under attack. According to the BBC:

A virtual replica of Denmark created to help educate children has been disrupted by “cyber vandals”.

Small portions of it were blown up, despite a ban by its creators, the Danish Geodata Agency (DGA), on the use of “dynamite”.

Large US flags were erected at the starting area, as well as red, white and blue “America” signs.

The state-owned agency believes the “vandalism” was to attract attention, and said the damage had been repaired.

Images showing the changes first appeared on the fan site minecraftforum.net posted by a user who wrote: “I americanlized [sic] the place a bit.”

Chris Hammeken, chief press officer at the Danish Geodata Agency, told the BBC: “Only a minor area was destroyed.

“The flags actually appeared right where the players start, so I think the people who put them there wanted to gain as much attention as possible.”

“Minecraft is about building and rebuilding,” said Mr Hammeken, who described the incident as part of Minecraft’s “nature of play.”

The Danish project has a serious purpose:

The DGA created the replica of Denmark in order to arouse interest in spatial data, with a particular emphasis on educating children.

Its website explains: “There are real addresses in the game, so it’s possible to have a discussion of place names and their meanings.”

The agency has also suggested using the replica as a way of taking students on virtual field trips.

“We’ve discovered children are more motivated to learn when they see something they’re familiar with,” explained Mr Hammeken, who said Minecraft had been used as an educational tool in Denmark for a long time.

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Kim Correa discusses the problem of MMORPG in-game sexual assault (“Being a Lady and Playing DayZ“) at TLDR.

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Nintendo life-simulation game Tomodachi Life won’t allow players to play gay characters, which generated something of a backlash. Nintendo initially said it “never intended to make any form of social commentary,” although its refusal to see this as a problem was social commentary in and of itself.

Subsequently, however, it has revised its position and apologized to players, promising to be “more inclusive” in the future:

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

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In the meantime, The Sims 4 has been rated “adult only” in Russia because it permits same-sex relationships in the game. According to The Escapist:

Russia has slapped an 18+ age rating on The Sims 4 because its portrayal of same-sex relationships contravenes a law protecting children from “information harmful to their health and development.”

The Sims Russia Twitter account announced earlier this week that the upcoming Sims 4 has been rating “18+ (Prohibited for children).” That might seem like an odd rating for a game widely viewed as a relatively kid-friendly offering – previous Sims titles have all been rated T (Teen) by the ESRB, and The Sims 3, released in 2009, was rated just 12+ in Russia – but things in the Motherland have changed in more recent years.

A follow-up tweet clarified (via Google Translate) that the restrictive age rating “was assigned in according with the law number 436-FZ, ‘On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development.'” A quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that the law was originally passed in late 2010 to prohibit the distribution to children of material that “may elicit fear, horror or panic,” or that depicts “violence, unlawful activities, substance abuse or self-harm,” but was updated in 2013 to include “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships.”

CFP: International Conference on Exercises, Gaming, and Simulations for Intelligence and National Security

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A call for papers has been issued for an international conference on “exercises, gaming, and simulations for intelligence and national security,” to be held at Georgetown University (Washington DC) on 24-25 March 2015:

International Conference on Exercises, Gaming, and Simulations for Intelligence and National Security

Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

March 24-25, 2015

Scholars, industry experts, intelligence and national security practitioners are invited to submit papers or proposals for demonstrations for the International Conference on Exercises, Gaming, and Simulations for Intelligence and National Security. The goal of the conference is to enhance the role of experiential learning methodologies at all levels of intelligence education by showcasing original simulations, exercises, and games applied to national intelligence, competitive intelligence, national security, and foreign affairs. The conference is to bring together ideas, concepts and demonstrations that can further training and education for military, law enforcement and national security professionals.

Proposed Conference topics include:

  • Role-playing simulations to enhance intelligence analysis and production
  • Simulations dealing with intelligence professionalization
  • Experiential learning methodologies in intelligence analysis
  • Intelligence tradecraft gamification
  • Storytelling techniques for developing intelligence scenarios
  • Interactive education and training for addressing national security threats
  • Experiential Learning for Business/Competitive Intelligence
  • Educating intelligence clients and consumers
  • Role-playing for effective debriefing
  • Immersive learning and multimedia communications
  • Effective combinations of case studies, simulation & gaming in intelligence and national security curricula
  • Virtual simulations

51hT0+MXdXL._SL500_AA300_The conference is a follow-on event to the recent released, The Art of Intelligence: Simulations, Exercises, and Games (Roman and Littlefield, 2014).

Proposals or abstracts are to be submitted no later than September 1, 2014 

OR  for further information, contact any of the following:

  • Dr. William Lahneman,  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (william.lahneman@erau.edu)
  • Dr. Jan Goldman, Georgetown University (jg28@georgetown.edu)
  • Dr. Rubén Arcos, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain (ruben.arcos@urjc.es)

The Art of Intelligence has been previously reviewed on PAXsims.

The Strategy Project: Teaching Strategic Thinking through Crisis Simulation

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The latest issue of PS: Political Science & Politics 47, 2 (April 2014) has an article by Michael Hunzenker and Kristen Harkness on a classroom simulation designed to “teach strategic thinking through a crisis simulation”:

In an effort to teach strategic thinking, the Center for International Security Studies at Princeton University designed an adaptable model for crisis simulation that could be used in a variety of institutional contexts and with diverse content matter. Moreover, the simulation helped students to develop an understanding of several other important abstract concepts in political science: notably, information uncertainty, friction or “the fog of war,” and bureaucratic stove piping. This article describes the design, content, and implementation of our original simulation. It is based on a “loose-nukes” scenario resulting from the hypothetical collapse of the Pakistani state. We conclude by evaluating the benefits and limitations of the simulation and by suggesting ways in which it could be implemented in other institutional contexts.

The game design is essentially a relatively free kriegspiel, with a white cell adjudicating actions taken by three country teams (Pakistan India, US), each of which are further subdivided into executive, military, and diplomatic cells. Outside advisors were also embedded in each of the teams. Despite the title of the article, the focus appears to be less on strategy in the broader sense than crisis response.

You’ll find the full article paywalled here.

Simulations miscellany, 4 May 2014

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Some recent items on conflict simulation and serious games that may be of interest to PAXsims readers:

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Thomas Schelling will be the keynote speaker for this year’s Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference (4-7 August 2014, at Marine Corps Base Quantico):

There is no Nobel Prize for wargaming, but if there was, Professor Thomas Schelling would have one to go along with his 2005 Nobel Prize in economics. While he is best known as a game theorist and nuclear strategist, his contributions to the field of wargaming have been hugely significant.  An advocate for the unique analytic value of gaming, while at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs he wargamed with RAND at Camp David and undisclosed locations.  His writings pioneered the application of wargaming to diplomatic deliberations and international political-military crises.  I can think of no better Keynote, especially in a year when our theme emphasizes understanding across international wargaming cultures and across wargame applications.

You’ll find information on the Connections conference here.

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lossless-page1-220px-MCWAR_Logo.tifLast month, the US Marine Corps War College used the commercial wargame Darkest Hour as the basis for a WWII strategy exercise:

  1. Background. From March 31- April 2, 2014, the Marine Corps War College (MCWAR) conducted a strategy exercise on World War II. The exercise put the school’s 30 students (military officers at the lieutenant colonel and colonel rank as well as a handful of senior government civilians from the interagency) into Allied leadership positions at the joint staff and theater command levels (USA, UK, and USSR). The exercise leveraged the commercial wargame Darkest Hour to provide a gaming environment in which the students could develop strategy and make decisions.
  2. Educational Objectives. The exercise was designed to meet learning objectives for MCWAR’s War, Policy, and Strategy (WPS) Course (our “history” course). This immersion in WWII was intended to imprint on the students’ minds, through experience, the strategic issues of WWII. Of particular focus was the interaction between Allied staffs and between national and theater commands. And, as the exercise progressed, the students assessed their strategies and made strategic decisions on the direction of the war. Making those decisions as a coalition made conducting the war that much harder. The following were specific educational objectives:
    1. Evaluate the World War II strategic setting and historical strategic decisions.
    2. Develop and implement a “theory of victory” with corresponding objectives and strategic concepts.
    3. Conduct national level and theater level resource prioritization decisions.
    4. Conduct strategic negotiations and diplomacy.
    5. Conduct coalition planning and decision making.
  3. Student Organization. The 30 students were divided into US, UK, and USSR teams. Within each country, students formed joint and theater staffs. While the students were initially assigned to staffs as depicted in the below diagram, the students re-organized themselves to streamline their command and control—consolidating US and UK into one Europe and one Pacific theater, unlike the below diagram. They merged the Pacific Theater 1 and 2 cells with the UK SE Asia cell to form one combined Pacific Theater staff. The students did the same for the European Theater, combining the US and UK theater teams into one combined team. Each of these two theater commanders (Pacific and Europe) then performed a dual reporting function to the USA and UK joint staffs….

You’ll find a slide presentation on the resulting campaign here, and a full after action report on the exercise by LtCol Tim Barrick here. The latter is especially useful reading for those who might be considering adapting commercially-available war-games for classroom use.

h/t Robert Hossal

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A call for papers has been issued for the 2014 conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association, to be held in Baltimore on 8-12 October 2014.

The North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) is a community of practice of trainers, educators, game designers and facilitators working on the design and implementation of serious games, simulations, and other experiential activities. For decades, NASAGA has been promoting professional networking, providing training and education, and advocating the use of experiential activities to industry and academia through its annual conference.

The North American Simulation and Gaming Association invites proposals for our 2014 conference in Baltimore, MD. NASAGA is a games and learning conference with particular interest in work involving non-digital games, simulations, mixed or alternate reality, locative games, classroom and training exercises, and playful learning. Our theme this year is “Playing Stories, Sharing Worlds, Learning Games.” We particularly welcome work that connects with this year’s theme and engages the potential of playful narratives for learning, experiential education, and learning game design. We welcome proposals from practitioners, educators, designers, researchers and gamers. NASAGA is not a conference for reading papers: session proposals should be hands-on and engaging. This may include playing a game or prototype and debriefing, roundtable discussions, collaborative design, facilitated activities, and any other interactive format. To allow for this active learning, sessions are scheduled in timeslots of 60 or 90 minutes, although you can also propose an extended session to allow for an unusual learning experience.

We also invite researchers, including students, to consider submitting to our poster session to share ongoing research or design proposals. NASAGA invites proposals from researchers working on the theory and application of games and simulations for learning challenges, including but not limited to active learning methods to increase engagement, retention, and performance. We invite the submission of 300-500 word abstracts for poster presentations on all topics related to games and learning.

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journal_coverThe May 2014 issue of the Journal of Simulation is now available. It includes an article by M. Peng H. Chen and M. Zhou on “Modelling and simulating the dynamic environmental factors in post-seismic relief operation:”

This paper introduced dynamic environmental factors into the disaster-relief supply chain to characterize the dynamic relations and provide support to further decision-making in relief operations. A system dynamic model was presented to describe the processes of delivering emergency supply. The researches in post-seismic rapid damage assessment of road networks and injured were referenced, and the impacts of dynamic road condition and delay in information transfer (information delay (ID)) were simulated and analysed. Simulation results indicate that (1) the road condition influences the system performance significantly; and (2) the transport time of relief supplies (transport delay) is a function of the road capacity and the in-transit volume, so the mechanism of considering the feedbacks of these two factors is important to maintain the stability of the relief system. Further analysis of the system behaviours reveals that (3) the ID affects the relief head-quarter (the upper stream) and the disaster-affected town (the lower stream) in different ways; and (4) the choice of the inventory planning strategies is a choice about how to reduce the impact of ID and make full use of the capacity of the damaged road networks.

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img_2112The Interuniversity Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies at McGill University recently held a simulation exercise to prepare students for the challenge of a future zombie apocalypse on campus. In addition to honing student skills, it also provided interesting empirical insight into the anticipated survival rate of various population subgroups:

  • McGill University faculty members: 100%
  • McGill University graduate students: 50%
  • Fictional TV stars: 0%

You’ll find full details of this sophisticated educational exercise here.

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