The final half day of the Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference was devoted today to out-briefs from the various working groups meetings that had been held the day before, as well as a more general “hot wash” of the conference. You’ll find discussion of previous days of the conference here and here.
Working Group 1 on an inventory of wargame cultures suggested that it would be useful to have an online index of professional wargamers, which listed experts and expertise. This information would then be available online to those who needed advise and assistance. The challenge, I think, is finding the volunteer time to make it possible, keeping it up-to-date, and making sure it is known and used.
Working Group 2 had looked at promoting international cooperation through wargaming. It examined the use of games to preserve peace, foster interoperabilities, problem-solving and analysis, networking and communication, and cultural education. A number of issues were also identified too.
- Do you want allies to observe shortcomings?
- Smaller countries may learn a lot, but may also feel marginal.
- Games may be generated to suit US/sponsor policy objectives.
- Many relevant international actors and organizations may not be aware of the potential value of gaming.
To address the latter, the working group highlighted the importance of outreach strategies, the value of hands-on processes (through playing and collaborative game design) to foster both skills and networks, and extending the remote participation element of Connections.
Working Group 3 had explored achieving advances through transfers between wargaming cultures. Part of the discussion focused on digital outreach, via an improved website and possibly social media.
This has been a longstanding discussion at Connections, and progress has been slow. I think we’ve managed to make this more complicated than it actually is. The website should be shifted to WordPress, which is robust, easy to use, and has all the content hosting capability that Connections needs. Social media (Facebook, Linkedin) should be used to enable networking and informal discussion. Content generation will be key to sustaining online engagement.
Participants in the group thought it might be useful to resurrect the kind of “Game Lab” activity that was featured at Connections 2012. The conference might also be themed around specific wargaming techniques and methodologies. More small group hands-on sessions might be useful. There was also extensive discussion of mentoring and apprenticeship (but no clear conclusions).
The working group reports transitioned everyone to a broader discussion of what had worked well at the conference, and what they wanted to see at Connections 2013 (possibly to be held at National Defense University in Washington DC). There was discussion about possible scheduling synergies and conflicts, as well as how more game publishers might be encouraged to attend.
One suggestion was to issue a game design challenge well in advance of the conference, and then have designers or teams present their games or ideas at the conference itself. Certainly I would have no difficulty finding a group of McGill University students willing to take up the challenge.
It was also suggested that any future Game Lab-type activities be designed in a way that discussions weren’t dominated by experienced game designers.
There was some criticism of the social element of this year’s conference. Largely this was a function of the venue: Quantico town has only very limited services, the hotel was not within walking distance of restaurants, and the location for the evening wargame had to close at 9pm. There were also apparently some technical problems this year that limited the ability of those connecting remotely to hear some of the sessions.
Overall, I thought it was an excellent conference this year. The immediate conference site (conference room, break-out rooms) was very good, and the organizers managed to do it all on the cheap (no conference registration fees, brown bag lunches available by morning preorder for $10).
I missed having coffee, though!
I have asked June McCabe—a sometimes PAXsims contributor and one of my graduate students, who also attended the conference—to write up a few thoughts on the conference, which we’ll post soon.
All of this sets the stage for the Connections UK conference at Kings College London on September 2-4. I hope to you there!