Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 13/10/2014

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 13 October 2014

0813toonwassermanSome recent items on conflict simulation and serious gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers:

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At War on the Rocks, Ellie Bartels weighs into recent discussion of Call of Duty: Black Ops’ writer Dave Anthony’s appointment as a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council with some thoughts of her own:

It seems everyone is up in arms (virtual arms, of course) about Call of Duty: Black Ops’ writer Dave Anthony’s appointment as a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. His aim to help build a more creative vision of the future of war and his first public event as a fellow on October 1 were greeted with skepticism. Critical comments have focused on the morals embodied in his games and the value and originality of his predictions.

However, listening to Anthony’s remarks as a wargame designer, I was struck by how much descriptions of his “non-traditional” creative process mirrored methods for envisioning the future already in use by wargamers to help the national security community think about future challenges. However, the critical response to his ideas illustrated the essential nature of making claims about the future in defensible ways, which Anthony did not do to the national security community’s satisfaction. In my work as a wargamer, I have been trained that for “out of the box” ideas to be influential, they need to be made understandable, compelling, and defensible. Anthony’s presentation achieved the first and second of those principles, citing touchstones of current wargaming practice including the need to synthesize diverse perspectives, consider potential crises as if they were currently happening, and seek solutions that work under many possible future conditions….

Her piece contains many useful insights into contemporary national security gaming, what commercial game design might bring to that process, and what Anthony might learn from professional wargamers too. Go read it.

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ISPThe latest issue of International Studies Perspectives 15, 3 (August 2014) has an article by Victor Asal, Steve S. Sin, Nolan P. Fahrenkopf and Xiaoye She on “The Comparative Politics Game Show: Using Games to Teach Comparative Politics Theories”:

Undergraduates often struggle with theoretical perspectives in political science. Often students can get a better handle on theories if they are able to relate them to something tangible in their experience. Lichbach and Zuckerman lay out cultural, rational actor, and structural perspectives as a way to think more systematically about comparative politics but often students struggle with these meta-theories and the different ways they encourage us to think theoretically about comparative politics. In this paper, we discuss a set of exercises that enable students to get a better handle on cultural, rational actor, and structural perspectives on comparative politics by making them “lab rats in their own experiments.” We group these exercises together and treat them as a Comparative Politics Game Show. In this paper, we describe the different exercises and how they were used and our view of the utility of this approach for teaching comparative politics theory.

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Among the recent news from Reacting to the Past:

The Reacting Consortium will hold its first regional conference in the Pacific Northwest this fall. Hosted by the University of Oregon in Eugene on November 8-9, 2014, the conference will feature  Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945, facilitated by Professor Ian McNeely, and Greenwich Village 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman, facilitated by Professor Mark C. Carnes. In addition to the games, the program will include general sessions on teaching using Reacting to the Past. The priority registration deadline is October 15.Click here for further information on the games and registration.

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The Digital Games Research Association will be holding its annual conference (DiGRA2015) at the Centre for Digital Cultures at Leuphana University in Lüneburg/ Germany on 14-17 May 2015. They’ve issued a call for papers on the conference theme of “diversity of play.”

Diversity of play: Games – Cultures – Identities

Video game culture has had a self-image of being a distinct cultural form united by participants identifying themselves as “gamers” for many years. Variations in this identity have been perceived either in relation to preferred platform or level of commitment and skill (newbie, casual, core, pro, etc.). Today the popularity of games has increased dramatically, games have become more specialized and gaming is taking place in a number of divergent practices, from e-sport to gamification. In addition, the gamer position includes a number of roles and identities such as: players, learners, time-fillers, users, fans, roleplayers, theory crafters, speed runners, etc. Furthermore,, techniques like gamification and game-based learning, as well as the playful use of computer simulation for training purposes, is making it difficult to distinguish games from non-games.

Additionally, video game culture is merging with other forms of popular culture and new mobile technologies are making distinctions between digital and non-digital gaming blurred. Yet, whilst the forms of play seem to have become more diverse, the content of games is often only challenged by independent titles. This is the case despite a maturing audience, some of whom now seem to urge for more diverse themes and representations within games. In the light of increasing criticism of the representations and practices that have dominated much of games culture, it seems that the relationship between the identity of the “gamer” and the content of games is undergoing a change.

Traditionally, game studies has tried to find common ground, seeking shared definitions and epistemologies. DiGRA 2015 seeks to encourage questions about the ‘Diversity of play’, with a focus on the multiple different forms, practices and identities labeled as games and/or game culture. The conference aims to address the challenge of studying and documenting games, gaming and gamers, in a time when these categories are becoming so general and/or contested, that they might risk losing all meaning. Given this, what concepts do we need to develop in order for our research to be cumulative and how do we give justice to the diverse forms of play found in different games and game cultures?

The conference welcomes papers on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Game cultures
  • Games and intersections with other cultural forms
  • Online gaming and communication in game worlds
  • Gender and gaming
  • Games as representation
  • Minority groups and gaming
  • Childhood and gaming
  • The gaming industry and independent games
  • Game journalism
  • Gaming in non-leisure settings
  • Applications of game studies in other domains
  • Gamification
  • System perspectives and mathematical game theory
  • Hybrid games and non-digital games
  • Game design characteristics
  • Technological systems
  • Simulations


  • Submission deadlines                            22 January (hard deadline
  • Acceptance/rejection notification           16 March
  • Rebuttals                                               19 March
  • Camera ready                                        14 April

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wpj-thumbOn a similar topic, Well Played Journal has also issued a call for papers examining diversity in gaming:

As games have become a more important and influential part of the creative industries and our culture as a whole, we face a wide range of issues and opportunities. Diversity and inclusion are a continual challenge, whether it is implicit workplace bias, the representation of characters in games, or the valuing of diversity in the cultures in and around games.

ETC Press and the Well Played Journal are committed to a culture where everyone—regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economics, religion, age or disability—who makes, enjoys and critiques games and other creative media deserves an inclusive experience free from harassment, discrimination and threats.

The recent disheartening online discourse around women in games only underscores how this is a both a historical, and on-going issue for the creative industries in general and the game industry in particular. Well Played was founded on the assumption that playing games is a valuable experience, and we explore and analyze games through their gameplay experiences. Similarly, we take it as given that diversity and inclusion are valuable to the culture and creative community.

We are requesting submissions that explore and analyze examples of diversity and inclusion in games, particularly of women and other under-represented groups, in terms of representation within gameplay experiences with unusual or unique protagonists, or games created by women and diverse development teams.

Well Played has always explored the value and meaning of games by close analysis of the actual experience of what it means to play games.  We believe this focus helps surface what games do well, and how they can do even better. It’s through our actions and words that we establish our values and develop our culture and community. The inclusion of a diversity of people in our profession and our games will only help improve the game industry and the games we make and play.

ETC Press is accepting submissions for this special issue of the Well Played journal.

All submissions are due 31 January 2015 (5pm (EST).

And for a following special issue, we will put out a call for submissions exploring and analyzing diversity in games.

All submissions and questions should be sent to:

well-played (at) lists (dot) andrew (dot) cmu (dot) edu

For more information and formatting guidelines, visit:

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The Centre for Water Systems at the University Exeter will be advertising for a position in serious game design:
The successful applicant will investigate a serious game approach as the basis for developing more effective and timely infrastructure policy and decisions for the Water-Food-Energy Nexus at a number of spatial scales. The aim of the work is to develop a computational framework that will be used to implement a number of serious games and devise gaming exercises to better explore relationships and synergistic policies leading to more sustainable Water-Food-Energy systems.

Further details to follow. If you are interested please contact us directly for more information.

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We haven’t mentioned several excellent blogs recently, and its about time that we did!


At Play the Past, you’ll find recent articles on “Being Historical: How Strategy Games are Changing Popular History,” “Colonialism in Kings Quest III,” and many other things.


At Red Team Journal they’ve been reposting the laws of successful Red Teaming, in card form.

At Active Learning in Political Science there are frequent posts on serious gaming in political science. Recent topics include “Combining Classes for a Simulation,” “A Simulation for the Flipped IR Classroom,” and “Evaluating the IRiA (International Relations in Action) Simulation.”

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