PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 29 October 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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Rock, Paper, Shotgun has an interview with Pawel Miechowski at 11 Bit Studios on the forthcoming release of This War of Mine:

RPS: What do you want people to get out of playing This War Of Mine?

Pawel Miechowski: We want to raise awareness about how civilians suffer when war is breaking out. We want to show the other side. We’re partnering with War Child so we’re going to raise money for [kids in war]. From the perspective of being creators we use a parallel to movies because it works well in this case. Sometimes you’re in the mood to watch an action movie or a comedy. Sometimes you watch drama – The Pianist or Saving Private Ryan with that brutal opening. We decided we see games as ready to speak about important things. We’re not pioneers – we already have amazing games which do that really well – Gone Home, Papers Please….

See the full interview at the link above.

(h/t James Sterrett)

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Positech Games have announced the release of Democracy 3: Clones & Drones, an expansion for their political strategy game Democracy 3. It adds a range of new policies to consider (from the use of armed drones to human cloning to driverless cars) and events (shortages of “rare earths”, anti-technoloy rebellions,  antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and many more).

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In an article in the Huffington Post, Mary Flanagan (Dartmouth College and Tiltfactor.org) has called for using games to examine and resolve otherwise intractable conflicts and public problems:

…unusual strategies — and the gall to enact them — are desperately needed as we increasingly face complicated conflicts that seem to have no way out. Police and citizens distrust one another in places like Ferguson, Missouri. Bullies taunt kids from rich neighborhoods to poor. Old ways of fetishizing power, such as nationalism, and winner-takes-all need to be replaced with new models in which complicated people in global, complex societies can not only get along but prosper. It’s not impossible. We need resilient communities that not only survive, but thrive.

And as law scholar Yochai Benkler noted in his bookThe Penguin and the Leviathan: Triumph of Cooperation Over Self-Interest (2011), systems built wholly on self-interest end up as disasters. Parts of society that serve everyone — from public parks to Wikipedia — last longer and make people happier.

It’s time to recast the molds. Let’s find new ways to model unusual forms of cooperation. Games like Pandemic or Pox: Save the People, two board games where teams of people fight against spreading viruses, are a first step. Let’s tell stories that replace the “bad guy” with the challenges we face together.

We must reinvent rusty old conflict models, or we will never escape the vicious cycle of war countering war. Violence isn’t the answer to seemingly intractable problems. And yet, we’re only as brilliant as the tools we’ve learned to use.

I have certainly used games as a way of exploring challenging issues and helping to players to jointly identify possible solutions to deep-rooted conflicts (see, for example, here, here, and here). However, I think we also have to be careful that we don’t oversell what games can do.

(h/t Matt Kirschenbaum)

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In a forthcoming issue of Politics, Erin Hannah and Rorden Wilkinson reflect on Zombies and IR: A Critical Reading:

The zombie genre is quickly becoming a feature of International Relations (IR) classrooms and pedagogical toolkits as scholars enthusiastically embrace the undead as a vehicle for teaching the discipline. This article offers a cautionary note on a generally positive move to embrace the use of zombieism in IR. It shows how an uncritical use of a zombie apocalypse as a vehicle for teaching IR can reinforce existing divisions in the field, essentialise country positions, crowd out heterodox approaches, reinforce gender stereotypes and dehumanise people. To guard against these problems, the article shows how Zombie IR can be better used to think critically and normatively about world politics.

(h/t Lisa Lynch)

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York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design is seeking a tenure-track junior researcher in the area of games, gaming and gamification:

This position seeks a strong junior researcher whose creative practice and theoretical interests span games, gaming, and organized play as cultural phenomena, as a platform for art-making, and who explores gaming as it manifests in a wide range of contemporary practices. Possible areas of interest include the following: art games, serious games, experimental game mechanics, alternate reality games, game related art or installation, interactive narrative, critical game studies, world making, visualization, alt-games, notgames and gamification. The candidate will be a practicing artist and creative coder, with strong theoretical framework, who has expertise with a variety of tools found in professional game development and whose technology-based art practice incorporates interdisciplinary approaches to art and science. The candidate will have capacity to teach practicum courses in Digital Media and Design.

You’ll find additional details here. The deadline for applications is 5 December 2014.

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute is advertising a tenure-track faculty position in serious games. You’ll find details here. Applications should be received by 15 December 2014.

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Earlier this year, George Phillies (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) posted a series of videos on wargame design to YouTube, based on a class he taught on the subject. You’ll find the first of them below, and links to the others here.

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