Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 12/11/2014

Paul Vebber on analytical narrative gaming


Slide01As part of its regular “brown bag” discussion sessions, the MORS (Military Operations Research Society) Wargame Community of Practice hosted a talk today by Paul Vebber (US Naval Undersea Warfare Centre) on “analytic narrative gaming.” In it he focused on long term “story arc” development as an extension/application of the Engle matrix game technique to supplement COA development and analysis in the deliberate planning process. For those who couldn’t attend in person in Alexandra VA a phone-in facility was available for remote participation.

You’ll find Paul’s slides from the presentation here. In the presentation he argued that matrix games are increasingly being examined as a serious analytic tool (an issue we’ve discussed before at PAXsims, notably here, here and here). Such games had the advantage, he suggested, that they were relatively easy to organize and play—thus allowing for repeated play (potentially by the same group of players to enable learned strategy) in a way that helped to map out a problem space and identify frequent or convergent issues. His presentation also very much stressed the importance of narrative analysis in a way that allowed us to identify alternative trajectories, the reasons why choices were made (and not made), and why particular plots and paths emerged from game play.


His discussion included identification of some of the frequent problems of both narrative and analytical gaming, and they ways in which these might be addressed. Particular emphasis was placed on a “story arc” metaphor to help tease out key elements, actions, and interactions. Interestingly, he suggested players could be primed as to what aspects of an issue or problem were of particular interest, so as to encourage them to focus on these. While this approach advantages (by reducing the risk of distractions), it did seem to me it risked distorting game play in a variety of ways too.


It was a very rich discussion—hopefully MORS will consider archiving audio recordings of some future brown bag sessions to further increase their accessibility to the professional gaming community.

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