Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 10/02/2015

simulation and gaming miscellany, 10 February 2015


Some recent items on conflict simulation, and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers…

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GMT Games has added Labyrinth II—an expansion set by Trevor Bender for Volko Ruhnke’s very successful game of global counterterrorism—to its P500 preorder list:

On December 17, 2010, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi committed an act of self-immolation to protest harsh treatment by local authorities.  His sacrifice brought down the Tunisian government a month later and sparked a popular movement to be known as the Arab Spring that spread across the Muslim world, toppling 6 governments and igniting 3 Civil Wars.  The Western world struggled with how to influence these disparate struggles for good while Jihadists and other reactionary elements deftly maneuvered to fill the power vacuums created.

LABYRINTH II: The Awakening, 2010 – ? expands on LABYRINTH: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?, a 1-2 player card-driven boardgame simulating at the strategic level the ongoing bid by Islamic extremists to impose their brand of religious rule on the Muslim world.  The expansion continues where LABYRINTH left off adding new rules and cards to cover the last five years of history.  Included are new mechanics to simulate the grass roots political movements of the Arab Spring and the resulting Civil Wars.  LABYRINTH II provides 90 all new event cards, additional markers, cubes and cylinders, and 7 new scenarios, including 2 that are playable to conclusion in 7 turns or less.

I’ve already preordered my copy. You’ll find a PAXsims review of the original game here.

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Syllabus is a peer-reviewed publication of course syllabi and other teaching materials. The latest issue is devoted to “Teaching With and About Games,” and while heavily geared towards video games, nonetheless includes a number of very useful articles and syllabi.

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The latest (February 2015) issue of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association  newsletter SIMAGES has been published.

  • Note from the Chair by Melissa Peterson
  • Conference Report by Anastasia Salter
  • NASAGA Awards for 2014 by Linda Slack
  • Getting Wild with Goose Chase by Brent Darnell
  • The Gamer Society:  An Alternate Reality Game by Anastasia Salter
  • The Long Game: An Approach to Game Design by Veronica Brown
  • Interview with Mohamed Bahgat, First Impressions of NASAGA  by Linda Keller
  • Taking Storytelling to the Next Level by Thiagi
  • A Special note about volunteering with NASAGA

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At a recent model UN event at Harvard university, real Chinese politics seems to have spilled over into the simulated version:

During the first HMUN2015 meeting, which took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston on the evening of Jan. 29 , the head of the Chinese delegation discovered that the conference handbook contained the word Taiwan in its list of “international participants by country” (some of the participants were from the Taipei American School). Immediately, the Chinese side requested that the “error” be corrected. Taiwan, they said, is not a country and it isn’t a UN member. As such, the handbook should be modified to read “country or region.” The Secretariat refused, however, and the dispute continued the next day, with the Chinese side accusing the organizers of having a “poor understanding” of international relations. The situation continued to deteriorate until the organizers asked security personnel at the hotel to remove some members of the Chinese delegation and threatened to call the police. “Your presence makes us uncomfortable,” they said.

You’ll find more details (from a website sympathetic to the Taiwanese position) here. The responses to the blogpost are also revealing of what a sensitive issue this is.

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At the New Republic, Jen Doll reviews Mary Pilon’s recent book The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game. The game was first invented by a woman, Lizze Magie, who had progressive intentions:

In March of 1903, a single woman in her late thirties walked into the U.S. Patent Office to secure her claim to a board game she had been diligently designing in the hours she stole from her day job as a stenographer. Lizzie Magie was an exception to the female norms of the time, not just because she had remained unmarried well beyond the conventional marry-by date, but also because she was an avid supporter of the teachings of progressive politician and economist Henry George, an outspoken and influential tax reformer who advocated policies that would keep more money in the hands of the poor and working class.

The invention Magie wanted to patent, was, in fact, a kind of tribute to George: The Landlord’s Game was “a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” Magie explained in The Single Tax Review in 1902. She included two sets of rules: one in which the aim was to crush opponents through monopolies, and one in which the creation of wealth rewarded all. The moral was not exactly hidden. The Landlord’s Game, Magie believed, would help make the world a better place.

However, it didn’t work out that way:

The man who ultimately received the credit for creating Monopoly is a Pennsylvanian named Charles Darrow, not an inventor, but an opportunist. An unemployed family man with an ailing child who was trying to survive in the midst of the Depression, Darrow was given a copy of the game by a friend, sneakily enlisted another pal to illustrate it (for free), and sold the reinvented product to a sinking Parker Brothers as his own (for $7,000 plus residuals), subsequently amassing a fortune. By 1936, the game had earned millions, saving not only Darrow, but also the company, from financial ruin. Darrow was given a place in history; his descendants continued to profit from the game for years after his death.

One of the great ironies of Monopoly, of course, is that it was originally intended to be exactly the opposite of what it has become. And then there is another irony, as well: Monopoly came to be controlled by a company that fought tooth and nail to maintain its own monopoly over it. But part of the Monopoly story is surprisingly straightforward: Its path from progressive teaching tool to capitalist iconwith a mythology to spur it along as a money-making brandmakes it something of an American archetype of its own.

The original rules and game board can be found here.

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At Lifehacker, Patrick Allan discusses “The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

When you hear about role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, you probably picture a dimly-lit basement filled with people in silly robes rolling dice, but there’s much more to it than that. Not only are role-playing games incredibly fun, but they can actually teach you skills you’ll use in the real world.

When I first heard about role-playing games, I immediately thought it was something that was just for the nerdiest of nerds out there. I could only imagine how ridiculous it would feel to sit around a table with other people and act like someone—or something—else, pretending to fight goblins and dragons. The entire premise just sounded way “too geeky” for me—even as someone who was way into video games and other “nerdy” things.

Fast forward a couple years, and I found that I was completely wrong. As soon as I took a moment to strip away the facade of monsters and swords, role-playing games revealed themselves to be something far more interesting than other traditional games. Behind the fantasy adventures was a fun social gathering that required you to think on your toes, solve problems, be creative, and ultimately learn how to become a team player. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s because it’s like every job out there. It turned out that it really wasn’t about the dungeons or the dragons at all—it’s about thinking critically and working like a team.

Now I indulge in role-playing games as often as I can. It’s nice to have an escape from the toils and troubles of the real world, but with every game session I play, I find that I actually learn something as well. Maybe it’s about myself and the way I think, maybe it’s something about one of my friends that brings us closer together, or maybe I just find a new way to look at something that I hadn’t thought of. I’ve learned that role-playing games are about more than playing a game, and more importantly, that they are for everybody.

I couldn’t agree more. An awful lot of my professional game design and facilitation skills are rooted in many years spent playing D&D and other role-playing games.

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