Here are some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to PAXsims readers.
It’s almost here! The 2015 Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference starts on Monday (July 27) at National Defense University in Washington DC—and most of the PAXsims crew will be there, providing a summary of the discussions. You can also follow Connections on Twitter.
The first day largely consists of lectures for those new to professional wargaming, while the main conference takes up days two, three, and four (July 28-30). I’ll be running a demonstration game of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game at Connections on Tuesday evening—email me if you wish to reserve a place.
A recent study by The study by Dr. Michael Kasumovic (University of New South Wales) and Dr. Jeffrey H. Kuznekoff (Miami University) in “Insights into Sexism: Male Status and Performance Moderates Female-Directed Hostile and Amicable Behavior” suggests that online game players who harass women are—well, losers. Literally.
Gender inequality and sexist behaviour is prevalent in almost all workplaces and rampant in online environments. Although there is much research dedicated to understanding sexist behaviour, we have almost no insight into what triggers this behaviour and the individuals that initiate it. Although social constructionist theory argues that sexism is a response towards women entering a male dominated arena, this perspective doesn’t explain why only a subset of males behave in this way. We argue that a clearer understanding of sexist behaviour can be gained through an evolutionary perspective that considers evolved differences in intra-sexual competition. We hypothesised that female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status. To test this hypothesis, we used an online first-person shooter video game that removes signals of dominance but provides information on gender, individual performance, and skill. We show that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly. In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario. This difference in gender-directed behaviour became more extreme with poorer focal-player performance. We suggest that low-status males increase female-directed hostility to minimize the loss of status as a consequence of hierarchical reconfiguration resulting from the entrance of a woman into the competitive arena. Higher-skilled players, in contrast, were more positive towards a female relative to a male teammate. As higher-skilled players have less to fear from hierarchical reorganization, we argue that these males behave more positively in an attempt to support and garner a female player’s attention. Our results provide the clearest picture of inter-sexual competition to date, highlighting the importance of considering an evolutionary perspective when exploring the factors that affect male hostility towards women. (emphasis added)
I’m sure this will come as no surprise to many women gamers. You’ll find further discussion at the Washington Post, Wired, Ars Technica, and elsewhere.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II multirole fighter/strike aircraft has been the subject of considerable controversy on the grounds of both its very high development costs and continued questions about its performance. The controversy grew still further when the results of one set of air maneuver tests were published by David Axe in an article at War is Boring. The tests seemed to show markedly inferior dogfighting performance. Supporters of the program responded that the F-35 is not intended as a dog-fighter, that the tests were largely intended to examine flight control limits not to evaluate or develop air-to-air tactics, and that in combat the F-35 would largely depend on stealth, superior sensors, and beyond visual range (BVR) kills. Still others responded it was too early to tell, or that the F-16 vs F-35 comparisons being made from a single set of test results meant very little.
What does this have to do with simulations? Well, amid all the controversy, Tom Robinson of the Royal Aeronautical Society used the high-fidelity simulation Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations to examine the question of “Does the F-35 really suck in air combat?” His answer: no, it doesn’t.
First. The F-35 certainly does not suck at air combat, providing it keeps within its own realm. As this testing demonstrated, the challenge for any future ‘Red Air’ pilot will be detecting the F-35 and then getting close enough to nullify its LO features in the merge. Though CMANO simulation is extremely powerful in modelling kinematics, sensors and is a huge leap from the earlier Harpoon, it does not model a 3D ACM encounter in high-fidelity like say Falcon 4 or DCS. Post merge, like real-life, it then becomes more matter of chance. However a third playthrough, ironically, did see a F-35 close to guns range and destroy a Su-35 leaving the score at 3 Flankers to nil F-35Bs lost. In around 15 runthroughs, the F-35 came out ahead each time, with the worst result being 3 x Su35s lost to one F-35 shot down. As noted above, professional air warfare tactics experts would undoubtedly be able to do better. In only one of these runthroughs did the fight enter the merge – long and medium range shots being the norm.
Two. A LO [low observability] fighter, with high-end sensors to detect (and importantly classify) targets at range when paired with the Meteor BVRAAM [beyond visual range air-to-air missile] is extremely potent. While the F-35 was able to classify the Flankers at extreme range, the Su35’s sensors were still only able to classify the F-35 as a ‘multi-role’ – even when it was nearly within weapon range. This may be fine in a simulation without other hostiles, friendlies and civilians air contacts to sort and track, but undoubtedly would be more complex in real life.
One can debate, of course, whether the simulation accurately models the performance of highly-classified weapons systems. However, there’s little doubt that the experiment is an excellent example of the sophistication of some modern commercial/hobby conflict simulations, and Robinson’s finding suggests that if the F-35 were to fight as it is intended to fight it could do much better than current critics are suggesting.
In the latest issue of Joint Forces Quarterly 78 (July 2015), Dale C. Eikmeier uses the analogy of waffles and pancakes to examine the differences between operational- and tactical-level wargaming:
Ask people what the difference is between pancake batter and waffle batter,1 and some will quizzically return the question, asking if there is a difference; after all, the batter looks the same. A few might acknowledge some differences but not know exactly what they are. Experienced chefs, however, will tell you the difference is the amount of eggs and oil in the batter. You can put pancake batter in a waffle iron and waffle batter on a griddle and both will cook, but the products will disappoint, especially if you were expecting crispy waffles or fluffy pancakes.
Wargaming at the operational and tactical levels is a lot like waffle and pancake batter: it might look the same and share many of the same ingredients, but it has important and subtle differences. Ask military planners what the difference is between operational-level and tactical-level wargaming methodologies used in course of action (COA) analysis, and you will probably get the same pancake-versus-waffle–type answers, with many telling you that the difference is nonexistent or not important. The truth is the wargaming processes may look the same, but the “ingredients” and outcomes are very different. Using a tactical-level wargaming focus at the operational level can result in the direction of well-planned and synchronized tactical actions at questionable operational tasks and the aiming of mismatched capabilities at ill-defined effects that fail to achieve operational and strategic objectives.
As most of the world applauds (and the US Congress debates) the agreement between Iran and the EU3+3 regarding Tehran’s nuclear program, Iranian software developers have released a game in which a player fires missiles at Israel in retaliation for an Israeli strike. According to the Times of Israel:
Iran has developed a new mobile game that simulates a missile attack on Israel, according to the semi-official news agency Fars News.
The game — “Missile Strike” — was unveiled on Friday in honor of al-Quds Day, during which vast numbers of Iranians marched against Israel and the US and called for the “liberation” of Jerusalem.
As part of the game, users “break into the Zionist regime’s air defense and target Israel” using “Iranian-made missiles,” according to the game’s developer, Mehdi Atash Jaam.
Jaam said the game was produced in response to the US-made video game Battlefield, which includes scenes simulating attacks on Tehran.
You’ll find the original Iranian report by Fars News here. For more discussion of games and Iran at PAXsims, see the various blog posts listed here.
A recent item at the SCM Globe blog discusses how wargaming can help businesses explore the challenges of maintaining global supply chains:
SCM Globe is a serious supply chain game, and like wargames, it uses real world data, and it uses a map of the world as its game board. This is shown in the screenshots below. These screenshots show the model of an actual supply chain for a company that makes furniture in Indonesia and sells to customers around the world. This model is created by defining four types of supply chain entities (products, facilities, vehicles, and routes) and placing them on a map of the world. They are the game pieces in this supply chain game.
SCM Globe leverages Google Maps (or any other mapping application such as Apple Maps, OpenStreetMap, etc.) to create its game board. Players are able to zoom in and out and place products and facilities in specific locations on the map. The information used to define products and facilities accurately reflects the real world. Vehicles and routes can also be carefully placed on the map, and the information used to define them is realistic as well.
Because people can accurately model real supply chains in SCM Globe, they can be confident that the patterns they see in the simulations, and the chunks of information they learn, are transferable to the real world. This capability makes SCM Globe similar to wargames. In each case the same techniques are used to teach real-world skills.
How better to examine the dilemmas of collective action, cooperation, and the “tragedy of the commons” in a social psychology class than to build one into the final exam? That is exactly what Prof. Dylan Selterman at the University of Maryland has been doing.
The Active Learning in Political Science blog has moved! It can now be found at http://activelearningps.com. Update your links—and if you haven’t been following it, you should.
We’ve posted updated information on the 2015 Connections Netherlands interdisciplinary wargaming conference (14-15 September 2015, near Utrecht) on PAXsims here