PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 23 October 2015

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Some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers. Corinne Goldberger and Ryan Kuhns contributed material for this latest edition.

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1510_n-square_g4c_banner_634pxThe N Square Challenge is offering a $10,000 prize for the best idea for a game on nuclear proliferation:

Nuclear proliferation remains one of the most vexing and complex issues of our time. Though the Cold War ended long ago, today’s nuclear security situation is more volatile than ever.

But with such a huge challenge comes an even bigger opportunity for innovation, and who better to tackle this issue than the gaming community, known for their creativity and collaborative problem solving. A new design competition is calling on innovators to save the world, in real life, by inspiring creative solutions and novel approaches that foster greater understanding of nuclear proliferation and its related safety and security challenges.

Games for Change is looking for ideas for games that address the risk of nuclear weapons.

The N Square Challenge is a $10,000 game design competition, sponsored by N Square, a two-year pilot working to inspire nuclear safety solutions.

The challenge invites anyone, anywhere, to conceptualize a game that will engage and educate players about the dynamics of nuclear weapons risk. No prior game design experience or subject matter expertise is required. You supply the idea, and we’ll design the game.

The winning design idea will receive a $10,000 cash prize!

The deadline for submissions is November 13. You’ll find further details here and here.

N Square is a collaborative effort between five of the largest peace and security funders in the United States: The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

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Asymmetric Games is a website devoted to experimental strategy games. Their most recent offering examines rebuilding a post-apocalyptic America:

Asymmetric Warfare: Nation Building USA is a game that explores the complexity of conflicts that occur in failed states. Rather than look at a current conflict in a country where the basic functions of government have broken down (Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, etc.), this game assumes that the United States is recovering from a debilitating plague. To stop the spread of the plague, the US government had to put the US population under a prolonged quarantine and nuke a few cities where the plague was out of control. Forcing people to stay indoors for several weeks, in turn, caused the economy to collapse. Larger areas of the country have collapsed into anarchy, and millions of refugees are fleeing the fallout of the nuclear strikes. The US has become a failed state. You play a bankrupt US government, and you must reassert control over and rebuild the nation.

Below you’ll find a video highlighting the Asymmetric Games engine used in an earlier game, Baltic Gambit:

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Rogue State is a digital game newly released on Steam:

Assume control of a Middle Eastern country recovering from a violent revolution. It is up to you: Forge alliances, grow your economy, invade your neighbors, or pacify your population. Rogue State is a geopolitical strategy game that will force you to always stay one step ahead of your rivals to survive.

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Rumour has it that a well-known British wargamer (and occasional PAXsims contributor) was recently spotted in China too.

China is taking its wargaming and military exercises more seriously, according to Defense News:

China has greatly increased the realism of its Army training, attempting to improve readiness and interoperability, and unearth operational weaknesses.

These trends demonstrate the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) rising self-confidence in dealing with a variety of scenarios beyond its traditional focus of a conflict with Taiwan, analysts said.

Since 2006, the PLA has increased the number of trans-regional exercises, particularly units moving from one military region (MR) to another for training, said Roy Kamphausen, senior vice president for research at the National Bureau of Asian Research.

The PLA has made three key improvements in land warfare exercises, said Li Xiaobing, author of the book “A History of the Modern Chinese Army.”

First, the PLA has moved the exercises out of their training fields like the one in the Beijing region and into actual battlegrounds, including some remote, frontier areas like those in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Second, the exercises have become more practical in terms of real war conditions, such as command, communication and long-distance logistics.

“They even traveled long distance to Russia for a joint land exercise,” he said.

Third, the blue army or enemy force is now better prepared and stronger than the red army or PLA.

“The red army has to fight harder and smarter rather than expecting a guaranteed victory,” Li said. Li once served in the PLA and is now a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.

However:

Li said weaknesses of the recent land exercises remind people of the institutional problems of the PLA.

“Politics still has a role in the exercises, including site selection, commander appointments and battle designs,” he said. Problems include economic issues: “Some units were asked to use old weapons before their retirement and ammunition before the expiration dates.”

For more on wargaming in China, see Devin Ellis’ recent presentation on the topic at Connections UK 2015 (video below).

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Mark Herman—designer of We The PeopleEmpire of the Sun, Fire in the Lake, Churchill and many other wargames–recently had an AMA (‘ask me anything”) on Reddit. You can read the questions and answers in the Hex and Counter subreddit.

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live-like-a-refugee-for-a-weekend-in-rural-ohio-511-body-image-1444867210-size_1000In Ohio, Dr. Jeff Cook organizes an annual Refugee Weekend that aims to Refugee Weekend—an “immersion experience modeled on different refugee situations from around the world.” The event lasts two days and nights:

During one of my more memorable weekends in college, I fled a group of bandits trying to steal my belongings, plucked a scrawny chicken, watched a sheep get slaughtered so we could eat, and narrowly avoided frostbite after spending all day and night outside. In Ohio. In the middle of winter. The experience was called Refugee Weekend, an overnight class exercise meant to show our group of Midwestern, middle-class millennials just what it meant to exist on the margins. It was so cold that I melted the sole of my Army-issue borrowed boot as I tried to get warm at a campfire. Then a group of masked bandits raided camp, again, and I hobbled on an unevenly melted boot for the rest of the night. The hellish experience began on Friday afternoon, and ended in the early hours of Sunday morning—if only real-world refugees had that luxury.

Read more about it at VICE.

On a similar theme, the Webster University Journal reports on another refugee simulation:

The refugee experience tested the students both mentally and physically, just like a real refugee scenario. 

Sara Banoura, a journalism student and member of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement in St. Louis, said she was skeptical when she first read about the simulation. She said she did not know how close to reality it was. 

Banoura said the reflections made by those who participated reassured her that the refugee simulation has the potential to change hearts on and off campus. 

“The Syrian situation is eye-opening to every other refugee situation,” Banoura said. “It’s not just about politics, it’s about humanity.”

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The latest issue of PS: Political Science & Politics 48, 4 (October 2015) contains an article by Kyle Haynes on “Simulating the Bargaining Model of War.”

This article outlines a classroom simulation for teaching the bargaining model of war. This model has become one of the most important theories of international conflict, but the technical notation often used to illustrate it is troublesome for some students. I describe a simple card game that can be integrated into a broader strategy for conveying the bargaining model’s core insights. I also highlight ways in which the game can be modified to focus on different aspects of the model’s logic.

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The Journal of Games Criticism is seeking submissions for its January 2016 issue.
The Journal of Games Criticism (JGC) is a non-profit, peer-reviewed, open-access journal which aims to respond to these cultural artifacts by extending the range of authors to include both traditional academics and popular bloggers. The journal strives to be a producer of feed-forward approaches to video games criticism with a focus on influencing gamer culture, the design and writing of video games, and the social understanding of video games and video games criticism.
This issue’s submission deadline is November 15, 2015. See here for submissions guidelines.
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…one crowdfunded video game project has stood out to me as a model for cultivating an audience and then effectively meeting its expectations—not to mention delivering a great game in the process. It’s Prison Architectwhich has raised more than $19 million through crowdfunding. Game designers and companies alike would benefit from studying its success.

In Prison Architect, an ambitious business/management simulation from British developer Introversion Software, players design and manage their own penal colony. It wasn’t funded through Kickstarter but through Valve’s game distribution platform Steam, whose “Early Access” program required that Introversion deliver a playable experience before anyone could even donate money. Consequently, Prison Architect’s concept had to be sufficiently fleshed out and coherent to yield a minimal prototype before its creators could ask anyone for money. Second, after releasing that prototype in 2012 Introversion updated the game almost every month with new features and functionality in order to get ongoing feedback from the funders. And third, Introversion never promised more than it could deliver—quite the opposite.

After being available for three years as an open, prerelease “alpha,” Prison Architectwas officially released two weeks ago and appears destined for long-term cult success….

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While not exactly connected with conflict, it is all about simulation—so I’ll slip in a quick plug for McGill University’s  Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning, which supports simulated training in the health sciences.

Since its inception in 2006 the Centre has been an important part of the training of health care students and practitioners, having hosted over 110,000 learner visits, more than 60,000 of which have occurred in the past four years. The Centre’s academic team provides simulation-based training to students from McGill’s schools of medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, communication sciences and disorders, and dietetics and human nutrition, as well as to non-McGill health care professionals and to industry.

Using sophisticated simulation technology, life-like mannequins and professional actors as patients, among other tools, the Centre’s users are able to practice a variety of skills from suturing to ultrasound to bedside manner to crisis resource management, clinical decision-making and interprofessional health care.

You can read more about it in the McGill Reporter.

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