PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 26 July 2017

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers—and we don’t care who you love, or what gender you identify as.

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The Strategy Bridge recently featured an article by MAJ GEN Charles A. Flynn and CAPT Lorenzo Ruiz entitled “Beyond Checkers and Chess: What Junior Leaders Can Do to Develop Strategic Thinking.”

To better explore the value of developing strategic understanding in junior leaders, this article explores flaws in strategic thinking by looking at the game of chess, a game of perfect information, a single objective, defined territory, and no regard for the state of the board after victory. Next, it looks at how the Chinese game of Wei Ch’i can offer solutions for framing a better way of thinking strategically: by focusing on positions of advantage, working with uncertainty, and linking efforts to achieve end-state conditions. Using the lessons of Wei Ch’i, we then look at how the U.S. Army’s operational variables can help us identify comparative advantages and how thinking with strategic empathy helps us understand adversaries and solve the right problems.[6] Finally, we discuss the importance of senior leaders in shaping the problem-solving skills of the next generation of strategic leaders.

The article also introduces formal, rational choice game theory as another lens through which to view strategic issues.

I don’t disagree with their main argument:

Chess may be good to sharpen the tactical mind, but strategy requires setting conditions beyond the battlefield, identifying comparative advantages by analyzing adversarial interactions, seeking positional advantage in the physical, informational, and electromagnetic environments, and contributing efforts to achieve political objectives. By recognizing what drives our adversaries’ actions we can more accurately apply diplomacy to keep the peace, but when required out think and outmaneuver enemies in times of war. We can use tools like the operational variables to identify conditions and interactions, the “Five Whys” to perform root-cause analysis ensuring we are solving the right problems, and game theory to improve our strategic empathy. The tacticization of strategy must be reversed. Junior leaders must start early and view their tactical actions with a strategic mind. These are just some suggestions that can help leaders at all levels avoid the strategic failures of our past.

However, while chess is a poor analogy for challenges of military strategy, I’m not sure that Wei Ch’i (Go) is much better—it may have more potential moves, but it also is a game of perfect information, devoid of the fog and friction of both wartime and peacetime strategic interaction. There is a reason, after all, why Clausewitz suggested that card games were the best parallel, given their uncertainty, imperfect information, and need to balance uncertain risk and opportunity.

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More fundamentally, however, it is important to get away from the rather frequent habit of trying to characterize national strategic characteristics through stereotypical national games.

Sure, it is easy and fun to do:

  • The Chinese play Go (and this explains their sneaky creation of islands encircling ever larger parts of the South China Sea)!
  • Middle Easterners play backgammon —which explains why ISIS builds its sanctuaries in far-away corners!
  • The British imported Chutes and Ladders (Snakes and Ladders) from India, and added to it some pious moralizing about British values, which is why PM Cameron gambled on an EU referendum and they’ve now fallen into the pit of Brexit!
  • Gonggi, a traditional Korean children’s game, involves throwing stones in the air—much like testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles!
  • Russian matryoshka nesting dolls can collude perfectly!
  • Americans invented Monopoly, which tells you all you need to know about capitalist neoimperialism!

…except there is very little evidence that either game playing or national strategy varies in such simplistic ways. Indeed, the social science evidence is rather stronger that military officers play games rather like other military officers and rather unlike civilians, that youth may play differently than their elders, and that everyone plays differently if you reframe the game in different terms. Moreover, strategy is a multilevel game, wherein organizational process and domestic politics can be significant determinants of geopolitical behaviour.

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At Foreign Policy, Paul McLeary reports on major NATO and Russian military exercises:

Tens of thousands of troops are on the move from the Baltic to the Black Sea, as NATO and Russia open up a series of massive military exercises the size of which the continent hasn’t seen since the Cold War.

Both sides claim the drills, which involve aircraft, warships, tanks and artillery, are purely defensive in nature. But it is clear the exercises are also meant to show off new capabilities and technologies, and display not only the strength of alliances, but how swiftly troops and heavy equipment can move to squash a threat at the frontier.

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Bury Me, My Love is a mobile game to be released on IOS and Android in September 2017 that depicts the challenges facing Syrian refugees:

Description

Bury me, my Love is a text-message-based game about Nour, a Syrian migrant trying to find her way to Europe. Her husband Majd remained in Syria; he will attempt, through a messaging app, to advise her as best he can so that she reaches her destination safely.

History

Bury me, my Love is a “reality-inspired game,” a documented fiction which draws inspiration directly from real-world events. The original idea stems from an article written by Le Monde.fr journalist Lucie Soullier that tells the story of Dana, a young Syrian woman who fled her country and is now living in Germany.

The article offers an insight into Syrian migrants journey through their use of WhatsApp. Indeed, cell phone has become a vital tool for Syrian trying to reach Europe, as it allows them to take useful pieces of advice and to be supported by their relatives. Thus, it appeared relevant to Florent Maurin, game designer and founder of The Pixel Hunt, to create a game that replicates the interface of a messaging app. In Bury me, my Love, you will have to help and support a Syrian migrant called Nour through text messages, emojis and even selfies.

Bury me, my Love is developed by The Pixel Hunt and Figs and co-produced by ARTE. Its story is co-written by Florent Maurin and journalist Pierre Corbinais (the creator of reference websites l’Oujevipo and Shake That Button), with the help of Dana and Lucie who are editorial consultants on the project. Thanks to these two women, Bury me, my Love can recreate the experience of a migrant woman on her way from Syria to Europe as realistically as possible.

“Bury me, my love” is an arabic expression meaning “Take care”, “Don’t even think about dying before I do”. You might say it to a loved one before going separate ways. That’s what Majd said to his wife Nour when she hit the road to Europe.

Drawing inspiration from real-time interactive fictions as well as the growing popularity of the WhatsApp messenger, Bury me, my Love is allowing the player to walk in Majd’s shoes. Armed only with his cell phone, Majd will have to support his loved one through some of the most difficult times of her life. How will he help Nour overcome the difficulties she encounters? He will be able to track her progress as she moves from one city to the next, and together they will have to make choices that could have dire consequences.

Bury me, my Love benefits from a financial help allowed by the Fonds d’Aide au Jeu Vidéo of the Centre National du Cinéma (the French Ministry of Culture’s national agency for moving images).

Bury me, my Love is a “reality-inspired game,” a documented fiction which draws inspiration directly from real-world events. The original idea stems from an article written by Le Monde.fr journalist Lucie Soullier that tells the story of Dana, a young Syrian woman who fled her country and is now living in Germany.

The article offers an insight into Syrian migrants journey through their use of WhatsApp. Indeed, cell phone has become a vital tool for Syrian trying to reach Europe, as it allows them to take useful pieces of advice and to be supported by their relatives. Thus, it appeared relevant to Florent Maurin, game designer and founder of The Pixel Hunt, to create a game that replicates the interface of a messaging app. In Bury me, my Love, you will have to help and support a Syrian migrant called Nour through text messages, emojis and even selfies.

Bury me, my Love is developed by The Pixel Hunt and Figs and co-produced by ARTE. Its story is co-written by Florent Maurin and journalist Pierre Corbinais (the creator of reference websites l’Oujevipo and Shake That Button), with the help of Dana and Lucie who are editorial consultants on the project. Thanks to these two women, Bury me, my Love can recreate the experience of a migrant woman on her way from Syria to Europe as realistically as possible.

“Bury me, my love” is an arabic expression meaning “Take care”, “Don’t even think about dying before I do”. You might say it to a loved one before going separate ways. That’s what Majd said to his wife Nour when she hit the road to Europe.

Drawing inspiration from real-time interactive fictions as well as the growing popularity of the WhatsApp messenger, Bury me, my Love is allowing the player to walk in Majd’s shoes. Armed only with his cell phone, Majd will have to support his loved one through some of the most difficult times of her life. How will he help Nour overcome the difficulties she encounters? He will be able to track her progress as she moves from one city to the next, and together they will have to make choices that could have dire consequences.

Bury me, my Love benefits from a financial help allowed by the Fonds d’Aide au Jeu Vidéo of the Centre National du Cinéma (the French Ministry of Culture’s national agency for moving images).

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PAXsims

On a somewhat similar note, the VRefugees project seeks to build empathy for the plight of refugees through virtual reality.

PAXsims

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JoLT (a collaboration between American University’s GameLab and School of Communication) has developed Factitiousa “Fake News” browser game, designed to test a player’s ability to distinguish real and false news stories.

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The full programme for the October 2017 annual conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) is now available.

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The latest edition of the podcast Last Turn Madness discusses the recent Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos megagame with game designer Jim Wallman. Even if the zombie apocalypse isn’t your thing, the session offers plenty of insight into wide-area or distributed gaming, involving multiple, simultaneous linked game locations.

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