Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 24/09/2017

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 24 September 2017


PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (or not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers.


PAXsims has previously mentioned the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross on videogames and humanitarian law. Back in 2011, we noted the kerfuffle about an ICRC research project on this, and criticized much of the commentary on it for being misinformed or misguided. We’ve also covered work by the American Red Cross on the same topic.

Recently, Bohemian Interactive released new downloadable content for the Arma 3 first person shooter, Laws of War—a product of collaboration on the issue with ICRC.

Half the net revenues from the sale of Laws of War will be donated to the ICRC.

At Polygon, Charlie Hall provides more detail on the initiative:

…the ICRC quietly began to reach out to game developers for a dialogue.

“We sent a letter, an official letter from my director, to many major studios inviting a discussion,” Rouffaer said. Many of those letters were ignored, and what few conversations there were the ICRC is largely unable to discuss.

“The video game industry in general is not necessarily very happy to make public that we have conversations,” he said. “They are afraid of being seen with an organization like us, or a humanitarian organization in general. They think their gamers or their fans will get scared that their games will turn into training courses or that morality, as they say, will take over everything and games will not be about shooting anything anymore. That they’ll turn into simulations where you are delivering meal powder to babies.”

But one studio responded with a thoughtful letter of their own: Bohemia Interactive.

“One day, I got this long message from Ivan Buchta, a game designer at from Bohemia Interactive who really took the time to write a lot of things.”

Before long, Rouffaer was headed to Prague for a face-to-face meeting and a presentation to the Arma 3 development team about IHL. It was, by and large, the very same presentation Rouffaer gave to his students in armies around the world.

It is that presentation that inspired the Laws of War DLC. In it, players take on the role of an international humanitarian aid worker. They are tasked with clearing unexploded ordinance from the same battlefields which they fought over in Arma 3’s base game. In the roughly five-hour mini-campaign, players see that fictional conflict from all sides, including from the perspective of civilians caught in the crossfire.

One irony of the DLC is that in order to fully portray the horrors of war the team at Bohemia Interactive had to design a new and controversial weapon system for the game. Cluster munitions are singular weapons that break apart before impact, spreading hundreds of tiny bomblets over a large target area. Their use was banned by more than 100 countries in 2008.

In Laws of War, players will witness the aftermath of the use of cluster munitions. Years after the fighting is over, unexploded ordinance still litters the battlefield and players must carefully remove it.

The decision to include prohibited weaponry was difficult for Rouffaer, but be believes that it created a necessary outcome for players.

“Back when I was playing six hours of video games per day for the ICRC,” Rouffaer said, “I was also talking at the time with quite a few people from the armed forces. They were not comfortable at all with this kind of stuff that I was finding in those games, When you are a soldier you know your job. You know what to do. You know what is legal, what is illegal. And then, because of a game, suddenly people believe that you are a butcher and you are kind of a cowboy and do whatever you want on the battlefield? It’s much more complex than that.

“I’m pretty sure that before this DLC, quite a few of the gamers who played Arma 3 had no clue that there were rules that soldiers had to follow.”

By creating prohibited cluster munitions as an in-game asset, and by also teaching the controversies surrounding their use, Rouffaer believes that gamers have a more complete picture of modern warfare for the first time….



The 2017 Connections Australia professional wargaming conference will be held on 11-13 December at the University of Melbourne. Registration details can be found here.


At his blog Ludic Futurism, Brian Train reports on his recent participation in the Connections UK wargaming conference, among other things.



Don’t forget that the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) Special Wargaming Workshop will be held at the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia 17 to 19 October 2017:

This year’s workshop will expand on work begun in last year’s highly successful workshop and magnify the theme of “Learn by Doing.” This year’s workshop will be more tailored to meet the needs of participants and continue to develop the pool of wargamers within DoD and MORS. It will include two working groups for Master level game designers, two seminars for Apprentice and Journeymen level game designers, and multiple games or series of games designed for each level of experience/understanding of participants.

Two guest speakers include Mr. James Dunnigan and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva.

+ The groups available are:

• Group 1 – Wargaming Integration Process (Open to all Experienced Wargamers and Operations Analyst)
• Group 2 – Validity and Utility of Wargaming (Chair Invitation Only)
• Group 3 – (Seminar A) How to employ proper adjudication techniques in wargaming (Journeymen level game designers)
• Group 4 – (Seminar B) Structured Analytic Techniques (US Government/Military only)
• Group 5 – Introduction to complete neophyte to wargaming (little to no experience with wargaming)
• Group 6 – Matrix Style Wargame
• Group 7 – Cassandra Project Wargame
• Group 8 – Title X Wargame


 MORS Member  Non-Member
US Government or FVEY Government Active or
Civilian Employee (valid active duty or civilian
email required)
 Free Free
 US Government Contractor/All Others  $250  $350



Earlier this month, the folks at FiveThirtyEight published an article on game theory and nuclear deterrence that included an interactive game that readers could play to illustrate the concept. The results are now in, and they don’t look pretty:

As of Wednesday afternoon, FiveThirtyEight readers had played this game nearly 200,000 times and the results are in. They are calamitous. The median submission was 33, the mean was 43 and the most common entry was 100 — in other words, uncompromising aggression. Disaster occurred over 20 percent of the time and nearly $2,000 was destroyed, on average, per game.

As the follow-up article explains, part of this may be a framing problem—people don’t gamble in thought experiments the way they do with real money, or real lives.

At least, we hope they don’t…


Brant Guillory reminds us of all the cool stuff included in The GrogCast:

The GrogCast is up over 60 episodes now, including some appearances by a handful of pros who discuss how commercial wargaming and their day jobs interact.

While not all of the content is immediately applicable to the professional wargaming realm, there’s certainly ideas and inspiration in there for any number of current topics.

You can listen to them here, or via iTunes.



On September 5, European Union defence ministers took part in a cyber wargame. Reuters continues the story:

In the simulation, hackers sabotaged the EU’s naval mission in the Mediterranean and launched a campaign on social media to discredit the EU operations and provoke protests.

Each of the defense ministers tried to contain the crisis over the course of the 90-minute, closed-door exercise in Tallinn that officials sought to make real by creating mock news videos giving updates on an escalating situation.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the “extremely exciting” war game showed the need for EU governments to be more aware of the impact of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure in the EU.

“The adversary is very, very difficult to identify, the attack is silent, invisible,” Von der Leyen told reporters. “The adversary does not need an army, but only a computer with internet connection”.

After a series of global cyber attacks disrupted multinational firms, ports and public services on an unprecedented scale this year, governments are seeking to stop hackers from shutting down more critical infrastructure or crippling corporate and government networks.

“We needed to raise awareness at the political level,” Jorge Domecq, the chief executive of the European Defence Agency that helped organize the exercise with Estonia, told Reuters.



Wondering what’s going on with the ICONS Project? Check out their September newsletter.


At Active Learning in Political Science,  Chad Raymond has posted a three-part series on game design as a classroom activity:


The next issue of CounterFact magazine (Issue 7) will feature Islamic State: War in Syria (ISWS) —a follow-on to Javier Romero’s earlier Islamic State: Libya.


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