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Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 29/09/2020

Combat Mission: OP DIVERSITY

The following report has been cleared for release by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (public release identifier DSTL/PUB126772)

Always wanted to be in a video game? Frustrated by the lack of diversity in COTS wargames?

Two British soldiers in a firing position overlooking Red forces in the next field.

This is your opportunity to be the representation you want to see in Combat Mission, a commercially available wargame used by Dstl and wider UK MOD to support analysis. It’s a fully 3D game all the way down to representing individual soldiers… You can see a quick overview here:

In light of the Derby House Principles, Tom Halliday at Dstl has secured support from the developers (Battlefront.com) and publishers (Slitherine) to implement more diverse people into the game. This will include adding BAME and female graphical representations to NATO forces, and providing Dstl the ability to add-in voice acting from diverse people.

That’s where you come in!

We are looking for diverse people to contribute their voice to this initiative. Please spread the word, you do not have to be a wargamer, defence analyst, or service-person. Friends and family are welcome too. Here’s an idea of how the pros do it [warning: language !] in Company of Heroes (we won’t be asking you to swear) if you need some inspiration.

Everyone who contributes will recieve a splendid campaign medal Derby House Pin, and have their voice immortalised within UK MOD wargaming analysis.

Wren teddybear sporting a marvellous Derby House Principles pin

Who do we want to hear from?

Anyone who identifies as a woman:

  • white British
  • non-white British
  • Commonwealth accents
  • another country/ethnicity accents not already covered (even if you’re not British)
  • any other under-represented group (eg LGBT+)

Those who identify as men and are:

  • non-white British
  • Commonwealth accents
  • another country/ethnicity accents not already covered (even if you’re not British)
  • any other under-represented group (eg LGBT+)

Countries the British Army recruits from:

Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Brunei Darussalem. Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Ireland, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu, and Zambia.

A note on age: as long as you sound like you’re between 18 and 55 you’re in.

What if I can do a few different accents?

If you can record the lines with different accents, that would be awesome. Please do a separate submission for each accent.

Note: this is not an invitation for white people to muscle-in on the representation space. Please no black-face voice acting, or bad approximations of accents that aren’t really yours.

What do I get in return?

  • Your voice acting will be immortalised in Dstl version of Combat Mission, a COTS wargame used by UK MOD.
  • The eternal glory of being part of a short film Dstl is making to publicise the new-and-diverse ORBAT and to celebrate the Derby House Principles in general.
  • The joy/pride/immense satisfaction of knowing you are playing a part in breaking down barriers for BAME and PoC soldiers, analysts, and gamers, by normalising the presence of female and ethnically diverse characters in computer games. Representation matters.
  • A Derby House Principles pin, which looks amazing on a pass lanyard. The Blue Peter Badge of wargaming ;-)

I’m in, how do I do this?

  • with Audacity & mic, or smart phone.
  • *.WAV, or if you’re doing it by smart phone I’ll also accept *.mp3 and *.m3a files (standard output from iPhone and android voice recorder apps)
  • The lines we want you to say are here—there are a lot of lines; say as many as you are able, we can make use of anything we’re sent.
  • Blow-by-blow instructions are here for Audacity and here for any other recording software.
  • Please also complete and return the consent form or we can’t use your voice-recordings.
  • The deadline for submissions is end of October 2020

Really important things to know:

  • Say your lines Clearly, Loudly, As an order and with Pauses please.
  • Hang up a duvet in front or around you when you record if you can. This deadens the echo in the room. It will improve the quality of the audio enormously. There’s a nice demonstration of the effect in this video; you don’t need a fancy blanket, any kind of duvet works.
  • Have a real go at the acting if you can. The best stuff is likely to feature prominently in the film :D
  • Please do record three takes of each line, and doing each a little differently. It really helps us. We can pick the best performance you give us, and it also means we have an alternative for any stray noise/fluffed lines.
  • Please follow the naming convention in the instructions, it’ll make it much easier for us in the post-processing work. If you’re reallyreally struggling, just send me what you can, I’d rather have the voice acting than quibble over technical issues.

I’ve done it, now what?

Once you’ve recorded your lines, drop me an e-mail with a link to the files on your google drive/dropbox/other, or ask me to send you a link to my dropbox where you can upload the files.

Also let me know:

  • where to send your pin
  • what name you’d like us to use to credit your voice acting—if you want to be credited. If you’d rather not be named, you can either supply the most amazing stage name (points will be awarded for good puns) or we’ll put you down under “the wargaming community”.
  • Please complete and return the consent form or we can’t use your voice-recordings.

Combat Mission is becoming increasingly widely used within Dstl and also within wider MoD, such as the Fight Club initiative. This is a great opportunity to promote diversity and drive change in a way which normalises the fact that minorities and women both serve in the British Army. We cannot do this without your support (and the support of your wider friends and family if they want to contribute as well). As a straight, white man as part of a group in Combat Mission of other straight, white men, this is something we are literally incapable of doing ourselves but we really want to help to promote D&I as widely as possible.

Tom Halliday

Data protection:

Once I have your voice acting files,

  • Your name will only be used to credit you in the Dstl film if you choose to be named
  • Your address will only be used to post you a Derby House Pin
  • Your e-mail address will only be used to let you know when the film launches
  • Your personal details will be deleted once the above is done
  • Your voice acting files will not include your personal details.

Dstl © Crown Copyright, 2020.

Read more about the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming here.

Derby House Principles icon: a D20 dice, facets in many different colours

Atlantic Council: Competitive strategy insights from wargames

The Atlantic Council has just released a new report on “Competitive strategy insights from wargames,” which summarizes the results of a series of recent games.

How the US military prioritizes future force-modernization investments has the potential to shape long-term geopolitical and military competition. Beyond increasing lethality, new capabilities also affect how rival great powers like China and Russia conduct strategic planning and make decisions on the types of forces best suited to challenge the United States.

To assess this dynamic, the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and its Forward Defense practice area hosted a series of competitive strategy games to evaluate: how US national security professionals allocated resource investments across Army Futures Command (AFC) moderniza- tion priorities (Long-Range Precision Fires, Future Vertical Lift, etc.) in order to advance US strategy; and the extent to which these investments altered military strategy and defense-modernization programs in China and Russia, both played by subject-matter experts (SMEs).

Two unexpected outcomes emerged. First, a new stability-instability paradox defined the competitive investment cycle. Within the games, the United States focused on bolstering its conventional deterrent and warfighting capabilities through technology, but both China and Russia players responded to new US technology by funding proxy clients, the Belt and Road Initiative, cyber operations, and propaganda…. The results produce counterintuitive findings for future force-modernization and force-design initiatives. Based on these insights, the United States should counter its competitors’ asymmetric advantages by exploring low-cost ways to bolster US and allied forces operating in the contact layer and supporting gray-zone activities….

Second, new capabilities create new escalation risks. Russia players voiced concerns about inadvertent escalation. They assumed that the extended ranges associated with modernized US long-range precision strike could be used against Moscow’s strategic (i.e., nuclear) forces. Accordingly, they sought to attack these long-range fires early in a crisis or conflict, which could produce dangerous escalation spirals….

The games were modified matrix games. By establishing several different US teams, variations in US strategy and technology investment could be explored.

You can download the full report at the link above.

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