PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Sepinsky: Rigorous wargames vs effective wargaming

At War on the Rocks, Jeremy Sepinsky (CNA) addresses “Is it a wargame? It doesn’t matter: Rigorous wargames vs effective wargaming.

We need to stop telling ourselves that the key to a better wargame is to add more detail. Some of the most rigorous, well-researched wargames I’ve participated in have struggled to create any lasting impact on the sponsors. Yet many of my ad hoc, quickly assembled, and lightly adjudicated wargames have created exactly the lasting impacts that we are looking for: sponsors thinking hard about future plans, policies, or objectives. Why? Because a rigorous wargame is usually not the same thing as effective wargaming. Without sponsors who understand the role of wargaming within their organization’s priorities, even a great wargame will often become a simple exercise of telling the players what they already know. The wargaming community can and should be better, but the community and its sponsors need to address the critical element that allows a wargame, whether deeply rigorous or hastily assembled, to also be effective wargaming: the ecosystem — the personal networks, cycle of research, follow-on activities, and continued intellectual engagement with the insights that emerge from it.

Yuna Huh Wong and Garrett Heath raise questions about the quality of defense wargames in these pages, noting, “Much of what the Department of Defense calls wargaming is not actually wargaming.” They are quite right — but that’s not necessarily a problem. Wargamers will debate till they are blue in the face about what is and is not a wargame. It does not matter. For those of us who deliver wargames to sponsors in the Department of Defense or other government agencies in support of current priorities, these semantics have little value. If the players or sponsors are better equipped at the end of the wargame to do the things they need to do, then there is value in the activity. Nothing else matters.

You can read the rest of the article at the link above.

One response to “Sepinsky: Rigorous wargames vs effective wargaming

  1. Sally Davis 24/02/2021 at 10:05 am

    This reminds me of the “realism is best” fallacy that computer games have largely grown past. Players want to be able to do things at the speed of thought, not necessarily the speed of realism: Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t allow you to one-button-search a chest of drawers and pick up what you like, it makes you select each drawer individually, pull it out, look, pick up the object if you want it, each taking a finite amount of time to animate, turning the whole process into a chore in the name of realism. The point is not to make a real-life simulator, but to facilitate the purpose of the game; ease of use creates immersion and engagement, not one-to-one replication of the real world in button-pushes. Wargame design could learn a lot from the Design of Everyday Things: https://www.polygon.com/2019/4/22/18298277/red-dead-redemption-2-pc-review-rdr2-story-design-criticism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: