PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Gaming the Irrational — Connections US 2021 Working Group 3 Report

In this working group report Ed McGrady, Justin Peachey, John Hanley and Roger Mason discussed the problem of including counter-factual, irrational, or awkward elements in game play. While there are simple solutions such as “put it in as an inject” what they looked for was:

  • a discussion of how to shape the game, and player behavior, so that these events emerge organically from the game play
  • how to include characters in the game who are manifestly “different” from the accepted liberal/neo-conservative internationalist approach that typically informs Western foreign policy in games.
  • adjudication of actions that encourage miss-behavior in games, from counter-factual2propaganda to deliberate spoofing and other shenanigans. This would include insider threats, supply chain attacks, and other actions that corrupt the decision process from the inside.
  • how to deal with common, but often ignored, elements such as morale, fratricide, fog of war,3 and battlefield chaos on a standard player/controller game.
  • how to deal with politically sensitive topics such as Congress, lobbyists, and other sensitive issues so as not to generate real-world blowback from the game.

Their discussion and papers divided into two general ways to think about the problem, which they characterize as “player centric irrationality” and “problem centric irrationality”:

  • Irrational taken literally as “not rational.” This tended to lead the discussion into areas of definitions, game theory, and ways in which the players in a game make decisions. We could also call this the game or player centric view of the problem.
  • A sweeping interpretation of the problem to include items, issues, and behaviors that are socially liminal, emotionally charged, politically difficult, or just plain crazy. Especially behaviors that violate the “polite” acceptance of a neo-conservative, liberal, western, interpretation of behavior between individuals and societies that has emerged as a consensus value during and after the Cold War. This tended to lead the discussion far afield into areas that would note easily fit into the idea of “not rational.”

Click here to download the report.

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