PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 05/07/2022

War, Memory & Games in the Romance-Speaking World

A workshop on War, Memory & Games in the Romance-Speaking World will take place on 14-15 July, organized by Dr. Daniela Kuschel (University of Mannheim). Speakers will include Dr. Phil Sabin. Contact the organizer to attend virtually.

MWI: Why gamers will win the next war

At the Modern War Institute, Nick Moran and Arnel P. David argue that gamers will win the next war.

A storm is brewing. Thousands of gamers are working to upend traditional models of training, education, and analysis in government and defense. This grassroots movement has developed across several countries, under a joint venture—Fight Club International—within which civilian and military gamers are experimenting with commercial technologies to demonstrate what they can do for national security challenges. But while technology is at the core of this initiative, its more fundamental purpose is to change culture—no easy feat in military organizations, with their characteristic deep sense of history and layers of entrenched bureaucracy.

A common obstacle to introducing transformational technology is the imagination of the user—or, put differently, the willingness of the user to be genuinely imaginative. Early testing with Fight Club, in a constructive simulation called Combat Missionshowed that civilian gamers with no military training outperformed military officers with years of experience. The military gamers were constrained in their thinking and clung dogmatically to doctrine. They discovered, to their frustration, that their speed of decision-making was lacking against gamers with greater intuition and skill.

The piece is an enthusiastic care for greater inclusion of wargames in professional military education—a point with which all of us at PAXsims would agree.

On a methodological note, however, one needs to be careful not to put excessive emphasis on civilian gamers beating non-gaming officers in wargames. Certainly, games test tactical analysis and insight. However, they also test familiarity with interface, rules/algorithms, and other quirks of the simulation. No matter how engaging the graphics, they’re usually quite different from actual command. Indeed, as Sherry Turkle and her colleagues pointed out more than a decade ago, as simulations become more realistic-looking there’s a risk we overlook the important ways in which they depart from reality. I know that some recent experimental work has been done on diversity in wargaming, which among other things assessed the strategic performance of “gamers” as opposed to neophytes and subject matter experts—as soon as that report is available, we’ll share it here at PAXsims.

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