PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Play with us, however you roll

You might be sat there thinking, the Derby House Principles look great, but in all honesty our organisation is a bunch of guys and nobody but guys apply to work with us, it would feel hypocritical to sign-up. Here’s a different way to think about it:

By putting out inclusive content—not just the characters and story, but the interface as well—a whole generation of diverse gamers and game-makers will come knocking at your door wanting a peice of the action.

Change begins with making content that says everyone is welcome here.

It’s the simple things, like allowing users to remap the controls in your game, that can make a huge difference

Microsoft’s approach to disability access is really interesting: There are (approximately) 100,000 people in America with an upper limb deficiency. That’s not a commercially viable market. But six million people break their arm every year in the US, putting them temporarily in the same category. And parents are juggling children and laptops every other second in lockdown, putting them situationally in the same category. When you frame it like that, something that allows you to drive Windows and your Xbox one-handed is a mainstream need.

Disability is mismatched human interactions. That’s all.

So here’s a public service announcement ahead of the Connections 2020 games fair:

The MacOS screen-reader can’t get hold of content in Google docs in safari, so all the distributed wargaming I’ve been doing in the pandemic has been with rules and player stats and shared intent slides that I can’t read.

It can’t be that hard, surely? You have a degree and everything!

Modern Armour Wargame mission briefing with the words broken in all the wrong places.
It’s English, I promise. Look harder.

Too easy? How about this:

Instructions for how the game will run, with the words broken in all the wrong places and not sitting neatly on the line.
(and I didn’t even jumble up the p/b/d/q like I usually do with this game…)

Sure, you can pick your way through it eventually, but do you remember anything you just read? How much gameplay will you miss wading through the mud to check a rule here and there? Could you even decipher that text while you have other players talking in your ear on Zoom?

Pop quiz: what’s provided in the slide deck…?

If you are running a distributed game at Connections please consider including a very simple statement on your sign-up sheet:

Please let us know if you have any accessibility needs so we can figure out what will work for you.

Simples.

Calling all diverse wargamers!

Are you BAME, POC, LGBT, disabled, a woman, or otherwise diverse?

I want to know more about your experiences in wargaming.

Please take a few minutes to fill in this survey. Thanks!


For the purposes of this survey, diverse means anyone who identifies as outside the majority in terms of backround, life-experience, class, as well as the protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act.

The kind of thing aspirational juniors will see on bookshelves and in briefcases

One of my aims here at PAXsims is to raise up the voices and experiences of professional gamers outside the “male and pale” majority. So here’s your starter for 10, from the Wavell Room:

If you want to be the best Armed Forces, then the only way to go is Feminist.  If you don’t believe me, there’s stacks of writing out there about the importance of diversity and inclusion to making the best decisions, and being the highest performing team.  And there’s also stacks of writing about the importance of feminist thought and analysis when it comes to conflict and peace. 

This post, however, is not about the necessity of Feminism.  This is about how men in Defence can start to change themselves and lead their conservative, homogeneous organisations into a better, more gender-equal future.

Nick P, So you want to be ‘Feminist AF’? at The Wavell Room

It’s worth reading the whole article, but I’ll pull out this one paragraph, and invite PAXsims readership to take up the challenge:

One small sign can be the sight of (particularly senior men) reading the kinds of books and articles that I recommend below.  It’s commonplace for someone like the General I originally wrote to to be reading a weighty, male-authored tome about strategy or leadership.  It’s the kind of thing aspirational juniors will always see on bookshelves and in briefcases etc. 

I asked him to take Soraya Chemaly’s “Rage Becomes Her” and make it something that he carries around with him, to be read as he goes from meeting to meeting, location to location, in the car, on the train, and that people see him reading and carrying, that he places on the table during meetings along with his notebook and briefing papers etc. 

People will see this, and it will send a sign to women in the room, and to men who are shy of being allies but want to participate, and it will begin conversations. 

Nick P, So you want to be ‘Feminist AF’? at The Wavell Room

h/t Louise Martingale at Dstl

Know your enemy

The Williams’ biography, Captain Gilbert Roberts, RN, contains a delightful little story about the work of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit:

In 1945, Roberts was sent to Germany to the headquarters of the German U-boat command at Flensburg. His task was to find out and confirm U-boat tactics, obtain all confidential documents and records and to interrogate any U-boat command officer he could. …

Roberts was pleased to find that there was little new to him. Western Approaches Tactical Unit had got it right, they had correctly assumed the U-boat strength and tactics. … Roberts asked to see the plots of the overall situation on the 2nd June, 1944, just prior to ‘Overlord’. He was pleased to see a situation identical to that presumed by WATU. …

It was noticeable that, whenever Roberts appeared, a sudden silence descended on the Germans and anxiety showed in every face. For Roberts’ was a face they all knew. In the German Operations Room was a blown-up photograph of Roberts taken from an illustrated magazine and underneath, ‘This is your enemy, Captain Roberts, Director of Anti-U-Boat Tactics’. He never bothered to take it down.

Williams, “Captain Gilbert Roberts, RN, and the Anti-U-Boat School”

This was a photo I needed to find.

It took a year to track down the text of Roberts’ Trinity Lecture, teased in later chapters of the Williams’ Biography. (And which turned out to have a lot in common with passages from The Cruel Sea.) It took two-and-a-half to track down the illustrated magazine.

After an exhaustive search, and much thanks to Ed Butcher’s ebay bidding wizardry, I give you, most likely*, Your Enemy, Captain Roberts, Director of Anti-U-Boat Tactics:

Captain Roberts gives an after-action report on the game.

The article is light on the contribution of the Wrens, but does a stellar job of putting the fear of god good operational research into the enemy:

Captain Roberts plays a grim battle of wits with his opposite number in Germany. He spends weeks working out what Doenitz may think of next, and then, translating that next possible manoeuvre into a situation in the game at the Tactical School. …

The more exciting the game becomes, the better pleased is Captain Roberts.

At the end of the game he sums up. Some of the decisions have been brilliant. Some have been faulty.

“But,” says the tactical school director, “make your mistakes here and you won’t make them at sea.”

So thorough is the course, so clever the setting of each game, that many naval officers fighting actual U-boats in the Atlantic suddenly realise that they first saw the same situation present itself when it was only a game on a make-believe ocean. …

Meanwhile, in the main building—Atlantic Battle G.H.Q.—at the other end of those underground passages, Admiral Sir Max K. Horton, C-in-C, Western Approaches, smiles as he peers at the plot of what is actually happening at sea.

For more than a year he has been directing our Atlantic Battle operations and seeing the Allied sea-war effort reaching a stage where, for some time, every Atlantic convoy ship has almost a 100 per cent chance of getting through safely.

It was not always like that. But Admiral Horton knew, like all the experts, that given adequate naval and air escort strength around the convoys, the U-boats could be beaten.

“Maxie,” as the Navy calls him, had the satisfaction of seeing the Atlantic Battle so develop during this winter that with increasingly powerful naval and air strength around the convoys, U-boat packs could often not get within fifteen or twenty miles of the actual convoy ships.

But, well as we have been doing at sea, there has been no relaxation for the Western Approaches C-in-C or for his men. Where Doenitz, Hitler’s naval commander-in-chief, failed in the winter, he may hope to stage a comeback in the spring.

March is the month to watch. March was the only good month for the U-boats in the whole of 1943.

But Max Horton is prepared for a new submarine campaign. He knows the tricks of the trade. He established a world-wide reputation as a submarine man himself.

And he, of all men, knows the value of working out new tactics for yourself and, at the same time, anticipating the tactics of your enemy.

A.J. McWhinnie, “Behind the Atlantic Battle”

* There are several great pictures in the article. This one has such a marvelously intimidating shadow cast on the wall, it feels sinister enough to put fear in the hearts of U-boat command.

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