PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: courses

Humanitarian and Disaster Response Simulation Training

Humanitarian U will be running a humanitarian training course and simulation in the Vancouver area on 19-22 October 2017. You’ll find full information below.

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Request for feedback: Teaching wargame design at the US Army Command & General Staff College

PAXsims is happy to post this request for feedback on behalf of Dr. James Sterrett, Directorate of Simulation Education (DSE) at the US Army Command & General Staff College (CGSC). Comments may be left below or emailed to him directly.


 

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Michael Dunn and I are creating a Fundamentals of Wargame Design elective at CGSC. This course will first run in the spring of 2017, in two iterations. We seek constructive feedback on our course concepts while we still have a little time to correct course.

The students in this course will be U.S. Army Functional Area 57 (FA57 Simulation Operations) officers, plus other interested students attending CGSC. FA57 students will take the complementary elective on Exercise Design at the same time.

Learning Objective:

Students taking this course will design and create a prototype manual wargame. By doing this, we intend them to learn not only the process of designing a wargame, so they can design other games later, but also to begin to come to grips with the art of wargame design. In addition, we believe that designing wargames will make them better users of wargames, more aware of the design decisions behind the curtain and better able to select the best tool for the task they may have at hand.

We are still debating if it is better to have students do the project alone, or in small groups.

Thus, our current overarching Learning Objective is:

  • Apply the wargame development process. Application will include:
    • Students will learn the process of developing a wargame by creating a workable draft prototype. Students will demonstrate the prototype in class along with a presentation explaining their logic for its design choices.

 

Defining “Wargame”

We define “wargame” very broadly, relying on both Peter Perla’s definition:

 “A warfare model or simulation in which the flow of events shapes, and is shaped by, decisions made by a human player or players during the course of those events.” (Peter Perla, The Art of Wargaming, p. 280, 2012 edition)

…and on the Army Modeling & Simulations Office’s definition:

 “War game: A simulation game in which participants seek to achieve a specified military objective given pre-established resources and constraints”

Thus, we are not limiting the course to Title X wargames, or research wargames, or testing wargames, or Military Decision-Making Process Step 4 Course of Action Analysis Wargaming, or any other subtype… from the perspective of this course, all of these fall inside the big tent of wargaming.

 

Constraints

Inevitably, we are operating within constraints of space and time.

We will have at most 16 students per class, and must plan each class being full.

The course will consist of 12 session, each 2 hours long. There will be 2 or 3 sessions per week and the course will last for 4 to 6 weeks.

We recognize up front that we have limited time, and this necessarily limits the quality of the product the students can produce. We have no expectation of a polished, publication-ready project. Instead, the aim point is a workable first draft, with parts in place and comprehensible logic behind them, which would form the basis for ongoing testing and iterative design if more time were available.

 

Key concepts

Our high level view of the design process is shown below. We intend the students to complete at least one round of design and testing. More would be ideal, but a single round is the necessary minimum.

gamedesignprocess.png

For our classes, we are treating all wargames as being a system of systems, in a “STARS” model, with those systems being:

  • Space structuring assets’ positional relation to each other
  • Time structuring both movement, combat, and decision opportunities
  • Assets that players control
  • Resolution of how assets interact
  • Systems that tie the other four systems together

 

Planned Lessons

An overview of our current plan for each of the sessions; this overview will be followed by a more detailed look at sessions 1 and 2.

  1. Introduction to the course and its objectives; explain the project they must complete; introduction to game design process, which is their roadmap to completing the project; and to the STARS model.
  2.  Modelling Space: Discussion of terrain modelling; includes direct examples: hexes, squares, areas, terrain boards, point-to-point, tracks, non-spatial maps. Examples of multiple types in use at once.   Issue of scale – need to set to key decision loop and how scale then drives other considerations
  3.  Modelling Time: Discussion of turn structures; includes direct examples.   How turn structure dictates decision structures and C2 during play; how it relates back to the spatial model.
  4.  Modelling Assets: Various ways of modelling commanded assets from the very detailed to the very abstract: tracks & points to subsystem modelling. Numerous direct examples.
  5.  Modelling Effects: Various ways of resolving the outcome of actions: CRT, dice pools, opposed die rolls, card draws, card play; modifiers for modeled factors.
  6.  Quick Intro To Basic Probability – computations for dice, multiple dice, competing dice, cards with and without replacement; CRTs vs dice pools vs cards.
  7.  Putting It All Together: Overarching design paradigms: imposing limits (or not!) on player control of own forces through systems.
  8.  Testing & Iteration: Introduction to testing, blind testing, and sorting through feedback.
  9.  Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.
  10.  Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.
  11.  Final project presentations
  12.  Final project presentations

In addition to their other requirements, students in this elective will be required to participate in 75% of the Brown Bag Gaming sessions that are held during the elective, in order to increase their exposure to a variety of wargames and design approaches.

We are considering requiring additional student reading, with titles under consideration being Perla’s Art of Wargaming, Sabin’s Simulating War, and Koster’s Theory of Fun. The potential problem is the lack of time; one potential way around this is to assign a chunk of each to one or more students, and make them responsible for a summary to the class on their piece.

 

Session 1 in more detail

The room is set up with the games before students arrive and students are expected to have read the rules before the class begins.

  •  10 Minutes: Introduction to the class and similar initial admin
  •  45 Minutes: Play a wargame. We are currently leaning towards Frank Chadwick’s Battle for Moscow, with the expectation that students will complete 3 or 4 turns. Battle for Moscow includes a large number of features we can draw on in subsequent discussion, and is in print through Victory Point Games.
  •  10 Minutes: Break. Students are asked to come up with one change they would make to Battle for Moscow in order to improve it, and to return from the break ready to explain, briefly,
    • What the change is
    • Why the change improves Battle for Moscow
    • Why the improvement makes Battle for Moscow better for a specific purpose
  • 15 minutes: Selected students present their changes. We point out that by going through this thought process, all of them have made the step from players/consumers to designers/creators. Now let’s look at the process.

pic706628_md.jpgWe intend to select students to comment in class discussions (at least initially – balancing this against getting a wide discussion is important), instead of using volunteers, and to use a different selection mechanism each session. Thus Day 1 would be rolling 1 die, Day 2 rolling multiple dice, Day 3 pulling names from a hat without replacement, Day 4 calling on them by date of rank, and so on; possibly even handing them the cards to bid on who speaks next in the manner of Friedrich. The intent is to ensure the students experience some of the resolution mechanisms we will discuss in sessions 5 and 6, even though some of the demonstrations may take place after session 6.

  • 30 minutes: Present and explain the development model, the STARS model, and the project they will each undertake.

Assignment for session 2:

  1. Come up with your initial concept and email it to the instructor. Answer these questions:
    • What do you want this wargame to do?
    • What role will the players have?
    • What are the key decisions/dilemmas/problems they must wrestle with?
    • What significant assets will they control?
    • What kinds of interactions are important?
    • What kinds of terrain influence those interactions?
    • How frequently do the players make major decisions?
  2. Start your research: Find and read something relevant to your project.

 

Session 2 in more detail

We expect each of sessions 2 through 8 to be split roughly in half. In the first half of each session, we will show and discuss various relevant examples. In the second half, students will brainstorm and discuss ideas applying the day’s focus to their project.

Session 2 covers Space.

Opening question: How would you map Wall Street?

A strictly spatial map of Wall Street is great if you want to move troops through it. However, you might also need to map conflict on Wall Street by financial connections, personal connections, Internet links, political influences, and so on. Which of these are more important to model depends on what you want to model.

For the rest of the initial hour of the class, we expect to present, with examples:

  • Miniatures terrain as direct representation, with a discussion that typical Digital Terrain Elevation Data is essentially the same approach
  • Hexes and squares, including grain effects
  • Zones of Control
  • Areas (including Guns of Gettysburg for incorporating Line of Sight into the area model)
  • Things inside hexes, squares, and areas
  • Things on the edges of hexes, squares, and areas
  • Point to Point
  • Maps that are not “real space” – VPG’s High Treason courtroom; Sierra Madre’s High Frontier ΔV map (we are looking for more good examples here!)

Why space and time inter-relate:

  • Scale sets the timing of decisions in conjunction with the Time model
  • Units per space on the map defines force density model and can be used to create traffic issues

During their break, students are asked to think about how they will model space in their project.

For the second half of class, we discuss student’s initial model concepts.

Assignment for Session 3:

  1. Refine your intended model of space. Start working on your map. (We will provide files and printouts for hex paper, and access to Paint, Powerpoint, and Photoshop.)
  2. Continue your research: Find and read something relevant to your project.

James Sterrett

MORS wargaming news

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The latest issue of the Military Operations Research Society magazine Phalanx (June 2016) contains an article by Michael Garrambone (InfoScitex Corporation), Lee Ann Rutledge (Air Force Resesearch Lab), and Trena Covington Lilly (Johns Hopkins University/APL) on “Wargaming at MORS for Another 50.”

MORS has been involved in military wargaming for most of its existence. There were wargaming working groups in the symposia of the early 1970s, and various members of the operations research community have made many presentations on gaming through the years.

MORSwargaming.png

The same issue also contains an announcement of the MORS special workshop on wargaming to be held in the fall:

MORS will hold a special workshop on wargaming in support of the Department of Defense on October 24–27 at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. The Fall 2016 Wargaming meeting will be the second recent MORS meeting on wargaming and is in response to the continued interest in wargaming from senior levels in the Department of Defense (DoD). It will serve as a venue for the services and others to share wargaming best practices and wargaming insights that have impacted service programs. It will also focus on how wargaming and other forms of analysis should best complement each other. This meeting will have portions at the SECRET/NOFORN level, as well as some unclassified sessions. Unclassified tutorials will be held October 24.

This workshop will focus on wargame execution and will provide senior officials leading the wargaming efforts within DoD a forum to provide guidance and answer questions. The workshop will showcase how wargames have been, are being, and will be employed in analytic processes within the department. During the workshop, working groups will discuss wargaming design, methods, and best practices, and provide hands on training for participants.

For details of last year’s MORS special meeting on wargaming, see my report for PAXsims. Information on the MORS Wargaming Community of Practice can be found here.

International humanitarian crisis simulation at the University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota will be holding a three day field/simulation-based course on humanitarian assistance on 9-11 September 2016 in Canon Falls, MN.

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You’ll find further information on their website:

The Humanitarian Crisis Simulation, founded in 2011, is a collaborative program led by the University of Minnesota Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The program trains prospective humanitarian aid workers through an annual 3 day learning experience. The experience is offered to professionals of all backgrounds who are presently engaged in the field of humanitarian aid work, or who are interested in pursuing a career in the field. The experience immerses participants in an environment typical of humanitarian crises, and will equip participants with knowledge, experience and skills that will assist them in working in any humanitarian crisis. The Humanitarian Crisis Simulation may also be taken for credit through an accompanying 1 credit in the School of Public Health or Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

The first portion of the course consists of interactive sessions that provide an overview of the field of humanitarian aid work. Participants are then divided into interdisciplinary teams representing multiple emergency response teams (ERTs). ERT must apply their skills and knowledge to assess a fictional area experiencing a humanitarian crisis. Teams are expected to develop a plan to address the many problems of the region, including malnutrition, poor infrastructure, insecurity and violations of human rights. ERTs will experience living conditions that are common for professionals working in these conditions.

The exercise is developed and administered by professionals with extensive experience in humanitarian crisis management. We draw on content developed by organizations such as the Sphere Project, ALNAP, and the Core Humanitarian Standard as a framework for material covered in the simulation. The Humanitarian Simulation places a special emphasis on managing the medical aspects of humanitarian crises, although the material is relevant for medical and non medical professionals alike.

Intended Audience 

Who should attend:

  • Adult professionals who are engaged in, or considering a career in humanitarianism.
  • Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Nurses, Pharmacists and other health care providers who are considering working as humanitarian aid workers
  • University of Minnesota graduate and professional students
    • Students can earn one credit through the Humphrey School of Public Affairs course PA 5890 – Crisis Simulation, or through the School of Public Health course PubH 6290 – International Humanitarian Crisis Simulation

Participants will gain:

  • Knowledge of fundamental principles, minimum standards and best practices in Humanitarian Aid
  • Opportunities to apply their professional skills and knowledge in a realistic scenario
  • Opportunities to engage with other professionals involved in humanitarian aid.

You’ll also find a StarTribune article on the simulation here.

Canadian Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program 2016

CDHRTP

Registration is open for the annual Canadian Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program, now offered by Humanitarian U:

The Canadian Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program is an educational program that proposes a novel three-way blended approach that combines an online course with face-to-face sessions and a 3-day field based disaster simulation exercise. Using content that has been developed by academia and humanitarian professionals over the last 15 years, this hybrid of competency based pedagogical methods offers students a rewarding and impactful learning experience.

The in-person components of the course will take place from 9-15 May 2016, including a three day field exercise in the Montreal area. The cost of the program is $2,200.

 

Sabin: The continuing role of manual conflict simulation

Recently, as part part of a class he ran for Prof. Armin Fuegenschuh at the German Armed Forces University in Hamburg, Prof. Philip Sabin (KCL) gave an illustrated talk on the Continuing Role of Manual Conflict Simulation.  This has now been posted on the HSU website.  It offers a general introduction to the subject, making reference to many of his current activities, while in the Q&A he addresses some important nuances of designing and using manual conflict simulations. PAXsims and AFTERSHOCK even get a shout-out (43:07).

Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program (May 2015)

The Canadian Consortium for Humanitarian Training (CCHT) will again be offering the Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program in Montréal on 1-17 May 2015. This multi-disciplinary training program includes in class learning and a 3-day field simulation, providing students and mid-career professionals with the core humanitarian competencies that are essential for anyone involved in disaster response and/or humanitarian assistance.

CCHT General Flyer 2015_13_avril hk

PAXsims will be contributing to the course, running an instructional game of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game to help students explore the challenges of interagency coordination during a humanitarian crisis.

You’ll find June McCabe’s 2013 PAXsims review of the Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program here.

Wargaming at King’s College London

Prof. Philip Sabin (Department of War Studies, King’s College London) has put together a short video that offers an overview of both the recent Connections UK 2014 professional wargaming conference and his own MA module on conflict simulation at KCL.

You’ll even see a brief glimpse of PAXsim’s own Humanitarian Crisis Game being played at 1:32!

Simulations miscellany, 17 August 2014

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Some recent items that may be of interest to PAXsims readers on serious games and conflict simulations:

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Games for Change has a brief listing of games (in production or development) that examine war away from the battlefield:

Countless games have thrown players into heated warzones, whether as a soldier holding a gun ready to fire or an almighty commander who oversees the entire battlefield, moving units around.

What’s less examined in games is what’s happening off the battlefield and the consequences of violence. Recently, however, we see more developers who are examining war’s impact on civilians. We’ve made a list of games that we’re looking forward to and a list of thought-provoking titles to play right now.

Some of those mentioned in the short piece have been discussed before at PAXsims, including PeaceMaker and This War of Mine.

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The current conflict in Gaza spurred  the development of several games on the theme. According to Time:

In Bomb Gaza, a game about doing precisely what its peremptory title commands, you play as the Israeli Air Force, tapping a touchscreen to pour red-nosed bombs into a 2D multi-level landscape filled with cartoonish people wearing white robes and clutching children — meant to signify civilians — as well as others draped in black, clutching rifles, touting greenish headbands and grinning maniacally. The goal is to hit those black-garbed militants — presumably members of Palestinian militant group Hamas — while avoiding the white-clad civilians.

At some point in the past 24 hours, Google removed Bomb Gaza from its Android Play store (the game was released on July 29). It’s not clear why. Google’s only officially saying what companies like it so often say when handed political hot potatoes: that it doesn’t comment on specific apps, but that it removes ones from its store that violate its policies….

It’s unclear which of Google’s policies Bomb Gaza might have infringed, but in Google’s Developer Program Policies document, it notes under a subsection titled Violence and Bullying that “Depictions of gratuitous violence are not allowed,” and that “Apps should not contain materials that threaten, harass or bully other users.” Under another titled Hate Speech, Google writes “We don’t allow content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.”

Bomb Gaza isn’t the only Gaza-centric game Google’s removed: another, dubbed Gaza Assault: Code Red is about dropping bombs on Palestinians using Israeli drones. Its designers describe the game as “[bringing] you to the forefront of the middle-east conflict, in correlation to ongoing real world events.” It was also just yanked, as was another titled Whack the Hamas, in which players have to target Hamas members as they pop out of tunnels.

Politically-themed games about touchy current issues have been around for years, from depictions of deadly international situations like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to others modeled on flashpoints like school shootings. In late 2008, a game called Raid Gaza!appeared around the time Israel was carrying out “Operation Cast Lead,” a conflict that left 13 Israelis and some 1,400 Palestinians dead. In that title, you’re tasked with killing as many Palestinians as you can in three minutes, and actually afforded bonuses for hitting civilian targets, all while listening to a version of the Carpenter’s saccharine “Close to You.”

In the past, quick browser or app games have developed for the purpose of sitar or political commentary—as is immediately evident if you play Raid Gaza!. In this case, however, it seems to have simply been a case of game developers cashing in on the widespread destruction in Gaza to create a quick “how many Hamas militants can you kill” game.

There was also at least one Arabic game that put the player in the role of Hamas. According to the BBC:

The US-based firm has now removed Rocket Pride by Best Arabic Games, in which players attempt to outmaneuver Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, from its Google Play app store.

It also deleted Iron Dome by Gamytech, which challenged players to “intercept the rockets launched by Hamas”.

Other titles that do not name the “enemy” remain online.

You’ll find further discussion of this phenomenon at Slate, The Guardian, and Haaretz.

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The Connections Australia website has been updated with a general conference program and registration information. The conference will be held on 8-9 December 2014 oat the University of Melbourne.

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cropped-hsi-logo-red-jpegAdditional details have been announced for the 2014-15 Disaster and Humanitarian Response Program at McGill University (October 2014-April 2015). The program includes a field exercise to be held in May 2015.

2014-2015 Disaster and Humanitarian Response Program

Beginning in October 2014, the Humanitarian Studies Initiative of McGill University will be once more offering its innovative and multi-disciplinary humanitarian training program that advances and improves the quality of humanitarian work and practice to improve the lives of people most affected by war and disaster around the world.

The 2014-2015 Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program offers an evidence-based approach on the globally-recognized core humanitarian competencies that are essential for anyone involved in disaster response and/or humanitarian assistance. This course is specifically designed for people with little or no prior experience in emergency settings who wish to undertake a career in the humanitarian sector. Participants will learn about the background and context of humanitarian emergencies, international humanitarian law, doctrines, and operating procedures of in many technical areas.  Instructed by a community of humanitarians and Faculty from around the globe, the program also offers participants an occasion to join an exciting network of humanitarians.

In-Classroom training is on a weekly basis from October 2014 till April 2015.

The 3-day field-based disaster simulation exercise will be held in May 2015.

The course will take place in Montreal at the Department of Family Medicine

Interested applicants can apply directly on our webpage  or send their enquiries to the Program Manager: Melanie Coutu.

 

 

 

2014-15 Disaster and Humanitarian Training Response Program

The Humanitarian Studies Initiative has announced the general details for their 2014-15 Disaster and Humanitarian Training Response Program, to be held at McGill University in Montréal. This consists of weekly classes starting in October, and a three day field exercise in May 2015:

HSI June Promo 2pg (1)

HSI June Promo 2pg (2)

A review by June McCabe of the May 2013 version of the SIMEX (field simulation/exercise) was published by PAXsims here, and covered in a CBC news report here. Some of my other students took the May 2014 version, and also came back with glowing reports (“incredible,” “wonderful,” and “fantastic” were among the terms used). The price hasn’t yet been announced, but in 2013 the cost was $1,075 for the course and and additional $850 for the SIMEX.

This is not a formal McGill University credit course. However, current McGill students (only) in political science or international development studies can arrange to take the full course for credit as POLI 490 or INTD 490. Contact me by email for details.

Graduate Warfare Course + Seminar Wargame 2014

JOMO

The folks at the Journal of Military Operations and the Infinity Journal will be conducting a Graduate Warfare Course at St. John’s College, Cambridge (UK) on 25-27 July 2014, and a Seminar Wargame on 15-17 August:

The Graduate Warfare Class will be an authoritative programme of classes designed to expand and broaden participants’ knowledge and understanding of the conduct of war on land. It will consist of twelve linked sessions, each analysing a key aspect of contemporary warfare. The syllabus will cover both regular and irregular warfare. It focuses on developing an in-depth understanding of the conduct of war on land across the spectrum of conflict. Participant numbers will be strictly limited to ensure a participatory, interactive event.

The Graduate Warfare Class will consider how land forces actually operate. It will not ‘discuss the discourse’ of how academics think, or write about, how land forces operate.

 

The Seminar Wargame will walk through the planning and conduct of a major land operation through the perspectives of both opposing forces. Working in ad- hoc teams, participants will consider some of the problems, realities and dilemmas faced by land force commanders and staffs.

The Wargame will expose both the consequences of planning decisions and the realities of a live, responsive enemy which will fight for its own objectives and according to its own plans. The scenario will be set at the higher tactical and theatre levels.

The Wargame will revolve around an imagined scenario of conventional land warfare. It will include aspects of irregular warfare and consideration of influence operations. It will avoid high-technology, computer-based simulation and instead focus on consideration and discussion of the dynamics of land warfare.

The Wargame will not be tied to any one nation’s military doctrine. It will therefore present an opportunity for practitioners to think beyond their own national approaches. It is expressly intended to widen horizons and encourage open thinking. As with the Graduate Warfare Class, numbers will be strictly limited.

Further information can be found in the brochure here (or click the image below).

masterclass_2014_flyer

 

IPSI Syria Simulations Project

IPSI-Syria-Simulations-Project-ReportThe International Peace and Security Institute in Washington DC has designed two three -day simulations on the crisis in Syria, which it will run for interested organizations (presumably for a fee, although this isn’t made explicit anywhere):

As violence continues unabated, Syrians and the international community are seeking greater information on how to resolve the armed conflict and then transition the country from civil war to stability.  To address the question of how the Syrian conflict will end and what a possible transition might look like, the International Peace & Security Institute (IPSI) developed a series of half day-to-three day interactive, flexible multilateral simulations based on the conflict in Syria.

These simulations are important for both the value of the experiential educational process for participants (i.e. the ability to “get into the head” of conflict actors) and for their powerful predictive analysis (i.e. simulation players’ decisions have closely mirrored the future decisions of real-world actors).

Full simulations take three days to facilitate, although specific scenarios/modules from the larger simulations have been designed to run independently and can be tailored to the specific timeframes and learning needs of outside organizations, institutions, and government bodies.

SIMULATION UNIVERSE ONE: Set in a complex universe closely mirroring Syria’s current state, this simulation challenges participants to explore how conflict resolution techniques, including negotiation, facilitation, mediation, military intervention and nonviolent action, might contribute to a resolution.   Participants take on the roles of actors from the Assad regime, the opposition forces, and the international community to test how different actions may affect the conflict.

SIMULATION UNIVERSE TWO: The second simulation universe places many of the same conflict actor roles from Simulation Universe One in a fictionalized, post-conflict Syria. The participants are challenged to structure a holistic transition for the country, taking into account security, governance, development, rule of law with an eye towards restorative and retributive justice mechanisms, and social well-being.

The Syria Simulations Project Report briefly sketches the contours of the simulation, although it contains only limited detail or analysis of past simulation runs.

If anyone has taken part in one of these, PAXsims would be interested in hearing your impressions.

Simulations miscellany, 21 August 2013

miscellanySome recent material on peace/conflict/development simulations and gaming that may be of interest to our readers:

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connectionsuk

Registration is still open until August 23 for the Connections UK interdisciplinary wargaming conference to be held at King’s College London on September 3rd and 4th. I’ll be there, as will be several other PAXsims contributors.

Registration for the conference (including lunches and dinner) costs £100, and should be done via KCL.

I’ll also be running and demo and playtest of the Humanitarian Crisis Game that I’m developing for classroom use, based on ideas from the Connections 2012 “Hati HADR Game Lab” (see here and here and here), as well as Gary Milante’s Crisis Response card game (featured on PAXsims here). I could do with a few more volunteers for the game, so if you’ll be attending Connections UK and are interested, let me know.

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McGillHSI

The McGill Humanitarian Studies Initiative as offering a multi-disciplinary program that includes both in-classroom learning (one evening per week, September 10 to December 17) as well as a 3-day Field Simulation (Spring 2014):

The course provides registered medical students, residents, public health students, and other graduate-level students with relevant backgrounds, mid-career professionals and humanitarian workers with the globally recognized competencies relevant to humanitarian work.  The course is created so course participants gained competency-based essentials in humanitarian response practice recognized by Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s), Canadian universities and government as the standard for professional-level humanitarian training.

You’ll find further details at the HSI website. You can also find a review of the Spring 2013 version of the course by PAXsims contributor June McCabe here.

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The North American Simulation and Gaming Association will be having an online discussion on Twitter (#NASAGAchat) on August 29:

NASAGAlogo

Time: August 27, 2013 from 9pm to 10pm (EDT)
Location: Twitter, Twubs
Organized By: Melissa Peterson

Event Description:

One of the things we discussed last time was the large difference between the design and implementation of in-person games, board games and virtual or video games.

This time we will be delving into that in more detail. What are those differences, what are the pros and cons of each, and how do we decide what the best option is for a particular project?
Join us to learn or provide your expertise!

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digra2013conf

The annual conference of the Digital Games Research Association will be hosted by Georgia Institute of Technology at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta on 26-29 August 2013:

THEME: DEFRAGGING GAME STUDIES

This year’s proposed theme is a playful linguistic remix of the terms “frag” and “defrag.” Defragging is the computer term for reducing file fragmentation. Fragging, derived from the military term for killing a superior officer of one’s own unit, has become video game parlance for the temporary killing of another player.

In the early game studies community, a good deal of fragging (in all three senses) took place between various camps, schools of thought and disciplines. This included discussions as to whether or not game studies should split into more discipline-centered communities; however, the overall trend has been to continue to grow our field as an “interdiscipline” that includes humanities, social sciences and psychology, computer science, design studies, and fine arts.

Borrowing from the computer engineering term, the theme for DiGRA 2013 highlights this process of defragmenting, which both embraces and better articulates our diverse methods and perspectives while allowing the game studies research community to remain a coherent and unified whole.

DiGRA 2013 will take place immediately proceeding Dragon*Con, America’s largest multigenre fan convention. For more information, visit:http://www.dragoncon.org/

CONTACT

Questions about the conference?
Contact digra2013@digra.org.

Celia Pearce, John Sharp, Helen Kennedy
DiGRA 2013 Conference Co-Chairs

DiGRA Students have put together some useful research resources:

As our updated version of the Games Research Positions Map (http://digrastudents.org/games-research-positions/) has received so much positive feedback, the new “Games Research Journal Map” has been structured in a similar way. It is completely searchable, sortable (by journal name, discipline, publisher, or frequency of publication), and contains a range of important information about the different academic journals in the field that regularly publish games-centric research (e.g., impact factor, word limits, link to submission guidelines, etc.). Check it out here: http://digrastudents.org/games-research-journals/

We hope that this will soon become a valuable resource for students and academics alike! Please feel free to pass this information along to any other mailing lists/researchers who may be interested in such a resource.

Also, if there is a journal that has been overlooked, or see an error in one of the postings, please let us know via this thread (http://discourse.digrastudents.org/t/journal-research-map/) on the DiGRA Student forums. As the only known list of its kind, we would like to keep it as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

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In a very thoughtful review at BoardGameGeek, game reviewer (and insurgency groupie) extraordinaire Tom Grant has high praise indeed for Andean Abyss:

Volko Ruhnke’s Andean Abyss recently won the Charles S. Roberts award for best post-World War II boardgame. That deceptively simple statement means a lot more than it might seem at first glance. Andean Abyss is one of the most important wargames published in the last decade, a real watershed in the history of the hobby. And it’s a damn good game, too.

We were very positive about the game too, as you’ll see from our earlier review.

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This month in Seattle, the world championships for the fantasy-themed computer game DOTA 2 featured the largest ever prize for a digital game competition, $1.4 million. As noted in the  BBC’s reporting on the competition, it follows an earlier decision by the US government to grant P1 visas to professional gamers, much like internationally renowned athletes or entertainers.

Alas, D&D never paid like that…

Thoughts on facilitating someone else’s simulation

20130710-181205.jpgWe determined a few years back that our family crest should read “What you oughtta do…” – (in Latin: quid te oporteat facere – what you must do, but I actually prefer the English or American if you like, which is more a suggestiopn). My brother and I (and my folks) simply can’t eat at a restaurant, stay at a hotel or visit a website without coming up with some improvement or suggestion for making it better – I am sure it is quite annoying to people who are just going about their job. As a result, it isn’t easy for me to facilitate a simulation for someone else and thought I’d post some reflections from the experience for consideration.

I’m acting as one of the “syndicate coaches” for the Raleigh Simulation in the NATO Comprehensive Approach Awareness Course, an effort to teach NATO officers on designing a strategic response to complex challenges like fragility and instability. The fictional country of Raleigh (New Zealand dropped in the middle of the Atlantic) is beset by secessionist rebels, overwhelmed by organized crime and trafficking, overrun by migrants heading from Africa to Europe and, yesterday, the world’s newest target of anti-globalization terrorism in the form of a passenger jet blown up at the airport and a popular Minister killed in a suspicious plane downing. The NATO Secretary General has determined that the environment is too complex for a simple military response and has asked a small group of advisors (course participants divided into four parallel syndicates) to put together an assessment of the crisis, possible steps that could be taken by both national and international actors to improve the conditions in Raleigh and avoid it descending into a failed state.

The exercise itself is not dissimilar from the Carana exercise we use for our strategic planning course at the Bank as identifying “Lines of Operation” is the military equivalent of identifying post-conflict needs and the kind of strategic planning necessary for a multi-donor/ integrated/ joint (comprehensive approach) response to a problem. At the end of the week, syndicates prepare presentations of their work and there is a peer and expert advisor (generals, ambassadors) review of the work.

There are lots of things that the simulation designers have done well and I don’t want my thoughts here to be read as criticisms, rather as observations. Also, to their credit, I’ve been given a lot of latitude for interpreting instructions and freedom in coaching my syndicate. Running someone else’s simulation, though, I’m very conscious of what I’d do differently and the freedom we (I include Rex and other contributors on this site) enjoy as simulation designer/leads. Here are a few reflections from this side of the design table:

20130710-190103.jpgIdentity: Our group spent some time cycling through their findings and recommendations because they weren’t sure “who they are” – are they themselves brought together to advise or are they senior NATO advisors or are they non-aligned global advisors thinking about recommendations for the NATO Secretary General? It turned out the latter was the answer, but I wonder whether roles and some background information for each of the participants would’ve avoided this confusion? Often designers avoid role play, especially with professionals who are not expected to “play along” but roles are very useful for motivating discussions and avoid the downtime. I’ve never heard a complaint about a simulation having “too much role playing” but maybe others have?

Structure and Workload: It just doesn’t stop – my group has produced a dozen flip chart sheets and nearly 30 slides over 2 days and they are still going. Part of this comes from the template from the simulation design, open ended questions with no limits on the answers. This results in little censoring. I personally prefer a more structured exercise with clear outputs in small stages, but this approach produces a lot more output and allows more free-thinking. Two versions of an issues assessment reflect some of that output – the circle ended up being a very useful way for the group to show the relationship between root drivers of conflict, issues and impacts on the population (and not all the way I would’ve done it).

20130710-181222.jpgStatic vs Dynamic: The background history and documentation for Raleigh is deep and richly textured and there are a variety of interesting and complex global, regional and national stakeholders, so there is plenty of immersion in the simulation. There were questions early on whether there would be inserts during the simulation, and the leaders hinted that there might be, but there were none, and nobody complained. It is, after all a lot of work and changing conditions and new and changing information could be very distracting from the strategic exercise. Again, I would do it differently, but maybe this is the right way to cover all this ground.

These are just some reflections from a fictional island state. As I said earlier, they aren’t criticisms, just reflections on design choices for your consideration.

 

 

 

Heading back to Raleigh and Fjordland

I am in Brussels and have been invited back to the troubled island of Raleigh by NATO and will be facilitating one of the syndicates over the next few days, more from the mid-Atlantic, Internet permitting.

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