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Serious games and teaching intelligence analysis

Kris Wheaton, who teaches intelligence studies at Mercyhurst College, is among those who have used serious games in the classroom—in this case, to help students develop and sharpen their analytical skills. He also writes about it on his excellent blog on intelligence matters, Sources and Methods, which is very helpful for the rest of us too.

As a recent press report on his graduate course notes:

Wheaton has embraced what’s called “game-based learning” in his graduate level strategic intelligence course for the past two years.

“I think the students expected it to be more fun than it was,” Wheaton said. “But since it began I can see an obvious increase in the quality of work.”

The course is the capstone for Mercyhurst’s applied intelligence master’s program, graduates of which go on to fields such as Homeland Security.

Students are graded on how well they learn theories behind strategy and not how well they do in games.

Second-year applied intelligence graduate student Regis Mullen said this approach to teaching allows students to take a new approach to learning.

“Students generally tailor their learning to getting a good grade,” Mullen said. “But this has to do more with reflecting on what you’ve done, and it sticks a lot better.”

Most of the games in Wheaton’s course are video games, but they aren’t all just the most popular strategy games.

You’ll find more on his classroom use of games here.

In his most recent blog post, Kris discusses “gamification, and what it means for intelligence,” including a forthcoming request for proposals for the Sirius Program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (Office of the Director for National Intelligence). Sirius aims to produce “serious games” for analyst training:

The goal of the Sirius Program is to create Serious Games to train participants and measure their proficiency in recognizing and mitigating the cognitive biases that commonly affect all types of intelligence analysis. The research objective is to experimentally manipulate variables in Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) and to determine whether and how such variables might enable player-participant recognition and persistent mitigation of cognitive biases. The Program will provide a basis for experimental repeatability and independent validation of effects, and identify critical elements of design for effective analytic training in VLEs. The cognitive biases of interest that will be examined include: (1) Confirmation Bias, (2) Fundamental Attribution Error, (3) Bias Blind Spot, (4) Anchoring Bias, (5) Representativeness Bias, and (6) Projection Bias.

A “proposer’s day conference” for this is to be held in Washington DC on February 24, to inform potential partners of the impending request for proposals. I’m not sure if the meeting is FOUO or subject to non-disclosure agreements, but if it’s not and it isn’t, we would love to hear what was said.

h/t: INTELST listserv and Sources and Methods blog


Kris Wheaton, who attended the event, has posted some comments below. As he notes, the SIRIUS presentation can be downloaded from the IARPA website.

Play the Past

I’ve added a link in the links section to Play the Past, a truly outstanding website “dedicated to thoughtfully exploring and discussing the intersection of cultural heritage (very broadly defined) and games/meaningful play (equally broadly defined).” Although only launched back in September, you’ll already find articles on everything from the use of Civilization-style computer games as historical learning tools, or the process of reconstructing the (fictional) past in the post-Apocalyptic game Fallout 3. They’ve also got a far cooler graphic layout than we do. Give it a visit!


Model UN-ing

Ryan Villanueva wrote to let us know about a new blog on being the-very-model-of-a-modern model UN delegate, Best Delegate. In it, Ryan and his colleagues share their experiences and insights, with articles on everything from research to framing topics to delegate strategies, conference organization, and lots more beside. Both neophyte and experienced delegates will likely find it of use.

While on the topic, it would be remiss of me not to mention McMUN, McGill University’s own annual model United Nations. McMun 2011 will be held on 27-30 January 2011 in Montreal, and registration is now open.

All of which, of course, invariably reminds me in turn of The Decemberists video, Sixteen Military Wives:

News Games

For those who haven’t seen it yet, a research team at Georgia Tech has an excellent blog on News Games that examines “the ways videogames can be used in the field of journalism, providing examples, theoretical approaches, speculative ideas, and practical advice about the past, present, and future of games and journalism.” There is a lot of interest here, from games about the news and current affairs, to advocacy games, to entertainment software that intersects with contemporary issues. Have a look!

new simulation links

I’m buried under end-of-term grading at the moment and haven’t had much chance to post to PaxSims. I have, however, added a few new links to our list on the right, including these:

If there are ever any links that readers think should be added to the list, please send us the URLs!

latest links

Up until now we’ve been simply adding links to the list on the right as we’ve run across interesting sites. The problem with that approach, however, is that regular readers won’t know when we’ve added something new.

Consequently, I’m going to post to the main blog an occasional list of the some of the most interesting links that we’ve added. Check them out!

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