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Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming journals

Simulation & Gaming (December 2016)

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 47, 6 (December 2016) is now available.

Editorial
Articles
Gaming Material Ready to Use

 

Simulation & Gaming, October 2016

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 47, 5 (October 2016) is now available. The issue is devoted to the topic of “service design games.”

Editorial
Symposium Articles
Case Example
Articles
News & Notes

Simulation & Gaming (August 2016)

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 47, 4 (August 2016) is now available.

Editorial
Articles
Gaming Material Ready to Use

Simulation & Gaming, July 2015

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 47, 3 (July 2016) is now available.

Articles
Gaming Material Ready to Use

 

Simulation & Gaming, April 2016

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 47, 2 (April 2016) is now available. This issue features a selection of papers first delivered at the International Simulation and Gaming Association’s (ISAGA) 2014 conference.


Symposium issue:
45th ISAGA Conference, July 2014, Dornbirn, Austria (Part 1)
Editorial
Articles

 

Simulation & Gaming, December 2015

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 46, 6 (December 2015) is now available. It is a special symposium issue devoted sustainable development.

  • Edutainment for Sustainable Development: A Survey of Games in the Field
    • Korina Katsaliaki and Navonil Mustafee
  • Ethical Thinking and Sustainability in Role-Play Participants: A Preliminary Study
    • Karen Schrier
  • Clarifying Sustainable Development Concepts Through Role-Play
    • Odile Blanchard and Arnaud Buchs
  • Communicating About Water Issues in Australia: A Simulation/Gaming Approach
    • Sondoss ElSawah, Alan McLucas, and Jason Mazanov
  • LAND RUSH: Simulating Negotiations Over Land Rights – A ready-to-use simulation
    • An Ansoms, Klara Claessens, Okke Bogaerts, and Sara Geenen
  • Managerial Myopia in Mismanaging Renewable Resources: The GONE FISHING Game
    • Federico Barnabè
  • Hybrid Active Learning Situations: Common Pools, Climate Change and Course Purposes
    • David Goetze
  • Possibilities and Limitations of Transferring an Educational Simulation Game to a Digital Platform
    • Ulrike Erb

Other Articles

  • Do Videogames Simulate? Virtuality and Imitation in the Philosophy of Simulation
    • Veli-Matti Karhulahti
  • Synchronous Mobile Audio-Visual Recording Technology (SMART) Cart for Healthcare Simulation Debriefing
    • Don Stephanian, Taylor Sawyer, Jennifer Reid, Kimberly Stone, Joan Roberts, Douglas Thompson, and Tom Pendergrass

Connections UK in MS&T

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The latest issue of Military Simulation & Training magazine has an extended article on the Connections UK interdisciplinary wargaming conference held at King’s College London in September. You’ll find it here.

Simulation & Gaming, June-August 2015

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 46, 3-4 (June-August 2015) has now been published. It is a special symposium issue on system dynamics and simulation/gaming.

Simulation & Gaming, April 2015

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 46, 2 (April 2015) is now available. This is a symposium issue devoted to Theory to Practice in Simulation.

Simulation & Gaming (February 2015) now available

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 46, 1 (February 2015) is now available. It includes a tribute to the late Donald Featherstone by John Curry of the History of Wargaming Project.

Tributes

PS: Political Science & Politics: Summary of TLC 2015 simulation and role play track

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The latest issue of PS: Political Science and Politics 48, 3 (July 2015) contains a summary of the simulation and role play track of the American Political Science Association’s 2015 Teaching and Learning Conference. We’ve reproduced it below at length. Each year the TLC includes a number of papers presentations and discussions on the use of simulations in teaching political science.

Simulation and Roleplay

Michelle Allendoerfer, George Washington University

Casey Delehanty, Florida State University

As in previous years, the 2015 Simulations and Role Play track served as an ideal arena for the presentation and discussion of active learning exercises for a variety of classroom environments. Track participants took care to integrate the lessons of previous years into the discussion, so as to build upon previous insights and identify recurring themes.One of the main themes of the track was the evaluation and implementation of simulations and games. Andrew Schlewitz and Joan Andorfer explored the degree to which substantive learning took hold within a Model OAS simulation and how these outcomes differed based on individual student characteristics. Chad Raymond compared the effectiveness of two different simulations in terms of their ability to cultivate empathy in students. Robbin Smith presented a fantastic US government simulation as well as pre- and post-test assessments of student learning outcomes. Michelle Allendoerfer used follow-up surveys to test the degree to which simulations were more-or-less effective than lecture in terms of increasing student retention.

Generally the results of these attempts at assessment were muddled. Studies of simulation effectiveness are continually plagued by “small-n” problems as well as the lack of true control groups, which poses problems for instructors who seek to “justify” the implementation of simulations and other active learning exercises in the classroom. While empirical analysis has yet to conclusively demonstrate the superiority of active learning techniques, it is generally the case that simulations are not worse for student learning than traditional techniques. Despite this muddled empirical record, track participants generally concluded that the increase in student enjoyment and engagement provoked by simulations is valuable in and of itself. While it may be difficult to empirically demonstrate the inherent value of active learning, the process in itself can generate positive student outcomes across a range of activities.

Gavin Mount’s “Simulating World Politics: Teaching as Research” presented the idea that simulations themselves can be used as sites of inquiry for students. While instructors often think of active learning exercises as delivery mechanisms for knowledge, deconstructing the institutional rules and implied norms of simulations themselves can be a productive method of debriefing students and encouraging critical thinking about political systems. Discussion then centered on the importance of debriefing: whether done as an in-class discussion or through personal reflective essay, instructors should allow students to discover the underlying themes and lessons from active learning rather than “telling.”

Finally, a number of presentations addressed the notion of adapting new or existing simulations to changing learning environments or goals. Gretchen Gee presented a simulation of Chechen terrorism for use in a “blended” classroom (a mix of online as well as classroom meetings), spurring an interesting discussion on the challenges of adapting active learning to non-traditional environments as classroom dynamics change. Nina Kollars, Victor Asal, Amanda Rosen, and Simon Usherwood demonstrated the flexibility of the Hobbes Game in terms of the learning goals it can be structured to evoke, demonstrating the degree to which small changes in simulation structure can beget new learning opportunities or goals.

The Simulations and Role Play track enjoyed a conference filled with rigorous discussions about how to effectively use simulations. Discussions surrounding assessment led to the general conclusion that as long as simulations seem to engage student learning and do not negatively effect learning outcomes, that a shift in the discussion to how to successfully create and execute simulations was in order. To that end, participants discussed how to effectively use debriefing strategies to engage students. Further, participants in the track concluded with a fruitful discussion of advantages and disadvantages of existing simulations that served a very practical purpose.

Next year’s TLC will take place in Portland, Oregon on 12-14 February 2016.

Simulation & Gaming, December 2014

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The latest edition of Simulation & Gaming 45, 6 (December 2014) is now available.

Articles

CounterFact magazine

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The first issue of CounterFact magazine is now available, published by One Small Step Games.

CounterFact magazine is a journal of professional and commercial wargaming. It is published approximately four times per year on an “as ready” basis. Each issue contains articles on professional and commercial wargaming to include game analysis, commentary, polemology, and provocative pieces on conflict and design theory. Also included in each issue is a manual wargame, usually consisting of a tabloid map-sheet, a sheet of playing pieces, and a rules booklet.

The first issue includes a critical analysis by Jon Compton of Breaking the Chains (Compass Games, 2014), in which he assesses the insight the game offers into future Sino-American conflict in the South China Sea. Game designer John Gorkowski then offers a rebuttal.

Cover01The issue also contains a very nitpicky, negative review of At Nueve Chapelle (White Dog Games, 2012) by the game’s own graphic artist. There’s a piece on “Wargaming by the Rules of War,” that offers a satirical take on the Red Cross movement’s efforts to have video games more accurately reflect the role of international humanitarian law in modern warfare. (Personally, I didn’t find it that funny or on-target, given what the ICRC and American Red Cross are actually trying to do. However, I’m a bit of an IHL nerd.)

A preview is offered of the forthcoming American Civil War game Huzzah! (One Small Step 2014). Finally, the issue contains a  game (120 counter, 11″x17″ map) of the fighting at the Mule Shoe Salient during the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse (1864) during the American Civil War. This uses also Huzzah’s “Rebel Yell Light” rules. Since I haven’t played it yet, I can’t really comment on the game or rules.

Overall, I thought CounterFact was a worthy initiative, but one with uneven content that is still very much in search of its niche, voice, and identity. I very much like the idea of well-informed debates over game design and game philosophy that draw on both game reviews and informed assessment of historical or future conflict. Despite its title, there is no consistent focus on games as a rigorous method of counterfactual analysis in CounterFact, other than in the very general sense that all historical conflict simulations embody this to a greater or lesser degree.

Big Board Gaming had somewhat similar impressions of the first issue—for that review, see below.

Simulation & Gaming, June 2014

Teaching about peace operations

Brazilian members of the United Nation's MINUSTAH mission patrol in Haiti.

Brazilian members of the United Nation’s MINUSTAH mission patrol in Haiti.

A forthcoming issue of International Peacekeeping (2014) features a number of articles on future directions for peacekeeping research, edited by Paul Diehl. My own contribution focusses on teaching about peace operations:
The complex, multidimensional nature of contemporary peacekeeping operations presents particular challenges for teaching about them in the classroom. Teaching should bridge the academic/policy divide, and impart a real sense of the political complications and operational challenges of peacekeeping. Fortunately, teachers can call upon new resources to help address these challenges. These include, in addition to the growing body of scholarly research, practice-oriented materials produced by operational agencies. It is increasingly easy to bring field perspectives into the classroom via the internet. Finally, classroom simulations can be particularly useful in exploring the ‘problem space’ of contemporary peace operations.
As you might expect, I address the potential use of simulations and serious games in the article. You can find the full article here (paywalled), or possibly here (limited free access), but I’ve reproduced the relevant section below:

Games and Simulations

One potentially very effective method for exposing students to the interaction of theory and practice in peace operations is the use of classroom simulations and exercises. In recent years, there has been growing attention to the potential contribution of such teaching tools in the political science classroom.13 The academic journal Simulation & Gaming recently devoted an entire special issue to peacebuilding simulations, suggesting that such techniques could offer particular insight into the ways in which peace might be achieved and sustained:

Through serious games, participants can gain a better sense of the dynamic relationships at work in complex environments, explore good fits and practical solutions, and understand how mistakes occur (often, by making them themselves). These are real skills needed in the real world: In recent decades, policy makers working on peacekeeping and peacebuilding have certainly been faced with the prospects of failure and have been forced to choose between ‘reinforcing success and salvaging failure.’ When games engage multiple participants, the games reproduce some of the political, coordination, communication, and coalition- building challenges that often accompany peace and stabilization operations, especially if a simulation is designed to reproduce some of the organizational silos and bureaucratic politics that exist in the real world.14

Similarly, the Emergency Capacity Building (ECB) project, comprised of several of the world’s largest humanitarian and development NGOs, has emphasized the extent to which humanitarian sector is placing ‘increasing value on simulations as valuable staff capacity, preparedness and relationship building exercises’.15 Professionals who have traditionally designed war games for militaries and governments have also devoted increasing attention to simulating peace and stabilization operations and humanitarian assistance.16

Certainly, simulations (usually in the form of command-post exercises) have long been used by militaries to help train personnel for peace operations. They have also increasingly been used within the UN system over the past decade to teach staff and planning skills, as well as to provide training in other key areas.17 Many of these are set in the fictional country of ‘Carana’, which is also used in modified form for training of members of the African Union’s Standby Force for peacekeeping, stabilization and humanitarian operations.18

While such exercises are rarely appropriate for classroom use as designed, the scenarios and background materials can be adapted for use in other contexts – thus saving a course instructor the work of having to invent a fictional setting from scratch. This, for example, is what the World Bank did in modifying Carana so that it could serve as the setting for a very different course simulation addressing economic planning in fragile and conflict-affected countries.19

Other resources are also available to support role-play and seminar type simulations on issues of conflict resolution.20 Most of these focus on peace negotiations rather than peacekeeping operations, however.

Simulations can either be run face-to-face during class time, or outside of the classroom between classes. The ubiquity of email and Skype, and the relative ease of setting up websites and blogs, means that most university instructors already have available to them all of the (free) communications infrastructure necessary to sustain an out-of-class simulation.21 This can also be used to enable simulations involving students in different locations, or even at different institutions.22 In addition, there are some companies and projects that provide simulation support services, whereby scenario materials and communications are provided within a dedicated (usually web-based) software platform. Perhaps the best-known example of this is the ICONS project, based at the University of Maryland. ICONS offers both pre-packaged simulations (some of which address conflict issues, although not peace operations), and can develop customized scenarios upon request.23

These sorts of simulation approaches are best seen as a sort of ‘technology-enhanced role-play’ in which the traditional seminar-style game is expanded and enriched by online communications and information resources. What about true digital games, however, where the computer itself models and moderates outcomes, or even acts as an artificial intelligence responding to player decisions?

Certainly there has been significant development of such resources within Western militaries, a consequence of both post-Cold War peacekeeping operations and US-led interventions and stabilization missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Peace Support Operations Model (a ‘faction-to-faction, turn-stepped, cellular geography, semi-agent-based model that was designed initially to represent a range of civil and military aspects of Peace Support Operations’), for example, has been developed over the past decade for the UK Ministry of Defence as an analytical and decision-support tool, and has been evaluated and used by other Western militaries as well.24 In the US Department of Defense, considerable attention has been devoted to modelling stabilization operations and irregular warfare. The post-9/11 period has similarly seen the development of serious digital games for the military that seek to train personnel in everything from language skills and negotiation to urban stabilization operations.25

Few of these, however, are available for use outside government. There are some digital games that seek to raise awareness of issues related to conflict (and hence peace operations), but these are generally very limited in scope and intended more as advocacy tools than educational ones useable at the university level. One exception is Country X, a purpose-designed classroom simulation of mass atrocity prevention, used both at Columbia University and to train practitioners in the field.26 In this, participants assume the role of the president of fictional country X, an opposition leader, a Western diplomat, or a subregional representative tasked with conflict early warning. During the game they make a series of policy choices, which may take the country away from – or towards – widespread violence. Another excellent web-based game is Inside the Haiti Earthquake, which provides thoughtful perspectives on the challenges of humanitarian assistance.27

Both Country X and, even more so, Inside the Haiti Earthquake are not sophisticated, AI-based games. Instead, they are more like interactive stories in which actions at one point open up, or foreclose, a range of possible choices later in the game – in many ways, the electronic equivalent of the ‘choose your own adventure’ books that were popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Several online applications now make it relatively easy to produce interactive e-learning exercises of this sort, whether text-based or including video.28 An instructor could, for example, create a peacekeeping-focused game in which students face the sorts of choices and operational dilemmas encounter by actual peacekeepers, and experience similar sorts of outcomes. Placed in the position of the UN headquarters, for example, how would students react to limited information from a peacekeeping commander suggesting the existence of arms caches and a risk of violence – especially if the scenario were disguised so that it was not initially recognizable as Rwanda in January 1994?29

Alternatively, students can be given the assignment of developing their own interactive stories, exploring the challenges of peace operations and other issues related to civil conflict. Some research evidence suggests that students may learn more from authoring simulations than simply from participating in them.30 In my own classes, students have authored simulations that address such issues as humanitarian negotiations with armed groups; demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration of combatants; and survival as a refugee in the Syrian civil war.31

Finally, there are some low-tech alternatives to this, in the form of manual board games that address issues related to peace operations. Peacekeeping is a quick and simple game that challenges several players to each stabilize their country by allocating resources to peacekeeping, security sector reform, social welfare and development of a market economy, while facing the problem of spoilers and violence.32 Players may subvert or aid each other. The Humanitarian Crisis Game places players in the role of the local government, the UN, NGOs or foreign militaries attempting to deal with the aftermath of a major earthquake. Here, the focus is on coordination, logistics and political challenges, while event cards generate realistic operational challenges and opportunities each turn.33 While such games tend to be somewhat abstract, they can be useful for illustrating key concepts and engaging students in a different (and potentially more enjoyable) way than conventional lectures.34 With a little effort, purpose-designed games like this can be designed for particular classroom needs.

Despite the considerable attention devoted above to the value of simulations in teaching on peace operations, several important caveats are in order. It is important to recognize that simulations and serious games rarely teach themselves, nor are they necessarily more effective than traditional teaching methods. Much depends on how they are integrated into broader course content, and the purposes that they serve within a broader pedagogical strategy. Second, and closely related to this, is the importance of simulation and scenario design,35 as well as the actual conduct of the game or simulation. It is important to recognize that all games involve embedded assumptions and models of peace and conflict, which participants should be encouraged to approach from a critical perspective.36 Finally, it should be stressed that debriefing is an absolutely essential part of the simulation process. Indeed, considerable evidence suggests that it is during debrief that much of the actual learning takes place.37

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