PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming news

Game Labs returns to Connections US — Call for topics

Game Lab is an opportunity for short (40 minute) small group discussions of specific gaming-related issues among Connections attendees. Originally conceived and organized by Scott Chambers, they were a highly successful feature of past face-to-face Connections conferences.

This year we will be running Game Lab online — similar concept, different implementation! So, if you have a game related challenge or question you wish discussed at Connections US 2021 then use this form to propose it (you can propose more than one question by submitting the form several times).

Conference attendees have the option to join whatever discussion they like, and the participants who submitted questions lead the subsequent conversations. The Game Lab fosters conversations across experience levels and backgrounds, resulting in some of the most focused exchanges of the conference.

If your proposal is accepted you agree to facilitate and lead your discussion, to submit all data gathered during your discussion to the Conference organizers for inclusion in the public online Conference proceedings, and to participate in a training session which we will set up with you covering the online collaboration tool we will use for Game Lab. We will work with you to make your Game Lab session a success!

NOTE — You have to be registered for the Connections US 2021 Conference to participate in the Game Lab. You may submit Game Lab questions before you register, but If you have not yet registered for the Conference please do so as soon as registration opens at the Conference website.

Game Lab Question/Challenge Proposal Form

Psychological Barriers to Distributed Wargaming

Much has been written about the practical issues of doing professional wargaming in a distributed environment — for example the role of simulation, the difficulties of dealing with security, facilitation and adjudication, scheduling, etc. However, I have not seen much written or discussed about the psychological effects on stakeholders during distributed wargaming, who these effects impact, whether they are barriers or advantages, and how should we respond to them.

The Simulation and Wargaming Standing Study Group of the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization’s Working Group on “Distributed Wargaming” is reaching out to the wargaming and simulation communities for your insights on this topic.

Please consider providing your ideas via this survey form. Your name and email address are voluntary, helps me get in touch with you later. You may provide as many answers as you wish by responding multiple times to this survey form.

Click here for live results (without names and email addresses), assuming of course anyone has submitted ideas! So check back occasionally.

I will publish a final report will be published later this Summer.

Click here for Survey Form

Click here for Live Results

Contact me with questions or if you cannot access the live results page.

Thank you for your inputs!

Stephen Downes-Martin
stephen.downesmartin@gmail.com

Zenobia Award update

The Zenobia Award has posted an update which includes a very impressive visual summary of the 46 game designs still in the competition, broken down by the theme, time period, and geographic focus of the entry (click to enlarge). After reviewing 145 applications and receiving 86 game concept proposals, Zenobia Award volunteers in March 2021 selected 46 games to advance in the competition.

The Zenobia Award is a competition among submitted historical tabletop game prototypes by designers from underrepresented groups, with mentoring and industry exposure available to selectees and cash prizes and industry access benefits to the winners. 

In an email to Zenobia contestants, mentors, judges, sponsors, and board members, Volko Ruhnke notes:

We have just gone public with the attached and linked synopsis of our 46 active Zenobia Award Game Proposals. Please give our contestants and their game ideas as much positive exposure as you can!

Last summer and fall, 13 volunteers assembled into a board and, with your help and that of so many other volunteers, put out a call to women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people to compete in designing a top historical boardgame from whatever perspective they chose. By that January, we were overwhelmed with 145 applications. 

Through a judging process that we have tried to make as expert, diverse, and fair as we could, we have narrowed that amazing field down to these 46 game concepts from 46 diverse designers and teams. Many of us saw some of our favorite entries declined for advancement, in the need of the competition to narrow to an eventual winner. Yet the breadth, depth, and freshness of the remaining field of talent is clear.

We had asked Zenobia contestants to simulate any historical setting that inspired them—political, social, cultural, scientific, economic, military, or any other human affairs in any combination, up to the present day. Look how much history we got back to explore—I hope that you will agree, the results include something for everyone!

Shortly, designers will submit their game material drafts for feedback that will augment what they are already receiving from our dedicated mentors. In just over two months, designers will submit their playable prototypes to our judges panels, to zero in on a handful of finalists whose work will exemplify historicity, originality, and gameplay.

Let’s cheer our Zenobia designers on as they devise and tighten their prototypes. We have some great historical gaming in store for all of us!

Game design advice from POLI 452

With the game projects for my McGill University POLI 452 (Conflict Simulation) course due in a little over a week, I asked my students today what advice they would have for future students and other neophyte game designers. The comments they offered represent some pretty good suggestions for all game designers, no matter how experienced:

  • While thinking about including new aspects and rules to the game, we always need to think over whether it would complicate the game too much, or if it’s important enough to include it.
  • Be realistic in your ideas, keep it simple enough.
  • Be ready to change a lot of things all the time in the process.
  • Consult relevant people.
  • Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to design and do your research.
  • Getting the map right is very important.
  • Playtest early!!!!!
  • Playtest as early as you can.
  • I was shocked at how many ideas never survived a practical playtest!
  • Playtest!
  • Map design balance is very important.
  • It’s important to pretest early to understand whether there are [game elements missing].
  • Playtest and feedback.
  • Don’t have too many die rolls.
  • Excel is a pain in the butt to work with [from a group developing an Excel-based fog of war system].
  • Be realistic about your timeline.

Inside James Bond’s gaming lair

We’re inside the UK’s Defence Academy. It’s where Bond would come if he lived in the real world. Today, Major Tom Mouat MBE a specialist in gaming, modelling and simulation is briefing his visitors the Guild of Entrepreneurs on the importance of gaming.

…so begins an article by David Dunkley Gyimah at Viewmagazine (Medium) on “How to be a global leader in leadership by simply playing games.”

PAXsims associate editor Tom Mouat is indeed an international man of mystery. He can pick locks (most of the time). He’s a private eye. He’s fought zombies. He has a pseudonym. He’s building a secret safe house in the Oxfordshire countryside. And he reports to a mysterious boss known only as “K.”

Read more about the value of serious gaming at the link above.

Gaming Disease Response

Ed McGrady just published his book on “Gaming Disease Response.” The book focuses on how to build games in support of public health professionals. It covers all types of subjects, from chronic conditions to mental health to infectious disease. The book focuses on the intersection of games and disease, with chapters detailing how to incorporate disease into games, and how the structure of the public health system in the US matters for game creation. Each chapter is followed by a game outline that takes you through the process of designing and executing a game on a particular disease response. Ed has been working on games in the public heath arena for many years, and has run them at literally every level of the government.

Published by the History of Wargaming Project (http://www.wargaming.co/serious/details/rolltosave.htm) and available on Amazon.

Connections UK 2021 update

Graham Longley-Brown has shared with us some information on the next Connections UK professional wargaming conference, which will be held virtually on 14 – 16 September 2021:

  • Learning by doing. We will run three days of hands-on virtual gaming, for all levels and numbers, and on a multitude of online platforms. Think our traditional ½-day Games Fair over three days! You will be able to run, play or just observe games. All will be ‘safe to fail’ environments, where you can experiment with different gaming approaches and formats, develop gaming ideas, see what others’ are doing – or just play to meet people and have fun!
  • Community building. This will include:
    • Occasional central plenaries designed to strengthen the community. Topics will include ‘bringing on the next generation’ and ‘diversity and inclusion’. These will be participative sessions.
    • Educational events.
    • Multiple, often intimate, break-out rooms where anyone can talk to anyone. Some will be pre-programmed; many will be spontaneous.
  • Deep dive workshops. Breakout rooms will be available to explore topics in depth.

There will be a small charge to cover administration and technical support, but also to encourage commitment.

Details will follow presently, but please save the dates 14 – 16 September.

Taiwan Strait matrix game

A Sea of Fire is a matrix game of the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, by Evan D’Alessandro. It includes an overview of matrix game rules, scenario briefings, map, counters and event cards, plus designer notes.

KCL wargaming update

Ivanka Barzashka of the Wargaming Network, School of Security Studies, King’s College London has sent around an update on the news and activities at KCL:

King’s Wargaming Network aims to advance wargaming as an academic discipline. In support of this aim, we are pleased to introduce new staff and students focusing on wargaming-related research, and a new programme of educational activities funded by the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy’s Education Fund and the Department of War Studies.  

New Faculty and PhD Students  

Dr David Banks joined the Department of War Studies in Aug 2020 as Lecturer in Wargaming and Academic Director of the Wargaming Network. He has designed wargames for education and research on topics such as diplomacy, crises, terrorism, and cyber security. His current research investigates the linkage between theory and rules in game design. Dr Banks is the first faculty member at a civilian university to have wargaming in his title.  

Arnel David and Boukje Kistemaker started PhDs on wargaming topics in Jan 2021 at the Department of Defence Studies and the War Studies Department, respectively.   

Academic Promotions  

Dr Aggie Hirst has been promoted to Senior Lecturer at the Department of War Studies in recognition of her empirical research on the phenomena of play and immersion, and the US military’s use of wargames and simulations for teaching and training purposes. Her projects have been funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy.  

Analyst Training for Strategic Analytical Wargaming  

The WN runs a co-curricular programme to train postgraduate students, research staff and faculty to support Principal Investigators in data collection and analysis of wargames used for research purposes. The 2020-2021 programme focuses on ensuring data quality and research ethics in the shift from in-person to online wargaming to support a Centre for Science and Security Studies research project. Ten new trainees were selected through a competitive 3-stage recruitment process.

Short Courses on Wargaming in Education and Research for PhD Students, Staff and Faculty 

The WN launched two new wargaming courses for faculty, staff and postgraduate research students across the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy. The courses respond to an increased demand for educational and analytical wargames beyond the School of Security Studies.  

Wargame Design and Analysis Module for Master’s Students 

The Department of War Studies approved a new module for master’s students, which will be co-convened by Dr Banks and Dr Hirst. This module enables the next generation of security and defence analysts to understand and apply wargames as part of their security studies toolkit. 

Public Lecture Series on Wargaming Scholarship The WN launched an online public lecture series that features authors of new and noteworthy scholarly publications on wargaming. The next speaker is Dr Jacquelin Schneider who will discuss on 1 Apr 2021 the use of wargames as experiments to understand cyber and nuclear stability.

Government Matters: Wong on wargaming at the Department of Defense

Yuna Huh Wong (Research Analyst in the Joint Advanced Warfighting Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses) is interviewed at Government Matters on wargaming at the US Department of Defense. You’ll find the full video here.

Connections: on the power of empathy

Raspberry the WATU Wren bear and Smuggie, mascot of Connections North, proudly sporting Derby House Principles pins
Get your own adorable Wren bear from the RN Museum online shop!

Something that came up again and again in the excellent Connections North diversity panel discussion was the importance of empathy as a skill for wargamers:

  • Yuna Wong raised it as one of the top five skills she’d look for in a wargamer, and it’s certainly been my experience that the people who are great to work with are the people who get all the work
  • Paul Strong raised it in the power of narrative (and all wargames are a form of collaborative storytelling), pointing to the advent of the novel as a means for social change by giving people new perspectives
  • Brianna Proceviat raised it in answer to a question from Cath Jones about educating people about diversity and inclusion by flipping the power dynamic

And everything I’ve done this past year in support of the Derby House Principles has been successful because of empathy.

Isn’t it beautiful that what works to improve diversity and inclusion is the exact same thing that makes people good wargamers?

What is empathy?

Teressa Wiseman defines four attributes of empathy:

  • taking another’s perspective
  • staying out of judgement
  • recognising emotion in other people
  • and communicating that understanding

Key skills for helping a friend in a difficult time—and equally in red-teaming a hostile power without falling prey to stereotypes, reading the other players, and contributing to the game analysis and insights.

Why does it work for D&I?

Some years ago, I had to fight hard to get reasonable adjustments for dyslexia. Just a screen-reader, nothing earth-shattering, but between being good at my job and the perception that real dyslexics are functionally illiterate, it was incredibly difficult to convince people of my need. Facts and figures made no impact on people who perceived me as perfectly capable. What I needed was a way to make them feel how difficult and frustrating and exhausting it was to be working so hard to keep up.

Enter stage left a serious game about dyslexia, where, through the magic of science, I make a room full of otherwise competent adults lose the ability to read, write, and speak coherently, to remember anything, to recognise familiar objects, and even tell the time. It’s hilarious and stressful and eye-opening, and it literally works because it is a lesson in empathy.

Wargame instructions in English but with the words broken in all the wrong places to make it really difficult to read
What’s wrong, you can’t read these very simple wargame instructions? Are you stupid?? ;-)

People come away from this workshop having experienced dyslexia. Having felt the glare of the spotlight on them trying to read when reading is hard, or trying to make a coherent argument when they can’t find the words they want, or having stared and stared and stared at something that makes no sense at all while everyone else just gets it.

It literally changes people’s perception of dyslexia and disability (non-ironic feedback includes: “This saved my marriage. I thought my husband was doing all these things just to annoy me.”) And it does it because it makes people feel what it’s like. I don’t tell people dyslexia is frustrating, I make them frustrated. And the lesson sticks because it gets encoded with that powerful emotion…and also because it’s an absolute blast and a compelling magic trick they want to tell everyone about.

Enter the Derby House Principles

One of the first things that came up in Derby House Principles conversations was how to help smaller wargaming organisations talk about diversity when they don’t have anyone to speak to the experience. 

The diversity card deck, inspired by Tom Mouat’s excellent Migrants card deck, is the diversity missing from the room. Players draw a card and relay the vignette to the group in the first person, as if it happened to them. That act of imaginative empathy: what if this happened to me? is followed by a group discussion of whether the same situation plays out differently for them and why. For a lot of men, it’s genuinely the first time they’ve even considered that these things happen, or what it would feel like to be on the receiving end. And it’s had such a massive impact on the culture where I work. 

We went from a place where well-intentioned men would respond, “I’m sure it’s not like that,” whenever I said this is my experience as the only woman in the room, to one where they genuinely realised there could be another perspective. And it didn’t just convert the good-eggs. People who harrumphed loudly at the idea of the card deck found their wives or girlfriends looking over their shoulder, saying, “Yes. Yep. That too. Oh my god all the time. And that one,” and the clouds parted, the heavenly choirs sang, the god rays shone down, and they realised (gasp) all women and minorities are human beings with thoughts and feelings just like their significant other—and that people they care about suffer these indignities and incivilities and injustices all the time too. It has meaning because they’ve connected it to someone they care about, not the ‘other’.

Walk a mile in our shoes

Another big inspiration for me in experiential learning is Jane Elliot’s anti-racism work. It works because she makes people feel discrimination:

And Brenda Romero’s mechanic is the message games: the Middle Passage, Trail of Tears, the Irish Game, and most famously Train.

And the same leap of imaginative empathy is at work in the RPG Dog Eat Dog by Liam Burke. (More on my project to use that to start conversations about discrimination here.) What’s stuck with me most about the games we’ve played so far is that it’s the role-playing that makes it real to straight white non-disabled men—it’s feeling that awful sense of this is wrong and I am powerless, and tying themselves in knots managing the emotions of the dominant group when they’ve never had that perspective before, and being disabused of their naive ideas that minority groups just haven’t done it right so far and here comes a white/male saviour to show them the way… it’s the role-playing that makes them open their eyes and really hear what women and minorities have been saying. It’s the act of imaginative empathy that teaches. 

Empathy is why nobody who plays this game can forget it.

How do we make more connections?

Another point made in the diversity panel was that the heavy lifting of D&I should not be left—or piled on—to the minority wargamers. That, by virtue of being the only woman, or BAME/BIPOC, or LGBT, or disabled person in the building, everyone expects them to lead on D&I and be the diversity, and do the hard work so everyone else can congratulate themselves that its being done without getting their hands dirty.

The biggest challenge of all of this has been how do I get men to talk about women’s issues, straight people to talk about LGBT issues, non-disabled people to talk about disability issues, white people to talk about race. Too often a minority person is left to do all the talking, all the leading, all the fixing. Silence is complicity. Even when I write an essay about exactly that…folks talk about it in private where nobody will disagree, not in public spaces, not to minority wargamers, not where it will make a difference.

Vulnerability isn’t weakness, it’s strength

The first time I saw the needle move was when a straight white man in a position of authority admitted on a VTC that he’d read a blog on Black Lives Matter and wanted to comment to show support but panicked because he didn’t want to say the wrong thing. That admission of vulnerability, I wanted to do better but I didn’t know how, opened the floodgates for others who’d been silent, who supported D&I but didn’t know how to show their support and were afraid to intrude on a space they didn’t think was theirs.

Men: you have so much power to set the tone and start these conversations, just by saying I don’t have all the answers but I want to learn. Worry less about saying the wrong thing. You only have to say I see you, I’m listening.

Make it easy for allies to show their support

Derby House D20 pin badge

The Derby House pins look great so people want to wear them. 

I learnt the power of ally badges presenting to the board of executives. It just so happened a good number of them were wearing LGBT Ally badges. Walking into that intimidating space and seeing those silent messages of support—completely unrelated to the topic I was presenting on—was magic. Seeing people wearing Derby House pins—or “I’m not a dickhead” badges, as they’ve come to be known—is knowing who your friends are in a room full of strangers.

Get your pin here.

The hardest work of all

It’s possible to talk someone out of bigotry. Watching some of the D&I trolls see the light—go from posting misogynist nonsense to amplifying Derby House Principles messaging—has been a delightful, heartwarming, life-affirming D&I soap opera. It’s also been hard hard work. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a good-enough person to be able to meet trolling and bigotry with the compassion and kindness and patience required. Not because I don’t agree it’s the right way to achieve change, but because I’m human and flawed and quite frankly because it’s hard to treat people with the respect and dignity and compassion that they do not show in return. Being on the receiving end of trolling and just vile comments on PAXsims does not make me all that disposed to generosity towards the marginal comments and well-intended-but-oblivious comments and idiot-but-not-actually-bigotted comments.

Jamil Zaki: It can be really exhausting to empathise with people who are different from us. Especially if they have opinions that we might fear or abhore.

Laurie Santos: Now I try really hard to be an understanding person. And I truely beleve in the importance of Jamil’s battle for kindness. But almost every day I see some view online that makes me see red. When people seem to be so hateful, it’s really really hard to see them as deserving of my compassion or my emotional energy. I was surprised that the guy who literally wrote the book on empathy got exactly what I was saying.

Jamil Zaki: Trust me, I feel that way all the time. I still remember when the New York Times had this whole very sympathetic portrayal of a family in Illinois that happened to be Nazis. And I remember a detail where they were trying to humanise this family by talking about how they cooked their pasta and I just remember thinking “I don’t want to hear about your Nazi pasta. I don’t want to humanise you.” It’s exhausting to connect. And it’s especially exhausting to connect with people who say things that are awful and that don’t really deserve a platform.

[…]

Laurie Santos: I want to make sure that all this empathic labour is a bit more evenly distributed. That the hard work of deep connection doesn’t just fall to historically marginalised groups who’ve long been on the recieving side of all the injustice; these are the folks least likely to have the emotional bandwidth to make connections.

Listen to the whole Happiness Lab episode here.

Ok, but what can I do?

Empathy is a learnable skill, an improveable skill. Do it to be a better wargamer. Do it for a better wargaming culture. Do it for better wargame outputs. Do it for whatever reason you like, but please hear Yuna and myself when we say women and minorities cannot carry the whole D&I load for all of wargaming.

Listen to the follow-up Happiness Lab episode for an excellent guide on how to be a better ally.

Read about the Derby House Principles for diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming here.

IDA endorses the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming

We are pleased to announce that the Institute for Defense Analyses is the latest organization to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) is a private, nonprofit corporation headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. IDA’s mission is to answer the most challenging U.S. security and science policy questions with objective analysis leveraging extraordinary scientific, technical, and analytic expertise.

People

IDA empowers the best scientific and strategic minds to research and analyze the most important issues of national security. The diverse mix of professionals provides IDA with the multidisciplinary talent and expertise it needs to respond the many challenges brought to us by our sponsors. The exceptional creativity and determination that our research staff brings to their work with IDA’s sponsors and each other is the foundation of IDA’s reputation for excellence.

Sponsors

IDA works solely for U.S. Government agency sponsors on critical national security and science policy issues; we do no work for industry. Our current sponsors include the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security; Veterans Administration; and National Security Agency. Through our Science and Technology Policy Institute, we support the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

UPDATE: You’ll find the full IDA statement on the Derby House Principles here.

If your organization would like to join those supporting the Derby House Principles, please contact us.

But we don’t treat women or minorities any different here!

Now that the dust has settled on my Wavell Room and D&I in 2020 essays, I thought I’d address a couple of the points raised in response:

Straight white men have diversity too!

Yes, so do Ford Escorts. The red ones fade a bit, a family car gets more battered than a single-owner/occupant. But real diversity is having Vauxhalls and Puegots and Volvos and Fiats and Landrovers on the road. And “but what about men! Men are diverse” is just another way to shut down diversity conversations by keeping the focus on the people already in the majority.

The point of all these D&I conversations is that diversity of thought—which we all agree is good for wargaming—comes from diversity of experience, and while straight white men do have different life experiences, there is an order-of-magnitude difference in the life experiences of BAME/BIPOC people, disabled people, LGBT people and women: because they live in different neighbourhoods, go to different schools, come from different cultures, experience different challenges day-in-day-out, and have to deal with things that straight white men barely even acknowledge exist.

But the bar isn’t higher for not being a straight white non-disabled man!

Oh realy?

Men (which, let’s face it, is 98% of you reading this): how often have you published an essay in a respected professional space and been met with a torrent of personal attacks, none of them addressing the points raised in the essay, all of them determined to prove YOU’RE WRONG to say any of it because you’re an idiot, because you’re a woman, a lesbian, the wrong class to be properly disabled, not disadvantaged enough, leftist, a victim, a commie, should be doing the dishes, know nothing about professional wargaming or war, and—apparently worst of all—can’t even make it clear you’re talking about professional wargaming not hobby gaming…by publishing in The Wavell Room: contemporary British military thinking. I’m dyslexic and even I’m left wondering which part of the website’s banner is difficult to read ?

Honestly men, how often do you receive hate for doing your wargaming job? Actual shut up and sit down hate, not polite or even heated academic debate, not I disagree so stop talking, actual nothing to say about the essay we’re just objecting that you’re speaking at all. I wasn’t even saying anything particularly controversial: that, when wargaming, we should respect the other players. Playing to win is fine; playing to win at all costs—to make the other people around you feel small—is not ok. It sucks to be on the recieving end of it, and it lessens the value of the game for all the reasons we use serious games.

Why is that even controversial? Treat each other with respect and dignity, like fellow human beings.

To which, a small and defensive minority of men lost their minds that my essay was not treating them with respect: that I used bad language, that I was offensive and confrontational. Again, I’m the dyslexic here, and it is remarkable to me how many people had trouble parsing the “arguing against D&I is” in arguing against D&I is the masturbatory indulgence of straight white men. To be clear: nothing in that sentence says all men, or all white men, or all straight men, are jerking off in wargames (except Jeffrey Toobin). But then, the people objecting loudly to the executive summary were just using “omg a woman used naughty words! I am offended!!” to justify arguing against D&I. Surprise.

And if you’re going to argue the language was the problem, not the message: 

a) none of the words I used were actually swearing. Also there was an editorial process, and the language was deemed appropriate for the site and for the message, not gratuitous, not wanton, not offensive.

b) where is your moral panic over the actual swearing and foul language and vile attacks against my personhood in the comments in the Wavell Room, on twitter, or on PAXsims?

c) when you object to a woman “swearing” by actually swearing yourself in angry comments, boy do you look childish.

d) claiming the moral highground (the language is the problem!!) while abjectly failing to take the moral highground (I object to the language but want to engage on the points being made) is laughable, by the way.

The truth is it’s all Rule One: if the language was made acceptable there would just be something else they’d find fault with because it’s not the language that’s the problem, it’s the challenge to unquestioned male domination and the idea that men can’t just behave as they like when they like without consequences.

We have to talk about how angry women and minorities feel

I want to talk about power and comfort, specifically who has it and whose we are more concerned about, as evidenced by our actions. This might not be a comfortable conversation, but let’s think about it by way of an analogy to comedy:

while the popular conversation keeps talking about the victimhood of comedy, punching up, and punching down, I don’t think those terms are what applies at all. There is a much simpler way of framing the conversation of the goals of comedy, and it was said by the brilliant W. Kumau Bell:

“Who do you want to include? Who do you not want to include?”

These two questions are at the center of pretty much everything. From the way we use signifiers, to the politics of being PC, to the vehemence of being anti-PC, to who you want to make laugh in an audience. It’s all that simple question: who do you want to include? Because that’s when you start looking at your morality and your shape of interest. For instance, who do you want your joke to make feel more comfortable: a rapist or a rape victim? Answer however you wish, but it speaks to what you’re trying to do.

Film Crit Hulk, PC Culture vs The Big Joke

Who do we want to include?

A small and defensive minority seem to think D&I is about excluding straight white men from wargaming in general and opportunities in particular. As far as I can tell there’s a deep-seated fear, particularly among hobby wargamers, that a queer woman has the power to take wargaming away from them and that my goal in life is to CONTROL HOW WARGAMERS ARE ALLOWED TO THINK…through the medium of an essay that literally—explicitly—made the point that domination in gaming is bad and not what I stand for.

Not to mention how laughable the idea is that a single woman is in any way able to exclude 98% of wargamers from wargaming. Or the part where the majority of my wargaming colleagues and friends are straight white men: men I like and respect and enjoy working with, who have mentored and supported me, and given me amazing opportunities to grow as a wargamer.

D&I is not about excluding men. It’s about not excluding women and minorities—who face considerable barriers to entry not faced by straight white non-disabled men.

A big theme in the diversity card deck is anger. Anger at not being listened to. Anger at not being treated like credible human beings or the subject matter experts that they are. Anger that it is literally not safe to be a woman in wargaming/NatSec at times. And above all, anger at a system that is more interested in the comfort of straight white men than the victims of their bad behaviour.

A system that requires women and minorities to put up and shut up or get out—change teams, roles, projects, capabilities, divisions, or sacrifice their careers, to escape.

I’ve heard from so many people who’ve said their bully wasn’t dealt with because:

  • he’ll be deploying as a reservist soon, and likely won’t return to the group or in a leadership position (haha, of course he did)
  • he’ll be taking early retirement soon (nope: still here)
  • it’s just how he is (boys will be boys)
  • he’s like that with everyone, it’s nothing against you personally
  • leadership/management didn’t hear the request for help to deal with the situation—assumed the victim was capable of dealing with it themselves, rather than thinking about why the issue had been raised in the first place.

Privilege and the comfort of straight white men

Privilege is being able to choose not to think about this, to choose when you think about this, and to put it down when you don’t like it right now.

Meanwhile, let’s think about

… the constant efforts women [and minorities] end up having to expend in managing, maintaining, and adjusting the egos of oblivious and self-important men, involving the continual work of imaginative identification, or interpretive labour. The work carries over on every level. 

Women [and minorities] everywhere are always expected to continually imagine what one situation or another would look like from a male point of view. Men are almost never expected to do the same for women [and minorities]. 

So deeply internalised is this pattern of behaviour that many men react to any suggestion that they might do otherwise as if it were itself an act of violence.

David Graeber

I think people assume I am brave and unafraid to be vocal about D&I in professional wargaming. The truth is it is frightening and stressful, and speaking out like this has been career-limiting for me in the past. I am scared. I am angry. And I know from personal experience that there’s only so much a woman can push back before being put soundly in her place. I want that to change.

Psychologists created a study in 2015 to examine what happens when women and men become angry during jury deliberations.

They created a simulation that echoed the classic film Twelve Angry Men, in which a lone juror, Henry Fonda, gives an impassioned and angry plea for the innocence of an accused man. In the simulation, one “holdout” refuses to fall in line with other jurors and does not rein in his (or her) anger. 

The “Henry Fonda” juror did well in influencing his peers. But “Henrietta Fonda” was not nearly as successful. 

When men expressed anger, the subjects found them credible and changed their own opinions. But the angry women were seen as too emotional, so their arguments did not persuade the other “jurors” to change their minds

Men can convince others that the cause of their anger is appropriate, and can persuade others to accept their arguments. An angry woman rarely gets that opportunity. 

Why women and anger too often collide

Men more often associate anger with feeling powerful, while for women anger is associated with powerlessness.

Anger is silent and isolating, destructive and even frightening.

Anger is a powerful emotion—it warns us of threat, insult, indignity and harm. But across the world, girls and women are taught that their anger is better left unvoiced.

Anger is reserved as the moral property of boys and men. It is a civic virtue in white men, criminality in black men, and distained in women. [And it’s ingratitude in disabled people.]

Women are taught to swallow their pride.

Anger is conveying what’s important to us—but people are more likely to get angry AT women for being angry than address their concerns. Men are rewarded for displaying anger, women are punished.

It is a system designed to disadvantage women when it comes to defending themselves and their own interests.

Societies that don’t respect women’s anger don’t respect women. The danger of it [to men] is that it shows how seriously we take ourselves. And that we expect other people to take us seriously as well.

Watch the rest of this TED talk here.

Women and minorities are angry at being unjustly treated.

They are right to be angry.

Men: your focus should be on working your hardest to dismantle the man-made and man-supported system that is causing the anger, not policing their emotions. 

That means stopping to think about whether the real cause of your anger is that the thing was said or done by a woman stepping outside the bounds of “acceptably feminine” by refusing to do all the emotional labour for you.

That means calling out misogynist and homophobic and transphobic and ablist and racist behaviour when you see it—in wargaming spaces, in comments, on twitter, in person.

That means amplifying the voices of women and minorities when they speak to their experiences of discrimination.

That means telling women and BAME/BIPOC and LGBT and disabled wargamers that you value their existence, their humanity, their right to take up space, and their contributions to wargaming—not just assuming folks know you’re a decent human being who thinks this stuff without ever publically expressing it.

The standard you walk past is the one you accept

I like this ballsy statement from former Chief of the Australian army, Lt Gen David Morrison:

If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. […] The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, but especially those, who by their rank, have a leadership role.

To everyone who liked and RTd my Wavell Room essay

Thank you, I appreciate the support. 

Talking about D&I in safe spaces among people that you know won’t disagree with you is a start. It’s not enough. 

How many of you pushed back against the trolls and the misogynism and homophobia directed at me for doing my job? (Shout out to Rex Brynen and Jeremy Sepinsky for being absolute heroes in the Wavell Room troll pit.)

How many of you read my new year essay—literally about how silence from the majority who support D&I is part of the problem—and said nothing to me, or in public, or to other women and minority wargamers in support?

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

Make your standard the Derby House Principles for diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

Part 2 of USNA Study on Wargame Design Education

“Thanks in advance for those of you who participated in this study’s first Delphi Survey. As a reminder, these Delphi Surveys are part of a larger project I conduct as the Fellow of the United States Naval Academy Naval History Wargaming Lab. I am seeking to understand the current state of wargaming design education and to explore potential solutions inspired by art epistemology. If you are curious for more information about my study, please consult the previous PAXSims post on this study.

You do not have to have participated in the first survey to participate in the second one. This survey will be less involved than the first – it includes multiple choice and select all type questions rather than long answer questions. The second survey, in the Delphi Survey tradition, will help me move findings from the data closer towards statements with a sense of community consensus.

Thank you in advance for your participation, time, and energy. Please feel free to email me at sawyerjudge@outlook.com should you have any additional questions.”

From Sawyer Judge

Click here to complete the Survey for Part 2 of the Study. Sawyer requests you complete as much as you feel comfortable and willing to complete. No question is required except for your name and consent at the beginning. Learn more about the study itself, her ongoing research, and the instructions for the survey on the survey’s first page.

Please try to complete the survey by the end of the month, the 28th of February.

Connections US Archive

I need email addresses for the following 8 people, who have given presentations to Connections US. We need these as part of our effort to build an archive of Connections US Proceedings — specifically to obtain from them a copy of their presentation and their permission to include it in the online archive.

Please eyeball the below list and email me direct (stephen.downesmartin(at)gmail.com) whatever email addresses you have for them, thanks!

  • Thomas Allen
  • Natasha Bajema
  • Chris Baker
  • Brian Killough
  • John Lister
  • James Morningstar
  • Neil Randall
  • Todd Reid
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