PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming news

Become rich* and famous** as a PAXsims research associate

Are you interested in conflict simulation and serious games? Well, here is your opportunity to join PAXsims as a research associate for 2021-22.

*To be clear you won’t actually become rich, since no one at PAXsims actually gets paid.

**We can’t really make you famous either—all we can offer is whatever satisfaction derives from helping us find material for the website (and possibly writing the occasional piece yourself).

However, we would certainly value your assistance!

To apply, email us by June 30 with a copy of your resume/CV, plus details of your background in conflict simulation and serious gaming. As a strong supporter of the Derby House Principles we particularly welcome applications from historically underrepresented groups.

Canadian Joint Warfare Centre wargaming course

Shephard News reports on the wargaming course to be offered by the Canadian Armed Forces Joint Warfare Centre:

Speaking this week at the Defence Education, Simulation and Training (DSET) conference in Bristol, Maj Scott Roach from the Canadian Joint Warfare Centre’s Joint Wargaming Experimentation & Simulation group told delegates that Canada is about to launch its first wargaming course.

‘We’re a relatively new group that has been in existence for nearly two years and we’re now ready to launch what we refer to as our Wargaming 101 course,’ explained Roach.

Focusing on the operational and strategic levels, the Ottawa-based Joint Wargaming Experimentation & Simulation group has established itself as one of the premier wargaming organisations in NATO and it has formed strategic partnerships with the USMC and USAF, for example.

‘We’ve looked at a number of tools (constructive training systems) over the past couple of years but as we provide joint wargaming services we’ve found that the majority of these tools just focus on air, land or sea domains, and this is a challenge,’ explained Roach.

Most of the group’s work has been conducted for the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC), the Joint Operations Planning Group (JOPG) and the Canadian Forces College. The latter provides training for senior Canadian military leaders.

One exception was Operation Laser and Vector that modelled the DND response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CJOC and JOPG exercises have featured operations in the Arctic and Baltic regions.

‘We are planning a pilot course to run this fall,’ said Roach, ‘with two courses set to run in 2022. Although yet to be finalised, the course will feature distance learning before attending a residential module.’

Plans are also being made to run a second course for developers and wargame designers.

You can also hear Scott speak about wargaming at the CJWC in this panel discussion at February’s Connections North 2021 conference (7:50-25:50).

h/t Kevin Crichlow

Games for Change finalists

Games for Change has announced the finalists for the G4C 2021 Awards. Don’t click the image above to see them, however—instead, you will find descriptions and links to the games at the G4C awards page .

Several of these will be of particular interest to PAxsims readers because they deal with issues of conflict and peacebuilding. These include:

Through the Darkest of Times (Steam)

Berlin 1933. “Adolf Hitler is chancellor!” We all know the consequences this message bore. Unspeakable horrors and suffering would sweep across the world. Few would stand and fight the monstrosity that was the German Reich. Will you? Lead an underground resistance group Through the Darkest of Times.

Suzerain (Steam)

As President Rayne, lead Sordland into ruin or repair during your first term in this text-based role-playing game. Navigate a political drama driven by conversations with your cabinet members and other significant figures. Beware or embrace corruption; shirk or uphold ideals. How will you lead?

Harmony Square (browser)

Harmony Square is a game about fake news. The game’s setting is the idyllic Harmony Square, a small neighborhood mildly obsessed with democracy. You, the player, are hired as Chief Disinformation Officer. Over the course of 4 short levels, your job is to disturb the square’s peace and quiet by fomenting internal divisions and pitting its residents against each other.

Radio General (Steam)

Radio General is a unique strategy game where you interact with your units over the radio using speech recognition. Test your mettle and relive famous battles as a WW2 general.

Analytical Architecture that Includes Wargaming for Decision Makers

The Simulation and Wargaming Standing Study Group of SISO invite you to join them for a talk and discussion by Jon Compton

TITLE: Analytical Architecture that Includes Wargaming for Decision Makers

SPEAKER: Jon Compton

ABSTRACT: Wargames are conducted for purposes of education and training, concept exploration or development, or sometimes done to raise awareness about certain issues or concepts. Within OSD, however, the style of wargame required is referred to as Analytical Wargaming, and is nested with other analytical or Operations Research techniques to generate contextualized knowledge and recommendations for leadership. Jon will present and discuss the process he has used to design, run and analyze analytic wargames in support of senior decision makers faced with serious national security related problems.

DATE/TIME: 4th June 1200–1300 US EDT

ZOOM LINK: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88929196057?pwd=ZXdwVzRKazhheHV5OG9LTVlUNVNTQT09

Meeting ID: 889 2919 6057
Passcode: Wargaming
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SPEAKER BIO: Jon Compton began his professional career in heavy construction at age 15. By age 25 he was operations director at a structural precast heavy construction firm, and was responsible for the manufacture and construction of such projects as the J. Paul Getty Center Parking Garage, the Bridge Over Verdugo Wash, and the Kaiser Permanente Parking Garage, all in Southern California. During this period he also earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in music composition, the other in communications. In 1995 Compton retired from the construction industry and pursued IT. Beginning as an HTML developer in 1996, by 2001 he was the senior project manager for Realtor.com’s internal business systems in Thousand Oaks, CA. Shortly after 9/11 2001, Compton left IT and returned to school, earning a master’s degree in international relations and a Ph.D. in World Politics and Formal Mathematical Methods (as well as completing all Ph.D. level coursework in Economics). In 2009, Dr. Compton moved to the Washington DC area and joined Booz Allen Hamilton’s Modeling, Simulation, Wargaming, and Analysis shop under Mark Herman. During that tenure, Compton wrote numerous proprietary white papers on subjects ranging from non-state actor violence to creating a new theoretical framework for modeling warfare. He also designed and developed wargames for various clients, to include AFRL, NDU, ONA, and OSD. Compton was a Booz Allen contractor in OSD/CAPE/SAC from 2012 until Spring of 2016 when he joined CAPE as a civilian employee. Dr. Compton has numerous commercial wargame publications as designer, developer, and producer. He has also been editor of the commercial print publications Fire and Movement Magazine and CounterFact Magazine, and has also served as associate editor of the academic journal International Interactions. In addition to his professional life, Dr. Compton has led an active life in music, having studied with such composers as Philip Glass and George Crumb, and having composed numerous pieces for various instruments as well as one symphony. 

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 19 May 2021

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Aaron Danis and David Redpath suggested items for this latest edition.

The American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and War on the Rocks have created a Defense Futures Simulator:

The Defense Futures Simulator will allow users to see how various defense strategies and choices would alter the Defense Department budget. A sophisticated data science algorithm will enable users to first decide whether they want to adjust the current strategy. For example, some users may focus on great-power competition, while others may prioritize counter-insurgency and counterterrorism. They will then be able to select a certain budget level or choose to work with an unconstrained budget. Once these inputs are finalized, the simulator will use the algorithm to reflect how the user’s strategic preferences and budget constraints might change the US military’s size, composition, and capabilities.

Marine Corps Times reports that the US Marine Corps broke ground on its new wargaming center on May 12:

The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is planned to open in summer 2023. The site is next to the Marine Corps University where mid-career and senior office and enlisted Marines attend.

That proximity means that planners can bring in Marines who are coming from the fleet to participate in planning or experiments and to provide feedback.

The center gives planners a way to run through everything from equipment strengths and weaknesses to entire campaign plans using existing capabilities and tactics or mid- to long-term anticipating capabilities.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab commander, told Marine Corps Times in an email statement that as the Corps works on concept development, experiments and exercises in the fleet both the positive and negative feedback will be sent to the wargaming center.

“Young Marines will see the benefit of expanded channels for feedback,” Watson said. “In the end, this will allow the Marine Corps to iteratively learn and continuously improve our organizational and capability investment decisions, ensuring that our plans and investments don’t just look good on paper, but are underpinned by rigorous wargaming and analysis.”

In a US Army War College War Room podcast, Ed Zukowski  and Ken Gilliam discuss the International Strategic Crisis Negotiations Exercise, a  two-day strategic negotiation event.

According to an article in Defense News, “A US Air Force war game shows what the service needs to hold off — or win against — China in 2030.”

The U.S. Air Force repelled a Chinese invasion of Taiwan during a massive war game last fall by relying on drones acting as a sensing grid, an advanced sixth-generation fighter jet able to penetrate the most contested environments, cargo planes dropping pallets of guided munitions and other novel technologies yet unseen on the modern battlefield.

But the service’s success was ultimately pyrrhic. After much loss of life and equipment, the U.S. military was able to prevent a total takeover of Taiwan by confining Chinese forces to a single area. 

Furthermore, the air force that fought in the simulated conflict isn’t one that exists today, nor is it one the service is seemingly on a path to realize. While legacy planes like the B-52 bomber and newer ones like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter played a role, many key technologies featured during the exercise are not in production or even planned for development by the service.

Still, the outcome was a marked improvement to similar war games held over the last two years, which ended in catastrophic losses. The Air Force’s performance this fall offers a clearer vision of what mix of aircraft, drones, networks and other weapons systems it will need in the next decade if it hopes to beat China in a potential war. Some of those items could influence fiscal 2023 budget deliberations.

Registration is now open for the 2021 Games for Change Festival.

Join our global community of developers, educators, students, and researchers virtually to ignite our imaginations about how games and immersive media can help us realize the potential of the years ahead and address our collective challenges: achieving equity and social justice, ensuring a thriving planet, and regaining a sense of security.

Three days of live-streamed talkspanels, and special announcements from the G4C and XR for Change communities

A series of round table discussions geared toward professional knowledge-sharing

An interactive virtual Expo featuring games, XR experiences, sponsors, and G4C programs.

The XR Immersive Arcade highlighting the newest emerging XR experiences for social impact

The Games for Change Awards Ceremony and G4C Awards Showcase celebrating the 2021 G4C Awards finalists!

At the Active Learning in Political Science blog, Chad Raymond discusses running his “Gerkhania” comparative politics simulation via Discord.

Discord permits text, voice, and video communication. I deliberately chose not to use its videoconferencing capability and none of the students used it either. We communicated with each other solely through text messages. I believe this enhanced rather than degraded the experience in comparison to Webex — no black boxes instead of faces, and no interrupted video or audio because of low-bandwidth internet connections. A user interface that facilitates text communication also means Discord is suitable for running a simulation like Gerkhania asynchronously rather synchronously, something that isn’t realistic with video-based platforms. 

My use of Discord also meant that students automatically had a complete record of the simulation’s events that they could reference for the final exam. I did not have to take any additional steps, like create and share a recording, for the class to have a history of what had transpired.

In early March, three students in Professor Aaron Danis’ Counterterrorism and the Democracies course at the Institute for World Politics (IWP 669) recreated the initial rise of the now largely-defunct Peruvian insurgent and terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, using a digital version of Brian Train’s wargame Shining Path. An account of their experience can be found here.

The Winter 2021 newletter of the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Naval Warfare Studies Institute Wargaming Center was published last month, with updates on recent wargames and related activities.

The Reacting to the Past consortium is planning a “Summer of Reacting,” with Part 1 to be held in June.

The board and administration of the Reacting Consortium have decided to offer a variety of games over the course of thesummer, allowing faculty around the country (and the world) the opportunity to play multiple games, and to experiencethe Reacting pedagogy online. Our hope is that by providing a broad array of games and methods for using them, facultywill be able to plan more effectively and confidently for the coming academic year, no matter the circumstances.

This summer includes three conference periods:
Summer of Reacting – Part I (June)
Game Development Conference (early July)
Summer of Reacting – Part II (late July – mid August)

The Reacting Consortium is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. These values inform ourwork to foster an accessible community, our approach to game development, and our determination to contend with “bigideas.” Thanks to our Fundraising Committee and the generosity of our community, we have reserved a few fundedspots in the Summer of Reacting for instructors who are teaching at minority serving institutions (HBCUs, TribalColleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, etc).

You’ll find more on this and their other activities at their website.

Sadly, wargame designer John Tiller passed away on April 26. You’ll find a short obituary at PCGamesN.

Wong on wargaming

Yuna Wong briefly discusses wargaming at the latest edition of Eye on IDA. You can watch it below!

Edward Snowden, “What I learned from games: playing for and against mass surveillance”

Headshot of Edward Snowden from shoulders up. White man with short-cropped brown hair, wireframe glasses and goatee. Wearing black, button-up shirt.

Part of the GAM(BL)ING: Commodification of Leisure in the Digital Era symposium.

Thursday, May 13, 2021
8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Free

For Registration and further information click here.

Imaginetic Game Club

Join us FREE via Zoom for the Imaginetic Game Club! Play or observe as we test, discuss, and play through various games with a serious bent. Get ideas from like-minded players and budding designers, all for FREE!

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/imaginetic-game-club-tickets-147590785011


May 19th 7pm (EDT, UTC-4): Undocumented: The Journey to the American Dream 
Designers: Erick Pelayo Aubert, Victoria Aponte, Elizabeth Varkovetski, Stefanie Game

follows the journey of a migrant from Latin America as they cross through Mexico to the US border. Along their travels, they encounter real-life scenarios such as altercations, police checks, and robbery, all while trying to mitigate the risks of boarding trains and supporting their dependents. While the journey is long, and the path is winding, the American Dream lies just beyond the fence. Will they make it and find success across the border? Or will they get trapped in an ever circulating motion of deportation and secondary attempts? Grab your backpack, it’s time to go.

Join us May 19th 7pm (EDT, UTC-4) for the public reveal of Undocumented. Meet the student-creators as you navigate the hazards as a migrant in this game born in Rex Brynen’s Conflict Simulation course. Will you have what it takes to make your dreams come true?

Don’t forget to sign up for our June 2nd session when we will be playing 1775 Rebellion – The American Revolution from Academy Games. Link to rules and player aids here.

The year is 1775. The American colonies are outraged over new taxes imposed upon them by Great Britain. They begin to stockpile arms and organize militia. On April 19th, militia members ambush a column of 700 British Redcoats ordered to seize stockpiled arms. 273 British soldiers are killed or wounded before they reach safety in Boston.
The American Revolution has begun!

1775 Screenshot


Sign in here, and let the games begin! https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/imaginetic-game-club-tickets-147590785011

Player slots are limited and assigned on a first-come first served basis, so sign up quickly before player slots are filled.

Imaginetic Game Club is a FREE game showcase where like-minded serious games players, designers, developers, and interested parties can come together, play a game, discuss serious games, and have some fun.

Watch this space for future game announcements.

Connections Online 2021 After Action Review

Prepared for PAXsims by Chris Weuve

Connections Online 2021 (hereafter CO21) was held 12-14 April, through the mechanisms of Discord and YouTube. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first professional wargame conference designed not as simply a replacement for an in-person conference, but as first and foremost an online event, optimized for that environment. For that reason (and, I admit, because I am proud of what we pulled off), I’d like to tell you what we were trying to accomplish and how we went about doing it.

CO21 was really an experiment to see if a small group of people could put on a professional conference. The origins of this conference went back to May 2020, when it really became clear that we were not going to be doing in-person events any time soon. At that point I envisioned an online, recorded, 3-5 day “single room” (i.e., only one event at a time) conference, modeled after but separate from Connections US. Originally I planned to use a tool like Zoom or Go To Meeting with a direct-to-YouTube livestream, but about the same time I discovered StreamYard, a subscription website designed to do video streaming. Add in Discord to support text communications amongst conference members, including distributing StreamYard links and last second communications to panelists, and I had the technology behind a plan.

With a couple of people (largely Merle Robinson and Stephen Downes-Martin), we scoped out the rest of the format: The core conference would take place from 10am-4pm each day (“London to Los Angeles”), with events starting at 10am, 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. The early morning hour-long sessions would be generally solo talks (e.g., keynotes). The two 2-hour blocks were conceptualized as topical panel discussions of 3-4 presenters (plus a moderator) giving 10-15 minute presentations, followed by moderated discussion and Q&A. The last hour-long session each day would be 2-4 panelists who will comment on and lead a discussion on a set of previously viewed YouTube movies whose URLs have been sent out in advance. (This last format is an experiment, and I was fully prepared to declare after we tried it that “The experiment was a success — we learned to NEVER do that again!”) The conference theme of “distributed wargaming” seemed pretty obvious, as did what I call the 60-40 rule of Connections conferences: the goal is that somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of a Connections conference is about the theme, the rest is other relevant topics. In addition, we could conduct an “extended” events schedule — basically, put out a call for people who wanted to run games or other events outside of our regular hours and who could provide their own IT solutions, which we would had to the schedule.

At that point the day job intervened and, after targeting March or April 2021, the idea was largely put on hold until sometime around December 2020, at which point we re-lit the engines and got to work. As Merle Robinson and I started divvying up the work, Brant Guillory joined us. At this point I was pretty confident: Merle is a fellow Connections US committee veteran used to running large wargame events through the National Security Making Game, and was conducting his own experiments with online events; Brant and the Armchair Dragoons had run multiple game conventions (two online in 2020), and had an excellent handle on the registration side of things; and I knew how to make the technology work and had spent a LOT of time thinking about the operating procedures.

All we had to do at that point was, you know, get moderators and speakers.

In the end, we had three days of core events for 10am to 4pm EDT, plus extended events running two days before and four days after, usually in the evening.

I don’t have time to discus all of the excellent panels our moderators put together, but I do want to go back to the two experimental YouTube panels I mentioned above. The first was on Monday, when Brian Train and Mike Markowitz sat down and discussed their Georgetown University Wargaming Society videos on the practical aspects of wargame design. Brian and Mike are second to none in their field, and the panel basically designed itself.

The Tuesday YouTube panel required a little more work, and exemplifies the hands-off approach I used as conference director. Back in 2020 I had read Simon Parkin’s A Game of Birds and Wolves and Mark William’s Captain Gilbert Roberts R.N.and the Anti-U-Boat School, on the Western Approaches Tactical Unit. While reading the Parkin book I saw a name I recognized — Tom Mouat. So, when it came time to spin up for the conference, I sent Tom a note and asked him if he had the time to put together a panel on WATU; I briefly outlined an idea of a panel consisting of him, Simon Parkin, and maybe a YouTuber who had done something on WATU. I also asked Nick Bradbeer (the only other British wargamer I had met at a Connections conference) if he could back Tom up, since I knew Tom had been deployed and might be too busy.

So, an important thing to keep in mind — at this point I really didn’t know much about WATU, other than it was a wargame success story. That’s okay, because it wasn’t my panel — it was Tom’s panel, and I was specifically asking Tom to use his contacts to take charge and make it shine, as I was trying to organize the conference and didn’t want to be in the business of organizing each panel, too. I told Tom what I told all of the panel moderators — “here’s an overview of what I was thinking, but you are fully authorized to do whatever you want to do to make the panel as good as it could be.” It took about a week or so, but Tom got back to me, telling me that Sally Davis had largely reconstructucted the game rules and had actually run it sometime previously, and that some of the players might be available as well. Truth be told, I had forgotten the event and totally missed that Sally had run it, but it seemed like a no-brainer to me. (PAXsims has a lot more about WATU than I realized. I missed a lot and need to get caught up.) From the conversation during and after the panel, it’s clear Sally has thoroughly researched WATU and the Wrens who worked there, and I hope she publishes on the subject.

Overall, here are my takeaways:

  1. The “StreamYard to YouTube” model worked amazingly well. Training sessions with panelists in advance is a must.
  2. Discord is a little quirky, but will do, and we’ve got a better handle on what it should look like next time. More Discord help resources are needed, and we need to rethink how we organize the Discord server.
  3. The two YouTube panels seemed to work well, but I think I need to be more proactive about getting URLs out in advance before I declare the format to be a success.
  4. The key to making this work is writing everything down in advance. Before I created the first session in StreamYard, I had planned out all of the core events — titles, panelists, descriptions, et cetera, in a Word document, organized from the last event to the first, so that when I created an event I could take the YouTube URL and paste it into the description for the previous event. Information was grouped (and in some cases, duplicated), such that the document became the go-to reference document for cutting and pasting into Discord as well.
  5. Finally, this was essentially a proof of concept, a beta test to demonstrate that a small number of people (three core players for setup, plus a couple of people during the conference, all doing this part time) could organize and execute a professional, online (with video and chat), recorded wargaming conference for a couple of hundred dollars. That beta test was a success.

I look forward to seeing other reviews of the conference — feedback encouraged! — and I am really looking forward to doing it again next year.

Thank you again to our moderators and panelists, and to my colleagues who made it happen.

— Chris Weuve

Why is it still so hard?

Update: it’s been brought to my attention that this post has been interpreted as a criticism of Connections Online. That was not my intention. I apologise for upset resulting from my lack of clarity, and would like to draw everyone’s attention to the better-than-average stats for speaker representation at Connections Online, and the wider D&I efforts made by members of the organising team. I meant only to take the subject of WATU as a jumping-off point for a broader conversation about how all of us in wargaming have a part to play in improving representation.


Another Connections event comes around…and the initial vision of the panel I’m asked to speak at is to have a bunch of straight white men explain how women won the war and the importance of diversity. 

Really ??

Absolutely enormous props to Tom Mouat for refusing the chair the manel, and replacing the proposed men—all of whom got their ‘expertise’ from regurgitating Paul Strong’s paper and my PAXsims articles—with women who have actual subject matter expertise. [Watch the Connections Online WATU panel here]

Why is it so hard? Why are wargaming leaders still reacting with surprise when someone points out the abject lack of diversity in their plans, and sitting back helplessly waiting for women and minorities and heroic allies like Tom to come and diversity! for them instead of taking personal responsibility?

I love that people are talking about WATU. I love that men are talking about what women and lesbian and refugee and Indian and Muslim and Sikh and Hindu and disabled wargamers achieved with WATU. But guys: you absolutely have to stop congratulating yourselves on how awesome WATU was in place of doing anything to address the diversity problems in wargaming today.

It’s as simple as: straight white men, you have to step back and yield the floor. 

If you support diversity and inclusion in wargaming you have to recognise that means you personally—as an over-represented straight white male—have to give up some of your time in the spotlight and make space for women and minorities to take the floor.

It’s not about someone else will take the hit so there’s diversity but I still get to speak 100% of the time I want to, it’s realising that when you personally hold forth on a subject, you personally are silencing a woman or minority wargamer by hogging the space—and you personally have to honestly consider:

Have I said enough already? Can I yield the floor to let someone else speak and not die (psychologically, professionally, literally—since we’re talking about scarcity and threat-focused mindsets.)

Does she/he/they know more about this subject than I do? Don’t be a Mansplainer, don’t presume to know more about a subject because you once held a book about it, don’t assume women and minority wargamers are less-qualified, less-experienced, or only here to do the secretarial work.

Does she/he/they have a different perspective to the same-old-same-old that straight white men have been focusing on since forever? Chances of this are extremely high. Women and minority wargamers experience so much in life that straight white men are oblivious to because it doesn’t happen to straight white men. That’s literally the unknown unknown you need to shut up and listen to, to learn something you didn’t already know.

Is she/he/they perfectly capable of making the exact same point I was going to make, thus scratching my itch that it be aired and making space for other people to contribute? Win win win. Seriously, what is wrong about this? The only reason not to like this scenario is if you’re more interested in who scores the conversational points than the actual furthering of knowledge/understanding/wargaming.

And before you cry “This is silencing men! The outrage!”

Of course that’s not what I’m advocating. 

An idealistic rule of thumb: you have two ears, one mouth. If you’re a straight white man you could try yeilding the floor to women and minority wargamers 50% of the time you would otherwise speak. Yeilding just means giving other people who don’t normally get to speak the opportunity to go first—you may find they say everything and more you wanted to hear, you may learn something new.

Bare in mind, cognitive bias is such that when women make up 30% of a group they are perceived to be in the majority, and when they speak 17% of the time they are preceived by men to be dominating the conversation—so I think it’s incredibly safe to say just stopping to think and maybe letting a woman or minority wargamer go first is not going to cause the breakdown of society. You’d have to try excessively over-the-top hard to actually make space for women and minority wargamers to dominate a conversation—ignoring the fact that women are way more conscious of taking up more than fair space in a conversation than men are, and will yield the floor out of politeness before it’s genuinely silencing men.

That feeling you have? Of tensing up slightly at the thought of being silenced, the scarcity and threat-mindset, the need to be heard? The unfairness of it? …women and minority wargamers feel that all the time when straight white men interupt us, talk over us, don’t invite us to be speakers at conferences, have all-male panels discussing obviously women/minority interest subjects, or complain that wargaming should not be about gender or sexual orientation or skin colour or disability. Newsflash for you straight white men: it already is about those things, you just don’t notice it because you’re in the favoured group and don’t experience the being sidelined, ignored, discounted, and told to shut up and act like straight white men or go somewhere else if you don’t like it. Have you ever had to deal with work e-mails responding to your research/paper/presentation that is not engaging with content at all but an attack on your personhood, intelligence, legitimacy, and right to exist in wargaming? Because I have, and other women and minority wargamers get that while straight white men get to Advance Straight To Go and only discuss the merits of their work.

Before you cry “This is woke nonsense, unfairly priviliging minorities!”

Just stop. Stop and think about the ugly ugly thought behind the knee-jerk reaction to efforts to increase women’s and minority representation: that they’re taking our opportunities and giving them to under-qualified, inexperienced people instead. Presuming that women and minority wargamers couldn’t possibly be equally—if not more—qualified and experienced than straight white men.

I have a First in rocket science. Yuna Wong has five degrees. Look at WATU: everybody loves to say WATU was Roberts’ brainchild, his genius—he never rose above Captain, WATU was the highlight of his career. Syed Ahsan, Number One at the Bombay Tactical Table, went on to head the Pakistan Navy and hold senior government positions. It’s the same dynamic as the Tuskegee Airmen: barriers to entry for minority folks select for exceptional participants. Until gender parity and proportionate representation of minority wargamers is universal, across the board, at every wargaming conference and event, and discriminatory behaviour is a thing of the past, there is literally no danger of diversity efforts privilidging underqualified minority wargamers at the expence of mediocre straight white men.

I’m down with this, what can I do?

Use inclusive language: it signals to women and minorities that the space is welcoming. Historically these spaces were not, and the omission of women and minorities are welcome in the invite was deliberate, so it’s not enough to have changed your mindset without changing the language you use too. @ManWhoHasItAll would not be such delicious satire if we didn’t all buy into gendered presumptions about so many things.

If you don’t say “anyone who identifies as a woman” then trans women will not know if you mean they are just as welcome. If you don’t even make the barest minimum effort of “Please get in touch if you have accessibility needs so we can make this work for everyone” then you’re sending a message to disabled wargamers that we’re not even interested in trying when, in fact, you have a legal (and moral) obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

Allow women and minorities the space to step up—hold back the stampeed of men, because men will apply and volunteer and show up even when you explicitly say this is an opportunity for women. Don’t allow men to fill up all the spaces before women and minorities have had the chance to beleive you really mean they’re welcome. It’s not enough to say you accepted submissions regardless of gender etc, you actually have to make an effort to ensure diversity.

Invite women and minority folks directly—don’t assume a general announcement or group e-mail will actually come across as, “Yes, you! Reading this now, I want you!” Approach them directly, personally. If you don’t know who to ask, ask other people to recommend women and minority wargamers you could ask. Six degrees of separation, people.

If you—straight white man—are invited as a speaker or audience member, ask the organisers: how many women and minority speakers do you have? Are they here as experts in their own right, or are you just using them to facilitate men? Refuse to participate in manels. Refuse to participate in all-white panels. Point them at women and minority wargamers you want to hear from instead. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

Make an effort to understand the experiences of women and minority wargamers. Develop your empathy muscles. It’ll make you a better wargamer, and improve wargaming culture for everyone.

Who do you want to include?

Look at your panel, and your event as a whole: who are your speakers? Are they all men, are they all white, are they all straight/cishet, are they all non-disabled? …do they all look like you, in other words.

Doesn’t seem like a thing to you, because all you see are people like you, and unconsciously that gives your brain a rush of I belong here vibes. For women and minority wargamers it’s sending a message of exclusion. If you’ve ever been the only white person in a room, or the only man in the room, or the only non-disabled person in the room, or the only straight person in the room, you’ll understand it’s not about hostile behaviour or the intention to exclude, but that it feels uncomfortable to you because you stick out like a sore thumb.

You need diversity in your organising committee to get buy-in from diverse speakers and a diverse audience.

It is an absolute delight to join Women’s Wargaming Network gatherings and see 50/50 white and non-white attendees—in large part because Yuna Wong’s visible presence as founder of the network signals to black and asian wargamers this is a place you are welcome and wanted and will be respected. That’s at least half-a-dozen not-white US wargamers you could look to instead of piling all your diversity hopes and dreams into “Yuna! Come fix us, diversity for us!” That’s a whole cohort of smart, capable, diverse wargamers you could actively raise up instead of ignoring in favour of the same old guys.

Straight white men: diversity does not happen by magic. It does not happen by good intentions alone. It happens by conscious and constant effort by you personally. You have so much power to set the tone and influence others by your behaviour—you are already doing it. The question is who do you want to include?


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

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 US (June 21 — 25) attendees. Originally conceived and organized by Scott Chambers, they were a highly successful feature of past face-to-face Connections conferences.

This year at Connections US (June 21 — 25) 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, wait for the spreadsheet to load), 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
(and wait for the spreadsheet to load!)

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.

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