As you keep a wary eye out for Easter bunnies and killer rabbits this weekend, here are some recent items on conflict simulations and serious games that may be of interest to PAXsims readers.
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At the Wargaming Connection blog, Paul Vebber has been discussing the development of the Fleet Power Project, a prototype operational naval game currently in beta testing. The project is sponsored by the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, the Navy Warfare Development Command and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center:
Over the next few weeks, I will discuss the development of FBS as we move from the Beta phase to a final product. That product is not a “game” in the shrink wrap sense, but a “toolbox” of related game systems that can be used at various scales (e.g. 24nm, 32nm or 48nm per hex and “Game Days” divided into 8, 6, or 4 operations phases.)
There are provisions for “open” face-to-face play or “closed” umpired play, and 2 main levels of complexity: a “basic” level for scenarios 3-4 days in length, that leaves out many of the complications of logistics and “friction”, and keeps the “chrome” of column shifts and player decisions to a minimum; and an “advanced” level that can theoretical be used for games of a month or more, but is best for about 2 weeks (where higher operational-strategic decision-making issues become significant).
This adaptability is meant to demonstrate the advantages of a manual game over “black box” computer simulations and allow an analyst or educator to tailor the “playability vs detail” to best achieve the objectives desired. The underlying tables for generating “situational awareness” in an area of interest (a radius around an “OpArea” marker), determining if an encounter occurs when units are in proximity to each other, and then resolving engagements that result are set up as a set of linked excel spreadsheets. The hex scale, certain assumptions about how effective units are at the subtasks underlying the “SA, Encounter, Engagement” model, and what the “steps” are between the various “CL’s”[capability levels] are can be entered as inputs, and the various tables will update themselves.
He also notes:
Fleet Battle School is an operational level game depicting naval operations in the maritime domain. The purpose of the game is to provide a “sandbox” for the exploration of the relationships between naval capabilities, information, and decision-making.
Central to these relationships is an understanding of how the components that make up a Fleet’s combat power can be orchestrated to seize and hold initiative, then exploit it to achieve operational objectives that enable accomplishment of strategic goals.
The game is played at the “high tactical/low operational” meaning you are worried about “major muscle movements” of your forces – where to establish operating areas to patrol or strike from, and when and how you move between them. Unlike “low tactical level” games like Harpoon, where you “drive individual ships around” so as to unmask particular weapons systems, and make specific “Tactical Action Officer” weapons system employment decisions’ in the Fleet Power game system your role is the “Task Force Commander” with a variety of air, surface, subsurface and other assets under your control. You can get out your “1,000 mile screwdriver” and try to get in the cockpit, but the more you do that, the more you compromise your understanding of the “big picture” and making it harder to maintain situational awareness (SA) in your current OpAreas – and contribute to increasing the degree of “friction” within and between your units.
See his posts on the topic so far:
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At GrogHeads, CarrieLynn Reinhard and Brant Guillory offer some insight into “Experiences of Hobby Game Players: Motivations Behind Playing Digital and Non-Digital Games,” based on a survey of game players.
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The TIDES (Transformative Innovation for Development & Emergency Support) website contains a lengthy account by Amy Gorman of last month’s American Red Cross Global Refugee Simulation and Conference:
This six hour simulation did not completely immerse you into the life of a refugee; the traveling would be longer, the rebels scarier, the threats more tangible, the loss more real, and the future less known. However, it created moments where the participants felt glimpses of the same emotions and concerns that I would imagine a refugee would. It also took us through the steps of a refugee from fleeing to crossing the border to the immersion into refugee camp life. It gave us all an opportunity to gain understanding, respect and empathize more with the people who go through similar situations. It’s one thing to look at refugees from the comfort of a developed nation. It’s something else to be one.
You’ll also find a summary of the event by the American Red Cross here.
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BBC News reports on a recent study that finds that aggression among video game players may be shaped not just by game content, but even more so by the game interface:
Feelings of aggression after playing video games are more likely to be linked to gameplay mechanics rather than violent content, a study suggests.
Researchers carried out a range of tests, including making a non-violent version of popular game Half-Life 2.
Games modified to have counter-intuitive, frustrating controls – leading to feelings of incompetence – produced more aggressive reactions.
The study from the University of Oxford, however, believed it was the first to look at the impact gameplay mechanics had on aggression.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The research sought to establish whether it was violence in games which made players feel more aggressive, or a combination of other factors.
Six separate studies were carried out.
One of them involved modifying Half-Life 2 – a critically-acclaimed, but graphic, shooting title.
The researchers created a modified version in which rather than violently removing enemies, the player would instead “tag” foes who would then evaporate.
This version was tested alongside the normal, violent version.
However, only some of the gamers were given a tutorial before playing the game so they could familiarise themselves with the controls and game mechanics.
The researchers found that it was the players who had not had the tutorial who felt less competent and more aggressive, rather than people who had played the more violent version of the game.
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BBC News also reported back in January that China has introduced a new video game aimed at corruption:
A computer game launched in China encourages players to zap corrupt officials with an electric prod, it appears.
The game appears on the Chinese People’s Daily website – the official news outlet of China’s Communist Party, and is based on the same idea as Whac-A-Mole, the popular 1970s arcade game.
“Everyone has a responsibility to fight corruption and embezzlement!” the game declares. When the action begins, a range of authority figures poke their heads out of one of eight prison cells, and the player has to give them a jolt from their mouse-controlled taser.
Their sins range from greed (an official with a bag of cash) to lust (a drooling bureaucrat in a pink suit). Gamers lose points if they hit virtuous police officers by mistake, however.
It isn’t the first game of its kind. Another, entitled “Incorruptible Fighter”was launched by the Chinese government some seven years ago.
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The University of Roehampton has introduced an online game to help promote its Masters in Public Health programme:
This interactive simulation depicts the aftermath of a major natural disaster and its potentially catastrophic impact on public health. With buildings and infrastructure destroyed in the earthquake, the 30,000 residents of the capital, Lake City, are living in a temporary tent camp by the river. The disease has already claimed its first victims, but nobody can pinpoint the cause of the outbreak.
Although fictitious, Save Manresa depicts a potential scenario you could face when working in the field of public health and shows how people from a diverse range of backgrounds can work together to combat public health issues.
Are you ready for the challenge?
Put yourself in the drivers seat and help us stop the outbreak in Manresa. Use your skills and understanding to help improve the lives of others. You’ll gain a glimpse into a career in public health – and how you could make a difference in resolving health problems in your community, regardless of your background or experience.
You don’t need any previous knowledge of health issues — your success will be based on your knowledge, reasoning, and sense of judgment. Just choose your team. Decide what actions to take and when. And make the right choices to identify the disease and stop it from spreading. But be quick. The lives of thousands of Manresans are in your hands!
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Michael Peck interviews Sid Meier, designer of the highly successful Civilization series of computer games, at Foreign Policy magazine.
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UPDATE: Oops, I almost forgot to mention the latest edition (#20) of the Guns, Dice, and Butter podcast.
0:00 Episode Intro and Preview
0:13 Conversation with Phil Eklund, designer of High Frontier, Pax Porfiriana and 28 other games covering the human (and pre-human) experience.
1:22 War by Other Means: Panel discussion with Jim Doughan, Mark Herman and Brian Train regarding the other “7 M’s” of warcraft—besides the 3 traditional “M’s” of combat – machetes (irregular), machine guns (conventional) and missles(strategic)—that support the BIG “M” (morale) in making and waging war: message (casus belli – manufacturing it and maintaining it) , media, money, mercenaries (mercs/brownshirts/proxies/little green men), mayhem (attacks on opponents fabric of society), Mi5/Mi6 (spycraft) and Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich (Clausewitz’s “have a good pen” – diplomacy – internal/external).
2:12 Conversation with Brian Train, regarding his recent DTP design on the Ukrainian Crisis and other bits and bobs
2:36 Wrap up: What’s on my wargaming plate (using wargames in school), Eklund’s “Nature bats last”, B.H.Liddell Hart’s “Lenin had a vision of fundamental truth when he said the soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the delivery of the mortal blow both possible and easy.”, shout-outs and what not.
Brian’s comments include the story of how he and I first met three decades ago, and then how we re-met via Small Wars Journal. While he recounts our epic micro-armour battles at the UVic Wargaming Club in the early 1980s, he somehow fails to mention our nostalgia game in Montréal last year, the infamous Battle of Namgang (aka “The Battle of the Cauldron of Death”)…