PAXsims

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Tag Archives: diversity and inclusion

Davis: Wargaming has a diversity problem

At The Wavell Room, PAXsims associate editor Sally Davis argues that wargaming has a diversity problem. She gets straight to her point in the opening:

Wargaming has a diversity problem: 98% white and male.

I propose there are two ways that people engage with wargames:

1. To dominate, to win, to prove their mastery, to confirm what they already know.

2. To experience a new perspective, to learn, to grow, to embrace the unknown.

Playing for domination leads to misogynist and toxic behaviour towards women and minorities.  It leads to playing for indulgence rather than learning the meaningful lessons serious games can impart—which is bad for the outcomes of wargames, bad for the culture of wargaming, and bad for diversity and inclusion.  Wargaming is literally meant to teach us to be better.

We need to stop pretending that arguing against diversity and inclusion is anything more than the masturbatory indulgence of straight white men.

If your organization would like to indicate support for diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming, there are many things you can do—including lending your support to the Derby House Principles.

The Wargamer: Diversity in wargaming

At The Wargamer, Edward Desalle asks “is 2020 the year the tide turned in the struggle for diversity in wargames?

As with virtually every other hobby and industry, 2020 has been a disruptive year in wargaming, to say the least. Conventions have been cancelled, schedules altered, games delayed, time dilated. Perhaps the most lasting of this year’s legacies, however, will be that it has brought to the surface a conversation that the community has been putting off for decades: why has the hobby struggled so much with diversity and inclusion and how to fix it? 

If 2020 has shown anything, it is that while the hobby still has a lot of ground to cover in terms of making wargaming a truly welcoming place, there have been some very hopeful, concrete steps towards diversity, inclusion, and experimentation this year.

This should be an issue of paramount importance to all wargamers. If you would like to see wargaming become a robust, successful, thriving hobby then you should be deeply invested in ensuring that the community is one that welcomes and encourages diverse voices.

Speaking of the hobby, he notes:

We can also confidently say that the vast majority of designers and creators in the wargaming and historical board gaming space fit into this narrow demographic category as well. This should not come as too much of a surprise considering there have long been undercurrents of racism, eurocentrism, and antisemitism lingering in the dark corners of the hobby. Even today, wargame-oriented message boards, Facebook groups, and other online communities often remain dens of unrepentant reactionary toxicity, homophobia, and misogyny. Many games still traffic in ahistorical tropes or various species of Lost Cause-ism, while others ham-handedly fumble with issues that require nuance. 

However, he goes on to note signs of progress, including two initiatives that PAXsims has been involved in: the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming, and the Zenobia Award:

With that said, there have been a few very promising signs of improvement this year. Things are changing and it appears as though the community is coming to terms with some of the lingering issues around diversity and inclusion. 

Encouragingly, several publishers have signed on to the Derby House Principals. Named after the headquarters of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, a WWII-era team of naval wargamers staffed by women of the WRNS, the Derby House Principals is a statement of values that emphasize a commitment to promoting inclusion in wargaming and opposing bigotry in all forms.

While ostensibly directed at the world of professional gaming, several commercial publishers have signed on in support of the Principles, with some positive results so far. At the same time, following the events of this summer in the United States, other publishers have independently issued statements advocating for inclusion and diversity in the industry and wider community, including GMT GamesMulti-Man Publishing, and Hollandspiele

Others have chosen to stay silent and avoid the ire of complacent fans. Of course, words alone can only go so far, but such widespread acknowledgment of the problem is more progress than has seen in a decade.

Contestants can enter for the chance to receive a cash prize – $4000 for the first-place winner – from a panel of diverse judges from across the gaming community. But, more importantly, the award also offers critiques for contestants and mentorship for finalists, something that can help to break down a significant barrier for underrepresented groups trying to gain a toehold. 

With a bunch of publishing partners already signed on, this could be an excellent stepping stone to broadening the wargaming community, pushing genre boundaries, and telling new kinds of stories.

 You can read the full article at the link above.

Sadly, the reader comments on the piece suggest the hobby still has a way to go before it enters the 21st century: there are the usual suggestions that broadening the community somehow is “mandated control,” feel-good political correctness, or even “communist nonsense.” Sigh.

Zenobia Award: Underrepresented designers, underrepresented topics

The following announcement was written by  Dan Thurot. PAXsims is a proud supporter of the Zenobia Award.


History is big. So big that it belongs to everybody. Every individual, no matter their background or identity, connects to history in unique and important ways.

So why do historical board game designers seem to fit into the same mold? You know the type. White, male, straight, usually academic, often a part-time dabbler in spurious facial hair.

We’ve wondered the same thing. Which is why we’re pleased to announce the Zenobia Award, a board game design contest for underrepresented groups.

That could mean you! Whether you’re a woman, person of color, LGBTQ+, or otherwise underrepresented, the Zenobia Award is all about helping you break into the tabletop game industry. That can mean boards, cards, dice, tiles, miniatures—whatever your game requires, if it’s about a historical setting, we want to help your voice be heard.

How will we do that? Good question. The Zenobia Award is more than a fancy name. It’s a mentorship, intended to pair you with industry veterans who will help develop your game into its best form. It’s an entry point, with partner publishers standing by to discover the most interesting titles and help bring them to print. And it’s a contest, complete with a cash prize, public celebration, and genuine wooden trophy analog—that’s right, a plaque!

Is there a hitch? Nope. There’s no cost of entry, no obligation to list your mentor as a co-designer, and you keep the rights to your game—unless you sign a contract with a publisher, of course. That’s entirely up to you. Being a game designer, you know the importance of the little rules. So, take a look at the fine print over at www.zenobiaaward.org and welcome to the Zenobia Award. 

Sally Davis shortlisted for UK Civil Service Award

I am extremely pleased to report that PAXsim’s very own Sally Davis has been shortlisted for a UK Civil Service 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Award for her work on promoting diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

In addition to her work on the Derby House Principles, Sally has been tireless in highlighting the historical and ongoing contributions of women, visible minorities, LGBTQ persons, and others in the defence and national security. She has also encouraged an organization-wide discussion of how to make Dstl more inclusive, welcoming, and effective.

The winners of the 2020 UK Civil Service D&I Awards will be announced on December 4.

Derby House diversity in gaming pins

For those of you who may have seen colleagues wearing Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming pins and wondering how to get your own, here’s your chance! We are now selling them in lots of ten for £20 (UK) or USD$30 (rest of world).

Since quantities are limited, email me for further details. Upon payment, they will be dispatched to you through our global network of PAXsims order fulfilment warehouses.

The Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional (war)gaming can be found here.

Nusbacher Associates endorses the Derby House Principles

Nusbacher Associates has become the latest organization to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

Nusbacher Associates offers Devil’s Advocacy, sound horizon scanning, facilitation, and structured methods of making strategy.

Does your organization wish to support diversity and inclusion in serious games? Email us to find out about becoming a sponsor of the Derby House Principles.

Connections Global 2020 professional wargaming conference report

This past week was the first ever Connections Global conference—that is, the annual Connections US professional wargaming conference, but organized as a virtual, online event because of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The conference ran for five full days, and featured over fifty presentations, panels and keynotes (split between two virtual rooms), plus associated online gaming and social events. I don’t know how many people registered in total, but keynotes typically had in excess of two hundred participants. The event was cosponsored by CNA, which also provided technical expertise to make it all work.

From a technical point of view, I thought it went really well. Zoom proved easy to use and reliable. There were few hitches. I enjoyed the ability to listen to a speaker, ask questions (using the Q&A function) through the moderator, and have discussions with other participants via the text chat. I did find that if a presentation was less interesting to me, I tended to multitask, answering email or doing other work while semi-listening to the conference. Unlike previous conferences, moreover, I didn’t take detailed notes for this report–I was either too engaged with the presentation via questions or discussions, or doing something else in the background.

I found the social events were less effective, with the exception of the one meeting of the Women’s Wargaming Network I attended (having asked to attend, lest anyone think I was crashing their space).

This question of how well the conference format worked will be important for other conferences that are going virtual because of the pandemic, including Connections North in February 2021. I was very pleased. Some others I know, however, found it a little unengaging to watch a speaker via Zoom from the privacy of their own home. The organizers have asked attendees to complete a survey and we will see what that indicates. Attendees are also welcomed/encouraged to leave thoughts in the comments below.

Connections US is one of the cosponsors of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming. On the plus side the Principles were referred to frequently in presentations or discussions, badges and icons made appearances, and they were referred to in the rotating intermission slides. On the negative side, a little under 15% of the participants were female (by my rough count), and only 10% of the panelists and presenters were. Visible minorities were also underrepresented. Digital conferences, because of their ability to bring in speakers from anywhere in the world, ought to have an easier time being more inclusive. This point was brought up several times, and the organizers took it on board. I think we’ll see even greater efforts in this direction in future both here and elsewhere.

Although I attended the entire conference, the two-room format meant that I only saw and heard half the presentations. No one should feel slighted, therefore, if a pick a few personal favourites:

  • On Monday, I was especially impressed with the lively panel discission on building capacity in the university. In an earlier talk, ED McGrady also had some very interesting things to say about on adjudication.
  • On Tuesday, Graham Longley-Brown‘s talk about his practitioners guide to wargaming (which you can see here) covered a lot of fertile ground. Hank Brightman‘s presentation on Urban Outbreak 2019 and pandemic gaming was timely and useful.
  • On Wednesday,the keynote by Phil Sabin was outstanding, highlighting the ways in which many of wargaming challenges of today are rather different than the sorts of issues grappled with by the women and men of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit during WW2. Sawyer Judge‘s very articulate presentation on wargaming as an art and science won widespread plaudits. I actually disagree with some of what she argued: I’m not sure debating the art vs science is very useful, and instead think that wargaming should be thought of a humble methodological tool much the same as other research techniques in the social sciences. However, it it was a excellent example of a talk that stimulated a great deal of valuable discussion.
  • On Wednesday, Pete Pellegrino’s presentation on distributed gaming was excellent, to the point that I had colleagues discussing it in emails even before he had finished speaking. (He recorded it too.) He (and, the previous day, Sawyer) also set the standard for clear and effective presentations at the conference, so I am officially proposing the Pellegrino-Judge Unit (PJU) to be the official measure of visual, verbal and overall information clarity in PowerPoint wargaming presentations. It should be noted that PJU scores are not only inversely correlated with the amount of text and logos crammed on a slide but also the number of military acronyms. In any sort of global conference, 98% of the latter should be banned. Half of your fellow national services DKWTDASF (Don’t Know What The Damned Acronym Stands For), let alone your foreign or non-military colleagues. Those receiving low PJU scores are strongly recommended to go and watch this. Chad Briggs also had a number of insightful things to say about the design and execution of wargames during COVID-19.
  • On Friday, in addition to Tom Mouat’s pithy comments on AI and expensive new toys, I very much enjoyed Jeffrey Sugden’s presentation on course of action generation with machine learning and Andrew Reddie’s talk about the SIGNAL project on nuclear signalling, use, and escalation. I took part in “Connections international” panel discussion together with Matt Caffrey (Connections US) and Colin Marston (Connections UK). In addition to summarizing past and future Connections North events, I also updated everyone on the status of the Derby House Principles. However, I will address the latter in a future PAXsims post, since there is a lot going on.

There was a lot of other valuable material at the conference which I haven’t mentioned—this is just a list of my personal favourites from among the presentations I attended.

Overall, I think it was a very successful event. Kudos to the organizers, who adjusted well to the challenges of a once-in-a-century global pandemic and adapting the conference to the digital realm.

Mentioned in Dispatches: The Derby House Principles

This week, the Mentioned in Dispatches podcast at Armchair Dragoons is all about diversity and inclusion in wargaming and the intent behind the Derby House Principles.

There’s been many facets of public life that have been touched lately by discussions of diversity and representation in different spheres of public life, and gaming has been no different.  From the cancelation of Origins Online to the Twitter mob stalking designer Eric Lang to GAMA’s comms director quitting to the Diana Jones Awards at GenCon, there’s been a non-stop list of game-industry headlines all summer long.

Enter, The Derby House Principles, promoting diversity & inclusion in professional wargaming. Focused on the practitioner community that designs, executes, evaluates, and teaches the art & science of wargaming in the realms of defense & security policy, national defense, emergency preparedness, and the intelligence communities, the Derby House Principles have been endorsed by a wide array of government and government-adjacent organizations.

While the professional wargaming community is not our focus, it is still an area of interest for much of our audience.  Some of The Dragoons have worked in both the hobby and professional communities, and some professionals will look to hobby sites like us for information on the current practices of the hobby community, or creative approaches to wargaming events.

With that in mind, we reached out to some folks in the professional wargaming world who were well-positioned to discuss and describe not only their own experiences as under-represented minorities in professional wargaming, but also their thoughts on the operationalization of the Derby House Principles.  While neither were officially representing any agency or organization, both Yuna Wong and Sally Davis were have long resumes of experience in the professional wargaming world and their insights made for a fascinating podcast.  Rex Brynen also stops by at the start of the episode to discuss the genesis of the principles and their initial spread among the professional community.

This is a pretty long episode folks – well over an hour – but we didn’t want to cut the discussion short.

You can listen to it at the link at the top. Our thanks go out to Brant Guillory for recording and facilitating the discussion, and his strong support for a more diverse and inclusive hobby and profession.

derbyHouse

CNA endorses the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion

We are very pleased to announce that CNA—one of the world’s leading centers of wargame design and practice—is the latest organization to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

CNA President and CEO Katherine McGrady writes:

CNA is committed to building and sustaining a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment. We believe that employees with differing​ frames of reference and ranges of life experiences bring an energy and unique advantage that is essential to delivering on our mission.

At CNA, we believe diversity reflects the world in which we live. Inclusivity creates a dynamic work environment that fosters trust, innovation, and excellence, while providing an atmosphere where every employee feels respected, motivated, and empowered to perform at peak level.

We recognize that wargames benefit from a diverse range of participants, designers, developers, and analysts. Since the best wargames reveal the unexpected, they are always enriched by a diversity of viewpoints.We pledge to carry these values forward in the wargames we execute, consistent with the Derby House Principles.

If your organization would like to be listed as a supporter of the Derby House Principles, email us.

Australian Defence Force Wargaming Association endorses the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion

We’re pleased to announced that the Australian Defence Force Wargaming Association is the latest group to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming, noting that “giving everyone a ‘fair go’ is an integral part of Australian culture, but in challenging times this idea needs champions.”

For more about ADFWGA, see this recent article by Major David Hill or visit their website at the link above.

The need for diversity in wargaming

The following piece was written for PAXsims by Brandon Valeriano. Dr. Valeriano (PhD Vanderbilt University) is the Bren Chair of Military Innovation at the Marine Corps University. He also serves as Senior Advisor for the Cyber Solarium Commission and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. 

PAXsims is a proud cosponsor of the Derby House Principles, and this post is part of an ongoing discussion we hope to encourage on diversity and inclusion in wargaming. If you have something to contribute, get in touch!


My father was a proud Latino. I remember quite early on that I found an old button of his that had the phrase “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” It was from Blazing Saddles, a famous scene where the villain gathers up all the scum of the area to harass a local town, including the KKK. The Latinos took their place in line and rejected a need for law enforcement badges.  (The original quote is “we don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you no stinking badges!” from the Treasure of Sierra Madre

My father explained that ownership of the phrase was a statement of pride, a statement of identify, and a statement of action. While the Latino community is often vilified, they more commonly known as industrious, innovative, and dedicated. The Black community in many ways has similar traits, pride, individuality, and drive. Overcoming negative stereotypes often is more about identifying with the positive rather than focusing on the negatives, therefore, “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges” became a statement of action and identity.  

We need action and awareness of identity issues now more than ever. The recent wave of protests over the death of George Floyd has unleashed an enormous amount of questioning and activism in all communities, and the wargaming community is no different. 

Statements of purpose are important, but action is more critical.  We can do no less because inclusive diversity is critical in the process of developing, testing, and engaging in wargames as a discipline. Perla famously applied the phrase, BOGSAT, “bunch of guys sitting around a table” to wargames. We should revise that statement to BOWGSAT, bunch of white guys sitting around a table. It is critical that wargames engage diverse populations because there should be an accurate reflection of reality in our games and because diversity is associated with better solutions to problems. 

If the purpose of wargames is to engage communities of interest, these communities need to reflect the diversity that is inherent in our political systems. The US military is an incredibly diverse body at the topline (although there are many problems with diversity and promotion). Understanding the application of strategy and tactics is imperative. If those that design, participate, and assess wargames are only from certain ethnic or gendered populations, much knowledge is lost. The process of communication and dissemination of the lessons from wargames requires diverse participation from all groups.  

Even more critical than representation is the need to include diverse populations in wargames because they increasingly are demonstrated to produce better outcomes. Diverse teams are required to solve problems because the groupthink is endemic to the wargaming community. We need people who will think outside the box, who will bring in new and innovative ideas, and who will seek to make the red team experience more real through a difference in play style. 

The goal should be to diversify the wargaming community through example and inclusion. I was literally pulled into the wargame community by hook and crook by my friend and co-author Ben Jensen. He has been working on wargames for over a decade at this point and rarely writes on the subject, preferring to just put things into action. We devised a wargame (or simulation) on national security decision making that has led our team to open new pathways in the field examining escalation pathways through technological innovation

We also helped devise the wargame the Cyberspace Solarium Commission used to evaluate its proposals, along with Nina Kollars and Erica Borghard. Our colleague and friend, Jacquelyn Schneider, devised the wargame that was used to kick off the Solarium Commission

The Krulak Center, my place of work, is incredibly diverse. Our current Director and Deputy Director are female, one is Black. Our incoming deputy director is Latino. Our key point person for wargames with Futures Command was a Latino Major who is now off working on his PhD. Many of our wargaming efforts are led by an Asian American former soldier and now academic. We have put diversity into action and are reaping the rewards. 

There has been a great amount of progress in the field of wargaming lately. With interest from Senior officials like former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and the current Marine Corps Commandant, initiatives are coming from the top that seek to transform the field.  Yet, we cannot become complacent and fall into the trap of performative diversity. Diversity must be put in action in a real concentrated way to have an impact on outcomes.

Every organization must ask themselves, what are they doing to promote diversity. Awareness is not enough; we need to move beyond simple token statements or “badges” of good feeling and produce action. How diverse is your organization? How diverse are those playing your game? Did you think about a diversity of perspectives and experiences in developing your game? 

Understanding the purpose and need for diversity is critical in our new era of awakening. While this movement was a long time coming, it is now time to put into practice what we have known academically for a long time. Diversity increases outcomes and it provides innovation though differences in thought. Every organization would be better served by recognizing the utility of listening to diverse voices and engaging the differences in perspective that produce enhanced outcomes. We have more than a moral obligation, we have a service obligation to promote solutions to the challenges facing our world through breaking the mold and seeking to value diversity. 

Brandon Valeriano

Defence Academy of the UK calls for diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming

The Defence Academy of the United Kingdom is the latest sponsor of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

The Defence Academy is part of the Ministry of Defence. Our purpose is to develop the intellectual edge needed for success on operations and leadership in government. We deliver courses designed to unlock the cognitive skills of our students to expand their intellectual horizons and capacity. Our portfolio of long and short courses covers leadership, strategy, science and technology, and business skills.

Welcome aboard!

RAND Center for Gaming supports the Derby House Principles

We are very happy to announce that the RAND Center for Gaming is the latest group of serious gamers to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

The Center for Gaming promotes the use of games in research to improve decision-making across a wide range of policy areas. The Center supports the innovative application of gaming, the development of new gaming tools and techniques, and the evolution of existing forms and methods.

The RAND Centre for Gaming is not only a world leader in the development of serious games, but has also done much to support women and other underrepresented groups in professional wargaming.

If your organization would like more information on the Derby House Principles or would like to endorse them, email us here at PAXsims.

Nuts! Publishing endorses the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in wargaming

We’re happy to announce that Nuts! Publishing is the latest gaming company or organization to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

On a personal note, I’m especially happy to welcome Nuts! on board. I use their games (notably Urban Operations) in teaching wargame design. Moreover, they will be publishing We Are Coming Nineveh!, a game exploring the liberation of Mosul from ISIS control in 2017.

I am one of the codesigners of WACN, along with Juliette Le Ménahèze, Harrison Brewer and Brian Train. It was Juliette who first launched the project and drove it forward. Florent Coupeau at Nuts! has been really supportive and encouraging of her efforts as a new, female wargame designer. The Serious Games Network – France, another Derby House Principles signatory, has also been very encouraging to her.

Finally, for those who are wondering: while the pandemic has slowed down the publication schedule, WACN is still on track to be published next year.

UK Fight Club endorses the Derby House Principles

UK Fight Club is the latest organization to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

If your organization would like to join us too, email us.

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