Thursday, 28 June 2012

Wargaming

I'm at best an enthusiast when it comes to wargaming. I'd say enthusiastic amatuer, but having only been involved in a couple of wargames (business context only) in my career I can't reasonably claim that. However, I did discover an article on the topic which I thought well worth sharing, as it provides an excellent overview of the topic and prompts for further thought. The Art of Wargaming by Benjamin Wintersteen provides the reader with superb insight into a complex and valuable topic. From the article:
All games have three things in common.


First, they are interactive. The player does something and then something changes based on those choices.

Second, they are social. You may think Solitaire isn’t, but ask yourself how much you must learn from others just to play it.

Third, they seek to be immersive. Immersion into virtual worlds is a lot easier when accompanied by high-tech neuro-interface equipment and reactive controls. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the fast-twitch vehicle available, so we refer to more imaginative, and less declarative, means of creating alternate realities within which people function. 
 and further (my emphasis):
Historically, war gaming has had two meanings.  First, it means any game that involves combat, the threat of combat, or the concept of combat.  Examples of each include Gears of War, Diplomacy, and Epidemic, respectively.  Most war games follow this definition, especially those marketed to the general public. These games are meant to take the aspects of war and bring them home in a digestible, exciting, and ultimately disposable way.

The second definition, however, is the one applicable to real world scenarios.  This applies to scenario-based situational decision-making in a structured environment without using live troops.   The intent is to train, educate, or perform research using human beings as key elements of within decision-making and strategic thinking. To put it in another way, it’s presenting players with situations to either show them what to do, or see what they do and analyze it. 

Understanding this second definition is where the military derives the greatest benefit. A player fully immersed in a simulation begins to think differently than one being asked questions about their job or sitting in a classroom. They perceive other players differently as well, and will take actions based on a personal, individual investment in the outcome.
 I actually think that Benjamin limits himself artificially here, since these are exactly the types of things which business could learn from proper scenario planning and wargaming.

I'll write some more thoughts on this topic soon, as it's something I want to spend a bit more time on. However, for now, go and read the article and see what you think.
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