Can Gaming Improve Strategic Military Planning?

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We know the benefits of gaming for the average player, like how it improves logical thinking and increases one’s ability to learn. However, games like Diplomacy and Risk! also encourage strategic planning and it turns out Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) has used a similar game in that exact way.

In late 2014, DRDC tried out a game meant to help demonstrate various aspects of certain strategies called ISIS Crisis in order to see how these types of games influence the knowledge of the players of various factors that go into a single scenario. To simplify it, ISIS Crisis can be used to demonstrate and increase understanding of the complexity of many world conflicts, which have numerous factors that need to be addressed rather than a single solution. DRDC then  released a report on their findings.

Built by McGill University, ISIS Crisis was designed using aspects of the current (end of 2014) conditions in the Middle East crisis involving ISIS. As Professor Rex Brynen, who helped develop ISIS Crisis, notes on his blog, the game wasn’t meant to strategize an actual attack on ISIS, it “just happened to be the scenario/game that was used to explore the methodology.”

The game divides players into one of six factions: ISIS, the Iraqi Government, the Sunni Opposition, the Kurdish Regional Government, the Islamic Republic, and the United States. Game play is fairly simple, each faction decides on an action they’d like to take on the board as they move towards their ultimate goal and states their reasoning for that move. Other factions then have the opportunity to present a counter-argument. Then the game moderator makes a decision by rolling a die. This continues until the game ends.

They used this particular matrix game to demonstrate how various aspects of a scenario impact the outcome. For example, the study measured how participants understood the impact of cultural, social, and political dimensions on the outcome of a single scenario. ISIS Crisis “was observed to be a useful platform for introducing some of the region’s complexities to the assembled players.” As they go on to prove, gaming can have an impact on real world events.

Ultimately, the DRDC found that the use of ISIS Crisis “would seem to have similar promise if this methodology were to be applied to one or more of Canada’s defense planning scenarios.” Many participants came away knowing more about the economic, social, political, military, information, infrastructure and cultural dimensions of the scenario after playing the game.

The goal of this type of game play is to generate new issues and questions concerning the given conflict, leading to better understanding of real life scenarios, which is exactly what’s happening, according to Rex Brynen, a professor at McGill University.

Brynen is an editor of a blog called PAXsims dedicated to “the development and effective use of games and simulation-based learning concerning issues of conflict, peacebuilding, and development in fragile and conflict-affected states, as well as to the policy application of gaming and simulation techniques.”

We live is a world of very complex conflicts, and if gaming can help us all understand the complexities of various issues as we work towards solutions, isn’t that worth trying?

How are you using games to improve your reasoning and expand your viewpoint? Let us know in the comments!

All Images Credit:  PAXsims

H/T: Vice

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