Tag Archives: sims

Howard Raiffa, a Father of Decision Science

Leadership and diplomacy involve making decisions at various levels.

Founder of the Kennedy School of Government. Negotiation expert. Decision science scholar.

You may not have heard about Howard Raiffa, but he is considered a foundational scholar, leader, and teacher who made decision theory and negotiation accessible and important to the organizational practitioner. He is also a key figure in the development of games and simulations to teach key concepts and to apply them in practice.

His first book, Games and Decisions (1957) introduced game theory. Other notable publications include The Art and Science of Negotiation (1982), Smart Choices (1998), and Negotiation Analysis (2003).

The best practical advice, Professor Raiffa wrote, is “to maximize your expected payoff, which is the sum of all payoffs multiplied by probabilities.” He explained that “the art of compromise centers on the willingness to give up something in order to get something else in return.”“Successful artists,” he added, “get more than they give up.”

Source: Howard Raiffa, Mathematician Who Studied Decision Making, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

Tagged , , ,

Neil Irwin on Campaigns as Simulations

Hiring used to be done by interviews, but technology firms and economic research have shown this to be an ineffective means for selecting people. So could the presidential political campaign–ups, downs, good and ugly–be the perfect sim for selecting a president?

Perhaps the ideal scenario would be to put Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders through a simulation in which they must jump between persuading a member of Congress to vote for a highway bill and conducting an arms control negotiation.

That won’t happen anytime soon. But in a weird way, we might be seeing a version of exactly that simulation.

What are the qualities it takes to be a successful president? He or she needs to be good at hiring and trusting the right people; making constant big decisions with limited information and often while exhausted; setting the right big picture strategy; and knowing when to stick with it as circumstances change and when to make tactical adjustments.

If you look at it that way, running a presidential campaign starts to look like exactly the kind of simulation of being president that our search committee needs to pick a president!

Source: Campaigns Are Long, Expensive and Chaotic. Maybe That’s a Good Thing. – The New York Times

Tagged ,

What’s to Gain from Gaming World History?

What if you could mix world history into a competetive strategy game where you control a civilization–and match it up against others, both real and imagined?  What if the game could be used to teach diplomacy and negotiation?

Sid Meier has done this, as have others.  To explain, Foreign Policy asked him to delve a little deeper and explain why, exactly, this game works:

FP: So what is the secret of Civ’s longevity?

SM: I think there is a combination of these grand ideas — war and peace, exploration, 6,000 years of history, great leaders — in a playable format. You can easily make a game with these elements that is unplayable or overwhelming. What we’ve tried to do is introduce these elements in a playable, manageable way, so that you as the player can master and experiment with them. Combining these things is the power of Civ.

via You Must First Invent the Universe.

Tagged , ,

What Does War Gaming for Peace Look Like in Syria?

You can watch the Syrian war as a simulation or follow it at #peacegame, thanks to the US Institute for Peace’s December 2013 exercise. 

PeaceGame sought to highlight the interests and roles of groups whose voices are frequently lost in often insular Washington policy discussions. Though they wont be in Geneva, Salafi militants, represented at todays event by Mona Yacoubian, senior advisor at the Stimson Center, did everything could to derail an agreement to end the war. USIP Associate Vice President Manal Omar spoke for Syrian civil society, and though they may not be at the negotiating table, Omar gamed out how they might implement — or not — a potential peace deal.And how far does Bashar al-Assad think he can push his luck? Will he compromise if Russia drops its support? Former Ambassador Ted Kattouf and Syrian National Council member Murhaf Jouejati, who represented the Assad regime, didnt think so. Hell hold out until his support from Iran, Hezbollah, and Syrias domestic Alawite community starts to slip, they suggested.

via What Does War Gaming for Peace Look Like?.


Tagged ,

A Simulation on Using Social Media to shape Syria

How social media can influence the #syrianconflict

You understand the value of simulations but want to do something to help.  Like in Syria.  Take a look at this partnership program between the non-governmental organization oneblue.org, a group that develops strategies to transform conflict and Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution program in the Department of Government.

The sim will explore intergroup conflict–similar to a present day Cuban Missile Crisis only its happening right now–by considering American/Russian, Sunni/Shiite, and Arab/Israeli tensions and how they directly shape the Syrian conflict.

Also, a Q&A will be hled with Ahmad Beetar of Aleppo, Syria and Oneblue’s community solutions program fellow.

See the program at OneBlue and follow it on Twitter at #syrianconflict


Tagged , ,

Allan Calhamer, Inventor Diplomacy Board Game, Dies at 81 – NYTimes.com

Remembering the creator of a game that inspired all types of diplomatic maneuvers, launched a hobby industry, and passed many long hours with intense negotiations:

Over the years, Diplomacy — “Dip” to its most fervent adherents — has inspired a welter of fanzines, international tournaments and, most recently, online competitions.

Diplomacy plays out on a map of pre-World War I Europe, with each player — it is ideally suited to seven — representing one of the Great Powers of the age: England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey.

The game ends when a player wins by capturing 18 of the board’s 34 strategic “supply centers,” or when all players still standing agree that they are simply too bleary-eyed and cranky to continue.

Unlike many board games, Diplomacy leaves nothing to chance: there are no dice to roll (as in the comparable board game Risk, which relies on armies to conquer the world), no cards to shuffle (ditto), no pointers to spin. Instead it relies on strategy, cunning and above all verbal prowess.

In each of the game’s compulsory negotiation periods, which involve whispering furtively in corners while simultaneously routing eavesdroppers, players in weaker positions band together against those in stronger ones.

What emerges from these sessions, which govern the moves on the board, is a world of quicksilver alliances: joint military campaigns are planned; deals are made, then abrogated, and new agreements arise to take their place. Foe is friend and friend is foe, and it is seldom possible to tell the two apart.

In short, Diplomacy rewards all manner of mendacity: spying, lying, bribery, rumor mongering, psychological manipulation, outright intimidation, betrayal, vengeance and backstabbing (the use of actual cutlery is discouraged).

It also rewards staying power. A typical game lasts at least six hours, and 16-hour games are far from unknown. In Diplomacy-by-mail, a version for far-flung players first popularized in the early 1960s, a single game can unspool over years.

via Allan Calhamer, Inventor Diplomacy Board Game, Dies at 81 – NYTimes.com.


The Brilliance of Dwarf Fortress – NYTimes.com

A notable videogame sim featured in the MOMA exhibit “Talk to Me” that addresses communication between people and objects:

At bottom, Dwarf Fortress mounts an argument about play. Many video games mimic the look and structure of films: there’s a story line, more or less fixed, that progresses­ only when you complete required tasks. This can make for gripping fun, but also the constrictive sense that you are a mouse in a tricked-out maze, chasing chunks of cheese. Tarn envisions Dwarf Fortress, by contrast, as an open-ended “story generator.” He and Zach grew up playing computer games with notebooks in hand, drawing their own renditions of the randomly generated creatures they encountered and logging their journeys in detail. Dwarf Fortress, which never unfolds the same way twice, takes that spirit of supple, fully engaged play to the extreme.

Tarn sees his work in stridently ethical terms. He calls games like Angry Birds or Bejeweled, which ensnare players in addictive loops of frustration and gratification under the pretense that skill is required to win, “abusive” — a common diagnosis among those who get hooked on the games, but a surprising one from a game designer, ostensibly charged with doing the hooking. “Many popular games tap into something in a person that is compulsive, like hoarding,” he said, “the need to make progress with points or collect things. You sit there saying yeah-yeah-yeah and then you wake up and say, What the hell was I doing? You can call that kind of game fun, but only if you call compulsive gambling fun.” He added: “I used to value the ability to turn the user into your slave. I don’t anymore.”

via The Brilliance of Dwarf Fortress – NYTimes.com.


A Society of Simulations « NextNature.net

Bear with me as this discussion of sims may be a bit ethereal, but I stumbled across this fascinating website–including this discussion by Koert Van Mensvoort on the visual representations of society.  The deeper implications for running policy simulations are worth pondering–including the critique, that they are “just a game.”

Most people would denounce spending too much time in virtual worlds, but which world should be called virtual then? Simply defining the virtual as opposite to physical is perhaps too simple. The word ‘virtual’ has different meanings that are often entangled and used without further consideration. Sometimes we use the word virtual to mean ‘almost real,’ while at other times we mean ‘imaginary’. This disparity in meaning is almost never justified: fantasy and second rank realities are intertwined. It would be naïve to think simulations are limited to video games, professional industrial or military applications. In a sense, all reality is virtual; it is constructed through our cognition and sensory organs. Reality is not so much ‘out there’, rather it is what we pragmatically consider to be ‘out there’. Our brain is able to subtly construct ‘reality’ by combining and comparing sensory perceptions with what we expect and already know (Dennett, 1991; Gregory, 1998; Hoffman, 1998; IJsselsteijn, 2002).

Even the ancient Greeks talked about the phenomenon of simulation. In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato describes human beings as being chained in a cave and watching shadows on the wall, without realizing that they are ‘only’ representations of what goes on behind them – outside of the scope of their sensory perception. In Plato’s teaching, an object such as a chair, is just a shadow of the idea Chair. The physically experienced chair we sit on is thus always a copy, a simulation, of the idea Chair and always one step away from reality.

via A Society of Simulations « NextNature.net.


The Uses (and Abuses) of “Gamification”

The idea that using the logic of gaming for purposes other than entertainment provides an interesting twist on simulations–which are readily accepted as useful for national security (drones, combat, leadership), training, or in learning other complex activities such as negotiation.  (Also, I think we’ve added a new word to the lexicon.)

Gamification is naturally suspect if it is used by corporations, terrorist organizations or others with the intention of potentially causing harm — whether to push the sales of useless products and services like subprime mortgages, or to lure recruits into suicide missions. Even if the goals of gamification are exemplary, however, does gamification merely gloss over real problems that require real answers? For example, does awarding participants points and using other incentives through the HopeLab program significantly impact the root causes of teen obesity in low-income neighborhoods, such as the lack of access to, and the high price of, fresh fruits and vegetables? By gamifying the problem, “youre spreading butter over toast so it tastes better, but it doesnt solve the problem,” Georgia Techs Bogost pointed out.

via Can Gamification Advance to the Next Level? – Knowledge@Wharton.


Classroom Games via CHR.org

How board games teach problem-solving, cultural dimensions,

Q. What purpose do games serve in your classroom? A. I use games to engage critical thinking and to engage sense-making and problem-solving skills. We want to educate the next generation of intelligence analysts, and we believe those skills—being able to see connections between things that are not obvious—are critical. You get better at that by practicing, and games do that.

Q. How do you pick the games? A. I pick games with specific teaching aims in mind. For example, the ancient Oriental game called “Go.” What I use it for is to talk about the cultural aspects of intelligence analysis: If this game has been popular in a culture for a long time, can it speak in any way about that culture itself? Causing people to think in a different way about culture and the impact of culture on decision making leads to a very rich conversation in the classroom.

via A Professor Uses Games to Teach Strategic Intelligence – Teaching – The Chronicle of Higher Education.