Papers on Game Design and Analysis

In addition to designing and executing tabletop exercises, CASL has the opportunity to reflect and write on lessons learned from them. As a university based center, we are well positioned to promote a diverse research agenda to do with strategic simulation exercises. To date, our scholars’ interests encompass three main strains, addressing: methodologies for game design and analysis, exercises as experiential learning tools, and policy analytical lessons learned.

This page describes and provides citations or links to publications by or interviews with CASL staff on lessons learned, both about the social science of exercise design and those drawn from particular exercises.

Designing Exercises for Policy Analysis

Although war games, pol-mil exercises, table top simulations, free form games, and others of the style that could be called “qualitatively specified exercises” have a long history in international and security policy analysis, there has been much less work on how to design these exercises and what kinds of analyses can be done, given those design choices. CASL has an evolving line of research in this vein:

McCown, Margaret (2010) “The Social Sciences and Innovation in Strategic Gaming”. Joint Force Quarterly, 58:2.
McCown, Margaret (2010) “Analyzing Global Strategic Challenges: Wargaming the Flu”. Joint Force Quarterly, 56:1.
McCown, Margaret (2009) “Designing Exercises for Teaching and Analysis” Joint Force Quarterly, 55:4.
McCown, Margaret (2009) “Gaming the 21st Century: What to Game?” Joint Force Quarterly, 54:3.
McCown, Margaret (2009) “Wargaming the 21st Century” Joint Force Quarterly, 52: 1.
McCown, Margaret (2005). ‘Strategic Gaming for the National Security Community.’ Joint Force Quarterly. 39: 34-39.

Teaching With Exercises

Exercises can be powerful teaching tools, promoting experiential learning. The use of simulations is widespread, with a particularly heavy presence in U.S. military graduate education. CASL scholars have a long term interest in the ways in which teaching and learning are enhanced by the use of exercises.

Sylvia Babus, Kathryn Hodges, Erik Kjonnerod (1997). “Simulations and Institutional Change: Training US Government Professionals for Improved Management of Complex Emergencies Abroad” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management.  5: 231-40.

Studying Strategic Problems With Games

Simulation exercises can offer interesting insights into specific policy problems. They are particularly effective tools for gathering and aggregating expert knowledge and at concept validation – helping us to decide whether we actually characterize and understand problems accurately. While they may not offer definitive policy solutions, they can be effective means of “thinking problems through” and helping us to identify the most important factors that policy solutions must target and the dynamic interactions of those factors. Although most CASL exercises are conducted under NDU’s not for attribution policy, which prevents us from specifically identifying participants or attributing statements to them, we have occasional papers that synthesize observations and findings from individual or, better, series of exercises, into useful analyses.

South Asia:
Chris Robinson, Steven Tomisek and Ken Kligge (2009), “Perspectives from Fragile Crescent: A South Asia Crisis Simulation.INSS Proceedings.

Pandemic Flu
CASL and Strategic Policy Integration worked intensively on pandemic influenza in 2006-2008, researching designing and executing games that addressed strategic level factors shaping state, federal and international responses to this public health threat. One exercise, a summer 2008 bilateral U.S. – Mexico simulation, Partnered Response, became particularly timely in early 2009. An Inside Defense article highlights the lessons learned from that particular game:
“DOD Mexican Officials Considered Military Role in Pandemic Outbreak” Inside Defense, Vol.25 No.1
And, as background, we provide the “participant’s guide” that was written for that exercise.

CASL staff also serve as subject matter experts, producing scholarly writing in peer refereed journals, book chapters and monographs on specific subjects. Links to this work can often be found on individuals’ web pages or the INSS main site.