Hi I am Nicole Clements, I am in the second year at Westminster University, studying International Relations with Chinese. I am taking the Political Simulation and Gaming module this semester.
Hi to all in the lecture/seminar. I have come up with a starting idea for a game and if anyone likes the sound of it and would like to join me in a group please let me know. I was thinking of trying to simulate the decision making process during conflicts in the nuclear age, possibly in the time period of the Cold War. I thought it could be a board based game, possibly with 2 teams/players. Just an idea at the minute, it needs working on but if you would like to do this please get in touch. :)
Reflective Practice Analysis.
Reflective Practice Analysis of 4 or more political games. Nicole Clements 12884085. There are many different discourses present in today’s world, each presenting a differing view on gaming and simulation. Gaming and simulation are tools that can be, and are, used in many different situations, for alternative desired outcomes. A game or simulation might be employed by a teacher or parent to help with the child’s understanding and grasping of a particular matter, for example an election game which would help the students to understand the outcome of a particular election, or even try to emulate what might happen in a future one. Additionally, a game or simulation may be utilised by a country’s defence forces in order to act out different scenarios that could happen, possibly in an impending conflict. An example of a war game being used in this way is the game Kriegspiel, which was developed as a training aid in the 19th Century. Kriegspiel became a popular training resource and was used by many countries, including Germany, France, the UK, USA and Japan among others. Prior to 1933, Germany employed the use of war games in order to model a possible Polish invasion . Another, more recent, example of this particular use of a game was after the 1991 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when the USA employed the game Gulf Strike to figure out tactics to use for Operation Desert Storm. As it can be seen, there are many wide ranging uses for games and simulations; some as educational, some as training aids and some to put across a political message. The psychological effects that come into play when a person participates in a game are certainly widely discussed and theorised about. It can be argued that it is this aspect of playing a game or participating in a simulation that really underpins most games or simulations. The ability of a designer to tap into the psychosis of the player(s) is paramount, especially in games or simulation used for education, training or to put across a particular message. There are different techniques and mechanisms that can be used to aid the purpose of the game, and to ensure an appropriate and fairly accurate modelling of the situation. Some games may employ a higher degree of abstraction than others, which might lead to the slight blurring of the message or idea that the game was modelled on, while others may leave the abstraction to be more apparent in the mechanics of the game and the realism to show through the actual experience of play. As shown later in this essay, various techniques are modelled by the games that are to be assessed, and as such provide differing results. After studying many different political games, it can be seen that slight differences in the game’s mechanics and design overall can make quite significant influences to the political message that the games are trying to portray. 5 very different games will be analysed throughout the course of this essay, each of which are quite unique to each other. The selection that will be examined show quite a range of techniques and mechanisms that can be used to model a chosen political situation, some of which work very well in their application as a political simulation, and others which seem to work decisively less well. The first game to be looked at is the well known board game, Monopoly. It was originally called The Landlord’s Game, and was created as a means of exposing the aspects of capitalism that were disliked by the designer, a lady called Elizabeth Magie. After many rounds of development by different people, it emerged as Monopoly as it is known today. However, ironically, during the time of the Red Scare, the Western governments, notably the USA, successfully attempted to turn around the message of the game so that it lost the connotations of a game that was against capitalism, and rather people perceived it to show the good points that capitalism could bring for those who, for example, own many properties. It can be difficult to examine Monopoly objectively, as many have played it just as a fun family game from their young years. However, upon closer inspection and examination of the game itself, it becomes slightly easier to do so. The political message that the game gives to the player is, it can be argued, largely dependent on the player’s personal political views. If they are more orientated to the left, then after playing the game they may be more likely to notice the message (originally intended) that capitalism and its offspring, for example, real estate monopolies, leads to the bankruptcy or financial difficulties of the other participants, who may for example, struggle to pay ever increasing rates. On the other hand, if the game was to be played by a player who has a higher affiliation with the right of the political spectrum, then they may take a different view on what the political message may have been. For example, they may understand the message to have been one of the great advantages of monopolies and the great revenues they could accrue, and the emergence of some different classes was a natural progression. The game does, at most times, simulate the decision-making process faced by the players’ real life counter parts. There is a certain amount of risk to be calculated with many purchases – should I buy this property even though I will be short of money for a while, but should get some income? – and also there are negotiations and deals taking place all the while which only are accepted when it benefits both parties. As players get more money and properties, it seemed that they took less risks with their capital and only accepted a property if it was of huge benefit, for example, completing a set. The game of Monopoly is well designed with respect to the mechanics of the game, as they do contribute well to its purpose and playability. The mechanics are very well thought out and this can been seen in the design of the property cards which carry a lot of information themselves, and also the Chance and Community Chest cards, which also have the player’s next action completely on the card. This makes the game very easily playable, as the rule book does not have to be continually checked for information. The pieces are simple trinkets from everyday industrial life, with the likes of a hat, ship or motor car available, and prove to be of appropriate proportions to play the game with. Even though originally, the pieces were selected from charms as the most easily available metal pieces during the war, it could be argued that the pieces that are widely known and used today represent various aspects of the industrial age during which the game underwent development and increasingly more popularity. The board itself also has a lot of information such as house prices, and as it is colour coded it makes the complete sets very clear, and also helps the players to identify their own properties and when another player has landed on them. The colour codes themselves also represent the appeal of the properties of which they correspond to. An example of this is that the cheapest properties and less sought after ones are the colour brown, which is an unpleasant and not very aesthetic colour. However, the most sought after properties on the board re purple, a colour which represents royalty and luxury in many countries across the world. The rules of the game are easy to follow, understand and remember, and are such that game play creates a highly social and competitive atmosphere. That said, however, there is still room within the rules for players to negotiate and form alliances and make deals with each other. The game uses some other appropriate techniques such as the practice of all players receiving the same amount of money at the start of the game. This is a way of showing an underlying message of the game - that the workings of capitalism lead to massive inequalities, even when people start off with the similar starting position. The game also puts a pressure on the players to buy many houses and become as rich as possible, and even to become quite ruthless in order to get ahead in the game – it does make the rise to the top very competitive. This technique mirrors the subject the game is trying to model, in so far as it shows a very competitive, dog-eat-dog type of world. Parts of the game are obviously, quite abstracted, as must be in some cases of attempting to simulate a certain situation. The game Monopoly combines the realism and abstraction very well, and when examined it can be seen that in many areas it is a very realistic game. Although, obviously, the actual environment of real estate and property management must be abstracted onto the game, there are many elements which remain realistic for the player. Some of the main examples include the psychological approach and mindset of the players; the procedures of acquiring and trading property; the possibility of bankruptcy, and also the fact that there is no finish line on the board – instead play may continue until players become either bankrupt or the last player standing. As with possibly any game, due to the very fact that it is a game, it can be possible for players to forget that there is a message behind it. Over time in Monopoly, the political message has been skewed, to actually show the opposite of the original intention. It can be argued though that this is less to do with faults of the game and more to do with the political economy of the international system as a whole at the time it underwent many of its developments. Although there are many versions of the game – different countries have different place names and more modern credit card versions have been introduced, among many others – there is little that needs to be done to really improve the fundamental mechanics of the game. The second political game to be assessed is Guy Debord’s Game of War. It is, rather self explanatorily, a war game, and has been used in many areas as a training tool. Debord looked upon the game as a work of art and indeed, upon first sight of the game it can be seen that it is rather unusual looking, but quite an aesthetic piece. With many elements of real warfare stripped down to their basics and transformed onto the Game of War, it can be argued that it has made the game rather abstract. In some areas this is the case, for example the board as being split into squares, which in no way represent the different terrains which may have to be dealt with. Another area of abstractness is the fact that it doesn’t take into account any other factors other than the opposite player’s move, with regards to the consequences of that move and the eventual winner of the game. Additionally, unless players decide themselves to create a different way of communication, the thoughts of the opposite player are completely transparent to the opposing forces. However, this is something that could easily be altered without having to change the actual mechanics of the game, but just by the players possibly leaving the room for team conferences prior to their play. Upon closer examination it can be seen that in fact, this game does bring many aspects of realism about (traditional) warfare. In traditional warfare, each opposing force would wear a unique and identifiable uniform, and in the game, although corresponding pieces had the same shape, they were shown by different colours for both teams. In many other ways, the Game of War brings realism into play rather like Monopoly does – the board represents the arena in which the political simulation was set (in Monopoly, the housing market and in the Game of War, a battlefield), and the players are transported into this world where they find themselves simulating real-life decision making processes. In the Game of War, realism is found when the players make their strategic decisions, based on realistic situations – for example, if player one can cut off player two’s communications systems, it becomes a lot easier for player one to win. These thought processes well represent the analytical, strategic thinking that must be made on a real life battlefield, and can be applied to some different types of warfare. It can be seen that the game could be applied to either a more modern day type of battlefield, for example within a city, or a more traditional battle area. The Game of War uses some appropriate techniques, including guiding the player to assess the element of risk within a move and the possible outcomes and reactions by the other player. The players are constantly questioning themselves about what may happen, is the move feasible, and whether any necessary losses must be made in order to gain in the longer term. The game also encourages and teaches the players to assess carefully the possible outcomes of different types of attack and whether it may or may not be strong enough to take down the defences. Players in the game find themselves constantly calculating possible moves, both by themselves and their opponent. It can be seen after playing this game, that it is an excellent resource for training players in the art of warfare as it becomes a very real situation with the needed decision making process being well simulated. The game manages to get across its message about warfare particularly well, as the players can see, at least at the end of the game if not during, that one of the key strategies is to take out their opponent’s communications, and to keep forces together, not split up into smaller, less effective groups. If the Game of War was to be improved at all, possibly one of the few things that it may benefit from is a slight change of board mechanics – silver pieces on a silver board can at time be difficult to work with. If the pieces were to be kept as silver and gold, and the board a different colour, it would make the game visually easier, and also provide some distinction between the terrain and one of the forces. Possibly, one other area that could be improved with regards to the game mechanics would be to have the combat values of the different pieces upon the actual pieces themselves. All in all, the Game of War is very enjoyable to play, but not a social game: it highlights the feeling of competition among the players, and illustrates to the players effective strategies needed. It lacks slightly however, in putting across its original message, as it was a revolutionary game, but when played it comes across more as a game of warfare. The third game to be examined uses a completely different technique to model its subject of the Vietnam war. The game, named Vietnam 1955, was presented by Russell King who acted as umpire throughout. This game was designed as a role-playing exercise which provides quite a unique game playing experience. The nature of the game meant that the technique of ‘free kriegspiel’ was employed, and as such led to the game being quite adaptable to player’s actions. Each player, or team, is given an introductory booklet and a piece of paper with victory conditions and a table of how points can be won or lost as a consequence of actions. Apart from this, there were no pieces used in the game. The mechanics, it can be argued, apart from those mentioned pieces of paper, are the players themselves and the umpire, and due to that, the game takes on a very fluid element. This system works well for this particular simulation, however, some improvements could be made to help the flow of the simulation. The introduction given by the umpire was very brief, and for non-political or historical students or enthusiasts it may have benefitted from a slightly more in depth introduction. Also, the lack of game pieces in some ways made the simulation quite confusing; for example, it was difficult to remember which players represented which country or group, and so possibly name badges of the groups would be a welcome addition. Another technique which may be incorporated to make the simulation less confusing for the players may be to give out certain chips to each team when they receive their points, which means that the mechanics would support play even more so, and also not have to rely on the use of a board or similar at the location of play. Additionally, another improvement which would aid the players would be the inclusion of a large map of Vietnam during the time, possibly laminated in such a way that in could be drawn on during the progression of the game to highlight any changes that were made. This would be useful as, due to the aim of the simulation to be to encourage discussion and teamwork and at the same time educate the players on the course of the Vietnam war during 1955, it is assumed that the players have only a limited knowledge of this particular moment in history. The simulation is able to achieve its aims however, as the game is very sociable and through participation, players learn the course of events that did take place. This is because of the nature of the design of the game – even though play has a rather free element to it, the umpire interjects at intervals with a new happening which guides the progress of the simulation. Also, the points that are available to each player or team suggest and guide a route for the player to adopt, as per the course that was taken in history. Similarly to the previous two games, the simulation of the environment is, as it must be, rather abstract – one or two rooms are used to represent the arena where each group met and also the location of the Geneva Convention. However, this worked well as aspects of realism were incorporated into the simulation through the flow of play. Players negotiated in their own country’s interests, and there was an air of suspicion of the other players due to the secrecy of victory conditions and the ability for each team to discuss in semi-private, without the other teams necessarily overhearing them. Additionally, there was realism in the fact that the players formed into two Cold War blocs, which mirrored the feeling at the time. Also, the heightened suspicion of the opposite bloc and the unwillingness to secede any victories to the opposition was well put across. The game, apart from teaching general knowledge of the events of the time, also puts across some political messages. It suggests to the players that forming alliances is a good way to help protect their interests when thinking as a state, and also that diplomacy measures are important and must be attempted. The decision making that was made in history was simulated by the players’ decision making processes. These thought processes made an accurate representation of the decision that were faced by countries at the time, and the calculating though and analytical and deduction skills that had to be utilised during the simulation all are representations of the real decision making that had to be undertaken. The last game to be assessed is the game called Settlers of Catan. This game differs from the previous three in the political situation that it is trying to portray – the settlement of a new area. In the case of the game, the designer used the make believe island of Catan as a settling ground. The mechanics of this game are again, different from the previous three; instead of having a traditional board, the board for this game is made up of many different pieces which fit together and which may be expanded or changed for different versions of the game. The pieces, similar to Monopoly, include cards and game pieces (villages, roads or cities and a robber piece). The cards that are given out represent materials, and may be traded with another player or at a port, in order to build roads or other settlements. There are also some secret victory conditions on the cards which create an element of secrecy, and one way to win is by collecting a certain amount of the knight cards. The game’s mechanics do work very well with the design of the game, with the main point of contention being the ease of the board to come apart during play, which can be slightly disruptive. The game uses some techniques to model it’s subject and to put across its political message, including the use of hand management. The need of the players to accrue as many different resources as possible from the land that they have settled on is key, as this allows the players to trade with others at a better rate than trading at ports. However, the mechanism used for gaining resources in this game is the roll of the dice, which distorts the realistic probability of that resource being available. For example, perhaps mining stone for building is more predictable than farming wheat, as the weather and conditions are instrumental in defining the available amount at harvest. However, it is perhaps too much detail and too complicated to try and represent this in the game, so it could be argued that it is better left as it is. The rules of the game are particularly easy to follow and remember, and the nature of the game makes it a very sociable and also enjoyable game to play. The message is still put across, even though at times it seems as if the game is played for the sake of playing and reaching the ‘magic circle’, as opposed to a political resource. However, it can be seen from playing the game that the designer is attempting to put across the message that cooperation and of open trade is good and needed for development. This is a fair aim, as it can definitely be seen that it benefits states more if they trade resources that they each need, but some will have less of one particular type, and some will have more. According to the game then, to benefit mutually, states need to cooperate both with other states that have resources so as to mutually benefit, but also to trade within the state to build it up and help develop broadly. With respect to the trading relationships and the order of developing (development occurs in stages – players must build a road before a village etc) the game is very realistic, and also the added presence of the robber adds to this as it takes into account any natural disasters for example, that may drain an area’s resources. These four games examined above each show a very different technique and approach to modelling each political situation. It has been seen that overall, each technique works reasonably well in relation to what it is trying to portray, and these games seem to get across their political message in an accurate way. The game of Monopoly has a strength in that it always manages to achieve the chosen end whereupon in its modelled capitalist system, one player tends to have many properties and money, and slowly the other players become bankrupt and fall out of the game. The Game of War’s main strength could be argued to be that it accurately represents a battlefield, and even though it was designed to represent Napoleonic times, may be applied to some modern day warfare, and is very useable by military forces in military and political operations. The third game, Vietnam 1955, even though being very different in relation to the mechanics and design of the simulation, manages to accurately recreate decision making processes that were used at the time of the war. The main success of the Settlers of Catan, apart from its playability, is that it does manage to put across a political message even in quite an abstracted environment. Bibliography. Sutton-Smith, B., 2001. Play and Ambiguity IN: Salen, K. And Zimmerman, E., (eds.) 2006. The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. Cambridge, Massachusetts; The MIT Press. Pp296-313. Goldhamer, H., and Source, S., 1959. Some observations on Political Gaming. World Politics [e-journal] 12 (1), pp. 71-83. Available through: Jstor [Accessed on 01/04/2011].