SPIR608 Political Simulations and Gaming/2011/Week 6

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Friday 25th February

  • 'Week 6 Discussion of Serious Games, Vietnam 1955.
Vietnam 1955:
Geneva Peace Conference 1954
Russell King
Serious Games
Role playing game leading up to the Geneva Conference 1954
Wikiversity Image credit: US Army Photograph

* Is the design of the game's mechanics (board, pieces, cards, etc.) fit for purpose? The game was comprised of just an introductory booklet and A4 sheets with victory points. There was no board or pieces. Perhaps it would have been easier to play if poker chips were used to keep track of the game score. A map of 1950s Vietnam would have helped. The lack of a rule book was a problem at some points in the game. Vietnam 1955 was more of a interactive simulation than a game. It seemed more like reality as the rules could be changed to fit the progress of the game. However, if we played it again, we could learn how to"game the game". It was unclear whether the way to win Vietnam 1955 was gaining more victory points or acheiving certain goals. Heading at top of A4 sheets with victory points made people think they needed to fufill the conditions at the top. If you wanted to simulate history more closely, people should be forced to play more in character.

* Is the game enjoyable and sociable to play? We loved it! Vietnam 1955 was even better than Comrade Koba.

* What techniques does the game use to model its chosen subject? Vietnam 1955 was uses the free kriegsspiel system. Perhaps the game is too free sometimes. Umpire was invigilating and interacting with players in order to manipulate the game in certain directions where necessary. It showed that Russell is very experienced at running from his work with the NHS. The umpire having so much poweer can sometimes seem to be unfair. But this does work as a technique to make the simulation more realistic. Vietnam 1955 works by using the living labour of an umpire rather than the dead labour of a designer "congealed" in a board game.

* How does the game combine abstraction and realism in its workings? The biggest problem was that choices do not have real-life consequences so that threatening a nuclear war was an acceptable risk in the game. It was realistic that we did not know what the other players' victory conditions were. Vietnam 1955 was historically realistic in how the different players divided into the two Cold War blocs during the game.

* How accurately does the game simulate the decision-making processes faced by the real-life protagonists of its chosen subject? Vietnam 1955 is a bit like Origins of World War II. However it did seem strange that the French Indo-China and Vietminh players could work together so easily. Victory points do ensure that there are areas where people must confront each other, and other areas where they need to co-operate. As a participatory event, Vietnam 1955 was a bit like Rousseau's theory of the festival.

* What political lessons can people learn by playing the game? Vietnam 1955 teaches its players how diplomacy works and the need to create alliances. You need to know how to protect your own interests and predict what other people are striving for. The umpire should have deducted victory points when players were breaking out of their roles.

* How would you improve the structure and mechanics of the game?

  • Include name badges and country flags in game equipment;
  • Have the players in separate rooms so they would only meet when they want to meet;
  • Vary victory conditions if game played again;
  • Losing victory points for breaking out of role.
  • Have a giant map of Vietnam to orientate the players geographically;
  • Use chips to keep track of gaining for losing victory points;
  • Make the room layout more specific to the game, such as having negotiating areas;
  • Have a player representing the world media who issues press releases and news bulletins to give the game more flavour.

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