26 July 2012

Connections - Day 3

The Connections Interdisciplinary Wargaming Conference

Day 3 Panels
(these aren't all 1 panel; I glommed a few together and left out one or two I didn't feel I could capture well)

Anchors in Time: Handoffs Between Board Games & History (Jeremy Antley)
Games use narratives drawn from when they were created; gives them “temporal fingerprints” that place them in a place in time
Increasing ‘soft’ factors in hobby/wargames; factors can be highly debatable

Why do historians have antipathy towards games?
- Perceptions of source material
- Counter-factual narratives?
- Lack of ‘established knowledge handoffs’ – historians don’t know/understand the material of wargames
- Willingness to deal with unwritten sources (presenter’s background is studying peasants, who don’t have written sources)

What is “authoritative” information? Before it goes into “history” how is it “validated” in such a manner that keepers of history will accept it?
- More info on models/sources used to design
- What were the designer’s aims and what was he trying to do?

Top-Down Model on board games’ ability to simulate war (Sabin)
- Concentrates on outputs and observed effects
- Players understand mechanics and model
- Relatively easy to modify
- Crusader Kings II vs Twilight Struggle

Design involves abstraction
Board games can generate knowledge through their abstraction; can question how the abstractions were emplaced and models were developed
Videogame abstraction is very ‘black box’
Board games guided by narratives; video games guided by code
Design compresses time, but doesn’t compress thinking with history
Superpowers at War vs 1989: The Dawn of Freedom

Useful sources for tying games to history
- Design notes / lineage of design and mechanics
- Podcasts and background
- Blogs and blog posts w/ comments and interactions
- Forums
- Playtest notes & discussions as model evolves

Because board games use narratives, design has to be validated (or at least tacitly acknowledged) for the model and theme to be accepted (esp for COIN)
Historical texts are passive; games are active
Validation is what’s needed to tie the two together.

Archives and Documentation of Military Simulations
Dr Henry Lowood (Stanford)
The Cabrinety Collection of videogames, about 1350 linear feet of archive material, all as digital/videogames from mid-70s to mid-90s (Magnavox Odyssey to N64, roughly).
Did you know that there was an Atari game for Eastern Front (1941) published back in 1983 for the Atari 400/800? The volume of copies sold was apparently roughly 2/3 of the total sales of Atari 400/800 platforms.
Because the catalog is alphabetical by “author” you get E.T and Eastern Front consecutively.
As they’ve gone through and started cataloging the collection, they haven’t opened a box that didn’t have at least 2-3 wargames in it.
Because all the boxes, packaging, etc are all intact, you can analyze the ways in which the games were presented commercially. For example, Road to Moscow (WWII computer game) looks a lot like a board game in its packaging and presentation. Rules, tables, graphic presentation looks like it was lifted straight out of a board game. Because of the paper-presentation with the games, even if the games never run on a computer again, they still have value for their paper artifacts.
Stanford project “How They Got Game” on the history of videogaming / archiving the games. One of the first tasks they went at was the history of wargaming & simulation and how the commercial press treated coverage of the military sims. (The first cover of WIRED featuring Bruce Sterling’s “War is Virtual Hell”). ...building up through the 73 Easting sim.
HPS Sim’s archives, stored at Stanford where they were the academic partners with HPS for some STTRs and responsible for cartography and archiving (among other things). Among the cartography work, they were digitizing the German general staff maps of the 1940s. Trying to get a complete set of maps on Eastern front, and piece together a complete set (turns out some of them were never printed by the Germans at the time). Some are commercially available from HPS. Archives of HPS games include design notes, reviews of games, online AARs, forums, blogs, etc. Sample included a very dense table created by a user for Squad Battles with weapons stats for Vietnam-era battles.

Data Curation and Conflict Simulation, or What’s Really in Larry Bond’s Basement
Dr Matt Kirschenbaum
What is “data curation”?
The community’s data is expensive and time-consuming to gather; sometimes classified; subject to revision; needed for validation and assessment
Actions needed to maintain digital research data and other digital materials over their entire life-cycle and over time for current & future generations of users. Includes processes of needed for good data creation and management and capacity to add value.
Data has a life-cycle and preservation begins at creation
Preservation alone isn’t enough, but it also needs active and on-going management, and it will have value to future users that you cannot anticipate.
1898, Janes’ Fighting Ships and Janes’ Naval Wargame used the same blocks to print the images in the research book as well as the wargame.
--- extended discussion of, literally, what's in Larry Bond's basement, with regards to his notes, data, versions, etc as Harpoon has developed over the years ---

By: Brant


Matt said...

"Extended." You nailed it!

Brant said...

Any notes I took about the slides showing photos upon photos of the archives would've done zero justice to the presentation. But not mentioning it at all would've been a travesty, because the title of the talk was so awesome.

Dan Eastwood said...

Wish I could have gone. Maybe next year?

Brant said...

sure - an actual stats-type would probably have a lot of interesting things to add :)