24 March 2014

Tom Clancy - The Gamer?

The Escapist has an excellent article on Tom Clancy and his use of wargaming as an analytical tool and how he could draw conclusions from the experiences.

In this two-part series, Critical Intel will examine Tom Clancy's contribution to gaming, from founding Red Storm Entertainment in the 1990s to growing into a global brand. But our story starts long before that - in the 1980s - when Clancy first set out to conquer the world not with a powerful multimedia franchise, but a fleet of miniature ships and a wargame called Harpoon. Because before Tom Clancy changed games, games changed him.

Speculation ran rampant after Clancy published The Hunt for Red October. No one could figure out where he'd gotten his information. The rumor mill had it that he was an ex-spook, or a CIA plant hired to write pop-culture propaganda. Truth was, Clancy was an insurance agent with no military experience. He had excellent research skills and a keen mind for logical deduction, a man who could take two points of publically available information and logically fill the classified details in-between. Again and again over the course of his career, he'd predict top-secret programs and technologies, from the gradiometer used aboard the Red October to the importance of Iceland to Soviet naval strategy in Red Storm Rising. He even foresaw the potential to use airliners in a suicide attack, and in Teeth of the Tiger described a terrorist strike eerily similar to the one that took place at a Kenya mall last year. Some have dismissed this as simple imagination, but that doesn't give Clancy enough credit - he was a self-taught master at collecting public information, easily one of the best open-source intelligence analysts of our time.

Clancy's research for Red October pulled together every data set he could get his hands on, from Jane's entries to stories he collected from retired submariners as he sold them insurance. One of those myriad sources was a tabletop wargame developed by a former naval officer - and it would become more than research material.

"A game that I'd written, a wargame called Harpoon, became popular," remembers Larry Bond. "A guy named Tom Clancy bought a copy and used it as one of his data sources." He chuckles as he remembers it. "Good guy to buy your game."

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