02 August 2011

Connections 2011, Day 2, Keynote Panel

my comments in red

0810 - 0950 Keynotes Panel, Moderator: Matt Caffrey
Speakers: James F. Dunnigan, Dr. Peter P. Perla, Dr. Richard Andres


Getting started on the introductions. We haven't seen the admiral yet; she was supposed to come give a quick cheerleading speech, she's been tied up, presumably with real work.

Keynote panel is about to kick off. COL(R) Matt Caffrey introducing the conference as a whole and highlighting the fact that this is the 200th anniversary of modern wargaming. Additionally, he's pointing folks toward the website for the slides of speaker talks and their bios.

Here comes the admiral, as well as the ambassador/vice-president. Cue mandatory cheerleading :)

Comments about the failures of wargaming on the part of some historical actors (like the Third Reich)
Personal observation that after the fall of the wall in '89 the gov't - and especially the military - let wargaming fall off the priority list because of a sense of "we know what the answers are." Specific call-out of the degradation of the Global wargame at Newport.
Personal observation of the gaming/game theory class she had at Georgetown and how the professor was totally jazzed by the 'gaps' in what was known in the game models rather than what was actually known, and avoiding those gaps.
An emphatic statement towards the whole-of-government approach to strategic wargaming, involving not just DoD or DoS in a vacuum, but bringing in all the groups together to 'train as you fight.'
Bringing together the hobby gamers, the professionals, and the academics, she said it looked like a "room full of 16-year-olds". Probably because we are, underneath all the mileage on the frames.
---- (as an aside, Rex Brynen is sitting next to me typing his own notes; but I have the internet connection - thank you PDAnet! - so you'll have to check PaxSims for his notes tonight.)
Wishes the CASL guys had more resources (note to admiral - me, too!) to do more with their gaming program.

Exit admiral, enter Eric Kjonnerod, Director of CASL, for a few notes. Don't sweat the clock - but focus on the sharing of information. Sounds an awful lot like they're expecting Connections to be back at NDU next year. Don't know if it'll be a permanent home, but might have advantages of some continuity.

Start of the actual keynote panel from agenda above.

Opening speaker is going to be Jim Dunnigan
"The elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about" - the political angle. An anecdote about the CIA and how to write the politically-acceptable document alongside the "truth". The real document was the base document, and the "truth" was in the footnotes.
He's a very energetic and dynamic speaker and taking command of the room.
After the fall of the wall, the CIA guys tried to track down their Russian counterparts to talk about wargaming. The Russians would publish the some wargaming results internally for STAVKA and then they'd drop off the map. Turns out the Russians were 'exiling' their wargamers who were turning out accurate, but unpopular, results.
Another anecdote about a wargame design for a top-level political-focused wargame in which he insisted on an 'order of battle' for the Greek media and political parties. And he got them, because the people he as working with understood the need to engage those guys at the high level.
(digression into the attitudes on Wall St about the risk management guys ignoring the 'truth')
While this is the 200th anniversary of modern wargaming, the art of wargaming has been around a lot longer. However, 200 years ago they started writing down the results and capturing it and using for a variety of research, and it became more codified.
Ancient manuscripts didn't survive that might've included some military texts of wargaming.
But the mathematical / statistical supports for much of these activities wasn't 'invented' until only a few centuries ago.
All that said - wargaming didn't become what it is today until it became commercialized. It was Charles Roberts (Dunnigan keeps calling him "Charlie") who pushed it into the wider public. "Ever wargame is a game designer's toolkit" because it's a no-prior-knowledge out-of-the-box thing that anyone can pick up and play with.
Talking about the idea of high school as an important invention in the late 1890s. Need for a more educated workforce to keep pace with the new technology of the turn-of-the-century. By WWII we had the most educated military in the world. The education level of the America was so high that when the wargame showed up in the '60s there was an understanding of the concepts by the part of the potential audience. They were all overeducated looking for something stimulating, or as he said "geeks waiting for their PCs to arrive."
----- Interestingly, much of his talk is from notes on his iPhone.
Wargaming described as a confluence of math and military history.
How to make wargames more accessible?
When he and Simonsen started SPI, Dunnigan insisted on Simonsen helping make the games as accessible as possible. The playtesters had a lot of trouble because they were trying to 'design' the game they were supposed to be playtesting, instead of playing the game as designed.
Difference between military and commercial wargaming: commercial wargames have to 'appeal' to an audience; military games 'reach' their audience. Military wargames are required, commercial ones are intended to be fun.
2 things you need for wargames: validation that repeated play gets you close to the truth (while managing political sensibilities); user-centricity that focuses on end-users not req's managers or checkbook-managers.
The wargame as a technology is finally approaching maturation phase of wide acceptance, usability, and understanding.

Speaker change from Dunnigan to Peter Perla.
As Matt says, "he's easy to introduce: he wrote the book."

---- I'm not going to try to keep up - these slides will be online, especially b/c the photos of the first Kriegspiel set from 1812 in Germany
Perla asking "Why are we here"
- we love wargaming and we believe wargaming has a value to the DoD and the military community
Discussion of Sabin's Lost Battles
Multiple slides of the original Kriegspiel rules from Reisswitz. Current slide is the explanation of the dice based on probability distributions from gun range data from Scharnhorst and others.
What Reisswitz was doing was actually operations research. The dice are simply a model of combat based on the "OR" data he had at the time. He basically built a game on scientific analysis, with modifications based on data as it was captured in the field.
German (von Muffling) reaction to Reisswitz game was "this is not a game, this is training for war."
What he saw was that the 'game takes place in the mind of the players.' The players' decisions were unfolding just as they would've on the battlefield. Need to make the game "entertaining and fascinating" so as to avoid an "embarrassing and painful" experience.
Following Reisswitz, later mods overwhelmed the game with heavy mods to the mechanics of the system such that it became unplayable.
A US adaptation by Livermore included blocks that could be rotated to show relative strength based on current battlefield situations.
Despite predictions that computer wargaming would kill the boardgame industry, it's quite alive and well producing more and more innovative and playable designs. Ironically the innovation of computer wargames seems to have stagnated.
---- Examples of board wargaming in current use within DoD - contrary to the comments of Michael Peck, elsewhere.
Pointer to the History of Wargaming project at http://wargaming.co/
Plug for Mark Hermann and some of his game designs.

reset and switch to Dr Andres (OK, I'm looking for a link to his info)

As he's noting: not a professional wargamer, but trying to find ways to use them in his work
Was given D&D as a young kid, and he and his friends starting modifying the rules to try to change probabilities and re-create the models for how they were able to represent the world.
Wargaming causes people to look at the world in different ways.
How much of this has been lost because kids today are starting out on computer games instead of on the tabletop. It's easier to modify a tabletop game, and because kids aren't playing them we're losing the ability for the kids to learn how to create and modify and change the games.
How are wargames put to use in educational scenarios?
Off-the-shelf commercial wargames in education were cumbersome b/c of the time commitments and complexity. Had to rely on the experience of modifying games as a kid to (re)design his own games to strip out all the unnecessary fluff to focus on the learning points.
Put in charge of a wargame at the Air Force Staff College, but found that much of the game was not supportive of the learning objectives. It was scaled to the wrong echelon, and the background model was wrong (Soviet vs post-Cold War). Needed to educate on asymmetric strategies and strip out a lot of technology that was getting in the way.
Needed to get the students an understanding of the joint fight, as an asymmetric fight.
Impassioned plea to make sure the game supports the educational objectives of the course to help students learn (aaaaannnnnd... cue a flurry of typing from Rex next to me!)
---- side note: there's a cricket or something right outside the window that LOUD as hell. it's almost like someone has a phone with that annoying cricket ringtone that won't shut off
Discussion of the political situations surrounding the usages of wargames in the government and how they are being walled off by agencies seeking autonomy and budgetary independence without regard for the larger implications. How to bring the agencies together from a lot of different directions.
As the NDU Energy Chair he's tried to get the 1500 orgs who own/manage the grid to work together. Known for 30 years that the power grid in the US has issues - how to bring everyone together to work together and share information. He's tried to get the lead players together into a room to run combined exercises that may end up highlighting a vulnerability they don't want exposed.
Lessons learned
- Need folks of low enough rank who are not yet politically aware enough to know what shouldn't be said. Need COLs/LTCs instead of 2- and 3-stars
- Multiple seminars, and collect different info in each that can be combined
- Have players in real time give impromptu brief; no prep time on what to say/avoid
- Have to be an entertainer to keep people engaged in the game
- Have to respect the privacy of participants, but still get the right info to the right people for good decision-making
Usages of wargaming to break governmental stovepiping...

---- as a side note, I'm a co-chair on the next panel, so the blog is going to go silent for a bit

Question from Merle Robinson about how to balance the electronic/digital with the social aspects of face-to-face tabletop gaming.
Dunnigan jumping in with comments about the rapid pace of technological changes and how the wartime realities of DoD tend to focus the mind on what's going on.

Mike Markowitz asking about the "holy grail" of the computer game that is mod'able by the average gamer, to bring the computer game closer to the tabletop game in modifications.
Dunnigan's responses about ow the coders push back. Bottom line is that it'll end up happening when it's profitable to do so. Plug for StrategyPage that includes coverage of smartphones as the personal tool of the troops as traveling computers.

Unplugging for now... back after my panel...

By: Brant

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