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War Games (Remote Control 2014, Utrecht)

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The paper discusses functions and aesthetics of military-themed and military-endorsed/commissioned games from Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig to America's Army. It contains examples and a design exercise to identify and contextualize bias in the procedural rhetoric of the games.

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War Games (Remote Control 2014, Utrecht)

  1. 1. slide #1Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Workshop: War Games Dr. Stefan Werning (University of Utrecht) Saturday 13th December, 2014 (10-12)
  2. 2. slide #2Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Military Games: America‘s Army (2002-) • Basic military training as ‚tutorial‘ • Focus on a specific form of simulated ‚realism‘ – Psychophysical effects such as having to control breathing when shooting a weapon – Recorded original sound effects of weapons/equipment – Simulated degradation of weapons • Extending to different platforms – Mobile version in cooperation with Gameloft – Arcade version incl. Lightgun peripheral – Adapted to new iterations of the Unreal Engine
  3. 3. slide #3Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht ‚Counter-Games‘ • Special Force – ‚Counter game‘ with regard to America‘s Army – Similarly conceived as ‚recruitainment‘ and propaganda tool • Special Force 2: Tale of the Truthful Pledge – Differentiates friendly/hostile environments by terrain: forests  deserts – Sold 100000 copies, then freely downloadable – Unlicensed appropriation of the CryEngine • Quraish – ‚Counter game‘ with regard to Age of Empires
  4. 4. slide #4Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht ‚Anti-War Games‘ • September 12th • All‘s well that ends well • This War of Mine (2014) • Expose ‚mechanisms‘ of military conflicts by mapping them onto familiar gameplay tropes
  5. 5. slide #5Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Games in the discourse on war and military conflict • Potential other discursive functions of digital war games? – Establishing military terminology and abbreviations in ‘mainstream’ discourse • Strategy games and dual-use examples like Full Spectrum Warrior – Suggesting manageability by providing opportunities for (simulated) interaction – De-singularizing events through iterative play- throughs • EX: Allied landing in Normandy in Medal of Honor
  6. 6. slide #6Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht War games and public discourse: The case of the German Bundeswehr • Helicopter Mission (1994) – Utilizes the isometric perspective popularized by Desert Strike (1993) – Only logistical missions – Similarly tries to differentiate itself through added realism such as wind • Luna Mission (browser game, 2000) – Controlling a reconnaissance drone • Sports-related browser games on the youth-oriented Bundeswehr website – Games themselves as discourse object (irrespective of the actual ‚content‘)
  7. 7. slide #7Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Games and the playful appropriation of (military) technologies • Games foster systematic and algorithmic thinking – EXAMPLE: Military strategy games • Assessing and prioritizing quantities • Installing stable feedback loops (e.g. economic systems) • Planning and synchronizing several parallel processes • Playful interaction as a basic property of algorithmic media – Inherently playful forms of media use • EX: Nukemap 3D and Nukemap – Playful appropriation of (digital) technologies • EX: GEWar The same also applies to non-digital games!
  8. 8. slide #8Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Taking a step back …
  9. 9. slide #9Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht The interplay between (board) game design and its military applications • Johan Christian Ludwig Hellwig, Versuch eines aufs Schachspiel gebaueten taktischen Spiels (1780) – Addresses deficits of chess as a model of warfare • Projectile weapons and (information) logistics • Leopold Reißwitz, Kriegspiel (1812) – First modular board game – Third party takes over the ‚computation‘
  10. 10. slide #10Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht The interplay between (board) game design and its military applications II • Board-game apparatuses in military strategy – For an evocative example from the context of the Ardennes offensive in 1944 cf. Von Hilgers, Philipp. 2012. War games: a history of war on paper. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 36f. • Subversion of familiar gameplay topoi – Juden Raus (1936)  Pachisi – Jagd auf Kohlenklau (1944) • Built on traditional parcours games like Snakes & Ladders • Addressing issues from daily news through cheap, mass-produced games
  11. 11. slide #11Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Military Toys • Clothespin dolls as ‚storytelling systems‘ – Celia Pearce, „Game Theory of games“ • Little Wars (H.G. Wells, 1913) • Johnny Seven (1964-69) – Among the first de-realising depictions of military contexts in toy design
  12. 12. slide #12Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Military board and card games • Mission Command (2003/04) – Produced by the Army National Guard – Distributed to children of distinguished soldiers of the US army (Future Soldier Footlocker Kit) • Daring Eagle (2004) – Combination of a board and card game – Differentiates between divisions and brigades as basic units – Units as tokens, weapons technologies as cards
  13. 13. slide #13Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Identifying gameplay bias: Cold War logic • Diplomacy (1954/59) – Overview, Rulebook – 1914 map but played and created in a Cold War context • Missile Command (1980) • Q: Differences between both forms of rule bias?
  14. 14. slide #14Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Modifying military board games • Risk (1957) – Also encapsulates Cold War rationality and the logic of world domination – Original material referenced the Napoleonic Wars (rules  themes) • Risk Black Ops (2008)  Risk – Revised Edition (2008) – Resource system based on cities and capitals – Differentiated, even partially dynamic and open mission goals instead of controlling territory – Incentivizes a more defensiv, strategic playing style • Risk Legacy (2011) – Sequences of interrelated game sessions – Permanent modifications to the game itself
  15. 15. slide #15Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Design Exercise • A) Think about how to represent aspects of contemporary military conflict in a board/card game. – Use Risk or Diplomacy as two potential frameworks or design your own mechanism based on gameplay patterns from other games. – Also tangential solutions are possible: • E.g. turning Monopoly into a game of financing warfare. • B) Conceptualize or modify a board/card game as a ‘counter game’. • C) Conceptualize or modify a board/card game as an ‘anti war game’.
  16. 16. slide #16Remote Control Conference 2014, Utrecht Thanks a lot for your interest and participation!

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