Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Zones of Control: Another progress report

I am continuing to read through this very interesting book, although I do find that it is something that I can only do when my mind is clear and I'm not feeling too tired, otherwise I find myself reading and re-reading articles so that I can understand them!

PART IV: THE BLEEDING EDGE
  • Wargaming Futures: Naturalizing the New American Way of War by Luke Caldwell and Tim Lenoir
  • Creating Persian Incursion by Larry Bond
  • Modeling the Second Battle of Fallujah by Laurent Closier
  • Playing with Toy Soldiers: Authenticity and Metagaming in World War I Video Games by Andrew Wackerfuss
  • America’s Army by Marcus Schulzke
  • We the Soldiers: Player Complicity and Ethical Gameplay in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare by Miguel Sicart
  • Upending Militarized Masculinity in Spec Ops: The Line by Soraya Murray
Luke Caldwell and Tim Lenoir opening article examines in great detail the impact of what has been come to be known as the 'Revolution in Military Affairs' (RMA) as well as the interplay between the readily available computer simulations such as Call of Duty and Black Ops and the way that society in general and the politico-military community perceive modern and near-future wars being fought. This sets the stage for Larry Bond's interesting article about the development and publication of his Persian Incursion wargame and Laurent Closier's contribution about his objectives for creating his Phantom Fury wargame.

I had not previously heard of Signal Studio's Toy Soldiers video wargame about the First World War, and therefore some of the content of Andrew Wackerfuss's contribution was intriguing but a little mystifying to me; this was not the case with Marcus Schulzke's article about America's Army, which I have played ... and enjoyed playing. He states that it is his opinion that it is video game propaganda that has some value even if the motives behind the development of this game are somewhat flawed.

Miguel Sicart's contribution about player complicity and ethical gameplay certainly gives one something to think about, as does Soraya Murray's article. I am not a great lover of wargames like Call of Duty and Black Ops, and having read these two contributions I cannot see myself rushing out to buy copies of either in the near future.

PART V: SYSTEMS AND SITUATIONS
  • Wargames as Writing Systems by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi
  • Playing Defense: Gender, Just War, and Game Design by Elizabeth Losh
  • Debord’s Nostalgic Algorithm by Alexander R. Galloway
  • The Ludic Science Club Crosses the Berezina by Richard Barbrook
  • War Games by David Levinthal
  • Troubling the Magic Circle: Miniature War in Iraq by Brian Conley
I really did enjoy Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi's opening article to this section, and found much of what she wrote thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating. What Elizabeth Losh wrote in her contribution was challenging to say the least, and put a somewhat different slant on the 'women in wargaming' debate.

I have been aware of the work of Guy Debord for some time, and Alexander R. Galloway's article explained the background to the development of Debord's game and the interplay of thinking and political theory that lay behind it. I had read Richard Barbrook's CLASS WARGAMES in the recent past, and his article did not appear to contain anything that he had not covered in greater depth therein.

War Games as art? Well I had not heard of David Levinthal before reading his article (I must admit to being a bit of a philistine when it comes to most modern art), but now that I have, I have spent quite some time looking online at the images that he has created. I recommend them to any wargamer who has ever tried to take photographs of their wargames figures, because I suspect that looking at his images will change the way they think about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

In his contribution, Brian Conley explains how and why he created his piece of interactive performance art about the war in Iraq. It uses hundreds of miniature figures, and terrain that comes apart to allow the Taliban 'players' to move their figures whilst the Americans are moved by a player suspended above the terrain. Reading about it I was struck by its tangential similarity to some of the 'moving dioramas' I have seen at wargames shows.

PART VI: THE WAR ROOM
  • Wargames as an Academic Instrument by Philip Sabin
  • Lessons from the Hexagon: Wargames and the Military Historian by Robert M. Citino
  • Simulation Literacy: The Case for Wargames in the History Classroom by Rob MacDougall and Lisa Faden
  • The Amateur Designer: For Fun and Profit by Charles Vasey
  • Struggling with Deep Play: Utilizing Twilight Struggle for Historical Inquiry by Jeremy Antley
  • Model-Driven Military Wargame Design and Evaluation by Alexander H. Levis and Robert J. Elder
Phil Sabin has been at the forefront of developments in the use and design of wargames in the UK for many years. Thanks to the work he and others have done, wargaming is now becoming an accepted academic tool as well as a training aid for the military and a pastime for those with an interest in military matters. His opening article in this section traces the work that has been done ... and what still has to be done, especially in the world of academia.

Robert M. Citino's contribution builds upon the theme that wargames and wargaming have a serious place in the study of military history, and this is continued in Rob MacDougall and Lisa Faden's article, although the emphasis is somewhat different as they argue that gaming is an excellent tool by which people can learn about history.

Charles Vasey's work needs no introduction to most UK wargamers, and his contribution to this book covers the sort of considerations that many amateur wargame designers have to take into account whilst producing their designs ... although I must admit that to term Charles as an 'amateur' (his own definition of his place in the ranks of wargame designers) does not seem to do full justice to the professionalism of his approach.

I've never played Twilight Struggle so I am not in a position to make any meaningful comment about Jeremy Antley's contribution. On the other hand I have taken part in several megagames (but never designed one), and much of what Alexander H. Levis and Robert J. Elder have written about the use of multi-modelling and meta-modelling made sense to me in light of my experience as a participant.

4 comments:

  1. Really enjoying your series on dissecting this massive work. Interesting and your effort is much appreciated. Still undecided if I need a copy.

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    1. Jonathan Freitag,

      I hope to finish my review by next weekend.

      My feeling is that some of the contributions are rather esoteric, and may not appeal to the casual - or even the not-so-casual - wargamer. That said, I am of the view that this is going to be a work that will be quoted and referred to by wargame designers - and those associated with the uses of wargames - over the next few years.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. It still sounds interesting, in a therotical rather than applied way as far as my own hobby goes.

    As for David Levinthal, I googled him and what amazing photos. There were a few that made me smile and cheekily say "just like some of my blog"but of course only meaning photographs of Elastolin figures, not the quality, technique, art or intent.

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    Replies
    1. Ross Mac,

      I think that you are right in your assessment of this book.

      You are also right about David Levinthal's photographs, which are quite stunning.

      All the best,

      Bob

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