Next-generation wargames

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Science  21 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6421, pp. 1362-1364
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav2135

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Over the past century, and particularly since the outset of the Cold War, wargames (interactive simulations used to evaluate aspects of tactics, operations, and strategy) have become an integral means for militaries and policy-makers to evaluate how strategic decisions are made related to nuclear weapons strategy and international security (1). These methods have also been applied beyond the military realm, to examine phenomena as varied as elections, government policy, international trade, and supply-chain mechanics. Today, a renewed focus on wargaming combined with access to sophisticated and inexpensive drag-and-drop digital game development frameworks and new cloud computing architectures have democratized the ability to enable massive multiplayer gaming experiences. With the integration of simulation tools and experimental methods from a variety of social science disciplines, a science-based experimental gaming approach has the potential to transform the insights generated from gaming by creating human-derived, large-n datasets for replicable, quantitative analysis. In the following, we outline challenges associated with contemporary simulation and wargaming tools, investigate where scholars have searched for game data, and explore the utility of new experimental gaming and data analysis methods in both policy-making and academic settings.