At the Connections 2012 interdisciplinary wargaming conference, participants will be assigned to one of three different game design teams. During part of the conference, each group will be asked to develop a preliminary concept (or concepts) for a game about the assigned scenario. Approximately three hours will be devoted to this activity, although participants are free to further develop their ideas in advance, during conference breaks, and in the evenings. We are not expecting any of the teams to produce anything approaching a game prototype, but rather to develop ideas on how the task might be approached (and why), what dynamics ought to be modelled (and how), what game mechanisms would be most useful, and so forth. One or more subject matter experts will be assigned to each Game Lab team to provide information and feedback.
The ideas generated by the three teams will then be compiled by a Working Group into a brief-back for the entire conference, comparing and contrasting the various approaches taken, and using this as a way of exploring broader issues in professional game design.
Game Design Scenario
Each team will be asked to design a game of military and civilian relief operations during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The game should be intended for use in professional military education classes dealing with disaster assistance and humanitarian relief operations; for similar use by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations; and in university courses. The game may, or may not, have a commercial “hobby” application.
The game should cover approximately the first month or two of relief operations, starting from when the earthquake struck on 12 January 2010. It should address the role of US forces (over 16,000 US military personnel were involved in Operation Unified Response, together with 2,000 Canadian personnel in Operation Hestia), UN military and civilian personnel (including approximately 9,000 members of the MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission), international NGOs (of which several hundred were active in Haiti), various rescue contingents, and the Haitian government, people, and civil society.
In designing the game, each team should:
- Keep in mind at all times the intended audiences and purposes of the game.
- Develop a game system that generates understanding among the players of the capabilities, constraints, and perspectives of each major set of actors.
- Highlight key operational priorities and pressing humanitarian needs, population movements, logistical challenges, and related security issues.
- Illustrate the effects of the earthquake on already weak Haitian government capacities (loss of key personnel, destruction of infrastructure, disruption), as well as the immediate effect on UN operations (MINUSTAH lost almost one hundred personnel in the earthquake itself, including the UN Special Representative and his principal deputy).
- Encourage the development of assessment, coordination, and planning skills that would be useful in other, future joint humanitarian operations.
- Assure that the player(s) do not lose sight of the fact most disaster relief is typically undertaken by disaster-affected populations themselves (although not necessarily by the host government).
The following resources should be of help to team members in designing the game. While we don’t expect participants to have looked through all (or most) of it, it would be useful to have a look at the three items labelled “key material” before the main game lab design session.
While limited electronic and paper copies of this material will be available at Connections, conference participants are urged to bring some briefing material with them. Please note that public wifi will probably not be available at NDU.
Inside the Haiti Earthquake. This multimedia simulation of the Haiti is well worth playing for the insight it presents into the challenges facing reporters, NGOs, and survivors on the scene. While intended for a very different audience and purpose than the task set at Connections, it nonetheless demonstrates how a game-based approach can be both engaging and educational.
Mission Update Brief: Operation Unified Response, 24 January 2010. A US Southern Command/Joint Task Force Haiti situation report issued some 12 days after the earthquake struck, detailing priorities, assets, deployments, and mission status. The mission brief for 31 January 2010 can be found here.
United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, S/2010/200 (22 February 2010). Offers an overview of the activities of MINUSTAH in the period immediately following the earthquake, including force composition and deployment.
Operation Unified Response: Reconstruction and Analysis of the US Navy Response (August 2010). While this is a very lengthy document (209pp), it is well worth skimming for the detailed analysis and data it contains. [ADDED]
Other Useful Reading Material
Command Brief: Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center, early February 2010. Details the US, UN, and other coordination structures put in place, and the interface between them, and provides a status update on key sectors.
Canadian Department of National Defence, Operation HESTIA and Joint Task Force Haiti. Summary of humanitarian assistance provided by the Canadian Armed Forces.
International Council of Voluntary Agencies, STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: A Review of NGO Coordination in the Field (Case Study: Haiti 2010), February 2011.
Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, Health response to the earthquake in Haiti—January 2010 (2012). Summary of a major review of the emergency health response to the Haiti earthquake, highlighting both the humanitarian challenge and coordination issues.
UN OCHA’s ReliefWeb offers an extensive library of hundreds of maps of Haiti detailing damage to road networks, damage to buildings, internal displacement, logistics, and relief activities.
GameLab Presentation (update)
There were a number of requests for copies of the presentation on Haiti by David Becker at the Wargame Design 101 session, so I’ve uploaded the slides here.