Serious games used:
NATO trains its officers to handle complex challenges, such as political stability and fragility. The NATO Comprehensive Approach Awareness Course uses simulations as a vital part of this training. Recently, students participated in a simulation of a United Nations intervention.
The simulation was set in the fictional country of Raleigh, an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Secessionist rebels are fighting the regime, making assassinations and terrorists attacks commonplace. Meanwhile, the country is also struggling with organized crime, drug trafficking, and a heavy flow of African immigrants moving through Raleigh on their way to Europe.
Rather than interpose a peacekeeping force in Raleigh, the NATO Secretary General has sent advisory teams to support the UN operation. The Secretary General wants these teams (the players, divided into four groups) to survey the situation and recommend any further action that NATO may take. The students spent a week on their simulated mission in Raleigh, followed by a presentation of their findings and recommendations to peer experts and advisors, playing the role of generals, ambassadors, and other governmental decision-makers.
Simulations like these depend on a great deal of advanced preparation. Simulated events can still take unexpected turns, so the organizers need to be ready to improvise. In the Raleigh simulation, the organizers felt, with one day left, that the participants had been playing it too safe, a luxury they might not have in the real world. Therefore, the organizers had a superpower unilaterally intervene to add new difficulties.
Because they engage the players, forcing them to not just think but act, simulations have the power to drive home lessons discussed in the rest of the curriculum. As one of the people who ran the simulation reported, this engagement lasted all the way through the final presentations:
It was an unmitigated success. We got all four teams to present extremely high energy, short presentations with lots of clash from our senior advisors acting as SG and military command. I’ll repeat that, we got four high energy, short presentations in which the entire room was interested/engaged on the fourth day of a long and complicated training course – we did not get rambling 20 slide presentations with several asides about the process. No one was checking their blackberry during this final session – it was that good.