The War Gaming Department strives to provide interested stakeholders with intellectually honest analysis of complex problems. Research in this context is a ‘systematic and organized effort to investigate a specific research problem that requires a solution’ (Sekaran, 2007:4). This type of applied research in War Gaming uses an accumulation of theories, knowledge, and techniques for the purposes of examining specific issues driven by sponsors.
Because many of the issues that interested parties ask us to explore involve qualitative issues and data (e.g., decision-making processes) war games rarely allow for inferential analysis. In other words, war games are not predictive; we cannot make generalizations beyond the data about how future players might respond to the problem at hand. The participants or players are often hand selected making it nearly impossible to use a random sample. That is why a significant focus in gaming is placed in the methodology (e.g. methods, tools and techniques) used.
In gaming, the initial process of inquiry usually starts at the Concept Development Conference or CDC. From an analytical perspective, this is the most important planning meeting that occurs through the gaming process. Normally this is the first time the game sponsor and war gaming faculty meet to discuss the perceived stressors and challenges encountered. Following Pete Pellegrino’s Purpose-Method-End State structure discussed in his latest blog entry will enable the game sponsor and war gaming faculty zero in on the specific objective and motivating factors for using gaming as a tool to explore these issues. This event sets the foundation for the reminder of the gaming process and helps define the problem and narrow the scope of the research down so that an analytical game can be developed. In order for a game to answer a sponsor’s problem(s), analysis must drive the design from the very beginning.
The development of the objectives is an art in itself. One problem solving technique used during the CDC is a technique called the ‘5 Why Drill Down’. This technique breaks down fairly complex problems into progressively smaller parts. Using this technique helps the sponsor identify the root causes of problems or incidents faced. When walking away from a successful CDC, both the game sponsor and War Gaming faculty should have a clear and common understanding of the specific problems leading to this game, any recommended literature or resources available about the research problem and deficiencies in the literature about the problem. From there the game’s purpose (e.g. why are we conducting this study - analytical, experiential, both) and objectives (e.g. clearly defined result) are finally formulated along with a good understanding of the sponsors hypothesis or assumptions brought into the game. At this point, potential participants or players can be identified. Saving this towards the end enables both the sponsor and gaming team to identify WHO really fits within the context of this game and WHY.
Once the purpose and objectives are developed and agreed upon by the sponsor and the War Gaming Department, an overarching research question (1-2) and subsidiary questions (5-7) are developed. The research design can be qualitative, quantitative or mixed depending on the purpose and questions developed. Going through this rigorous yet sometimes cumbersome process assures that that the subsequent game design fits according to the analytical framing and research design.