Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Virtual Wars for Real Peace

According to this story, some Iranians have taken offense at a computer game, Assault on Iran. The game rewards successful attacks on a virtual version of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. Iranians might worry that Assault on Iran conditions aggression against Iran, rewarding successful attacks on it. Iranians might also worry that the game, insofar as it accurately models Natanz, prepares real-world attackers to succeed.

Note that the game, released for free and evidently played by U.S. soldiers, has also been downloaded many times in Iran. Who do you think plays the game most, there? Old oil-rich theocrats? Or young, rebellious, tech-savvy students? It doesn't take a great deal of conspiracy theorizing to start wondering, "Who funded Assault on Iran?"

But let's set aside that question of tactics to instead wonder about this question of strategy: What long-term effect will military gaming have? I think that good gaming might encourage peace. Why?

War results in large part from ignorance. Accurate and convincing modeling of military encounters would tend to encourage virtual losers to fold in realspace. Heros, fools, and coerced defenders might fight on, even while staring at the face of doom. But politicians, bless their cold little hearts, will tend to favor making diplomatic concessions. Waging war drains an awful lot of state funds, after all, and threatens corrupt regimes with disruptive forces.


Untenured Sociologist (R-CA) said...

one word, "respawn."
perhaps the effect would occur if your computer melted when you lose a game, but given that in most war games you can just start over (sometimes from scratch, but usually from a recent point in the game), it seems to me that the main effect of war games is to reduce inhibitions. this should be true of either FPS or strategy games.

Tom W. Bell said...

You want me to have more kids? Why, thank you! AJ and Kai *are* beautiful kids, aren't they?