BOX 1-1

Statement of Task

An Ad Hoc Committee of the National Research Council (NRC) will provide a technical assessment of worldwide modeling, simulation, and games research and development (R&D). The study will outline the current state of the art, and use the methodology presented in the 2005 NRC report Avoiding Surprise in an Era of Global Technology Advances, to identify future applications of this technology and its potential impact on government and society.

Specifically, the committee will:

  • Examine how emerging computer architecture, algorithms, and software impact games and engineering simulation.

  • Consider the importance of simulations that test algorithms of automated systems, especially those built as artificial intelligence for weapons systems.

  • Focus on how games affect attitudes and values of the people who play them, including examining how cultural difference causes approaches to gaming to differ.

  • Examine political games, including how players participate in them, including god games (which is a term of art denoting a subgenre of construction and management simulation games) and the ramification on policy and culture; persistent worlds; as well as network games.

  • Identify how simulation and games could be best developed to affect cyber and kinetic warfare efforts, including looking at using gaming in future planning for new weapons systems and platforms.

  • Analyze games in the context of other technologies used by gamers to share information and organize activities, to include: social networking sites, voice over Internet protocol capabilities, mobile devices, and Web 2.0 capabilities.


While modeling, simulation, and digital games have all seen rapid progress in recent years with respect to increased fidelity, realism, and sophistication, as well as better human and physical modeling, the motivation for coupling these concepts in this study may not initially be clear to the reader. In fact, not only does each field influence the other but they can serve as complementary approaches for similar end goals. As the committee discussed the distinctions between modeling, simulation, and games, several general observations emerged.

Current modeling and simulation work includes focuses on financial markets, natural processes, population, and food production, as well as nonstatic modeling of materials and physical systems across a wide range of scales, from subatomic to planetary. In contrast, games “model” the world at the human and social levels. Given the commercial nature of games, there is an inherent focus on creating human experiences and evoking responses from the player. Such capabilities are a critical distinction from those achievable in nontraining government simulations. Depending on the genre of the game (for examples, see Appendix E), the behavior modeled may range from the individual level to the tribal or even the nation-state level, at which point economic, military, and physical modeling of low-to-moderate fidelity may come into play.

The essence of games is, of course, the human-in-the-loop, interactive play component. In most simulations, especially military simulations, human participation is not restricted to input and output receipt. In many cases, humans are in multiple loops—“operators” who are in control of the scenario and tasking of automated and semiautomated forces, humans controlling avatars (like soldiers) and vehicles

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