18 Pages

Games and Simulation

It is a macabre irony that war, one of the more horrific forms of human activity, should be increasingly discussed and analysed in terms of ‘games’. Admittedly the use of the word ‘game’ has been extended a long way from its everyday usage. Even in these days of highly professionalised sport, games, in the ordinary sense of the word are things which are done for amusement-that of the spectators if not of the participants. Nevertheless, the word is used, and fears are sometimes expressed that such a usage trivialises analysis and makes us forget that the realities the games purport to represent are very unpleasant for someone, possibly someday ourselves. Whether this is true or not-and there are nontrivial reasons for giving this point of view some serious thought —it is unlikely that we shall be able to abolish the word ‘game’ from the sort of analysis of strategic issues which will be described in this article. It is deeply ingrained and at best we must live with it. It may also have its point. A lot of games involve strategic factors, whether the game is an active physical game like football or a sedentary game like chess. That society is relatively unaffected by who wins or loses these games, and that the participants emerge from the game more or less intact even if they are the losers, does not mean that the activity of play may not have some correspondence with that in more deadly situations. If so, the analysis of these similarities may prove fruitful. Secondly, a purpose of trivialising the language of war is to put barriers between ourselves and reality in order to protect ourselves from psychological disaster. It is important to recognise the psychological barriers for what they are and not mistake them for reality. We should peep over them from time to time to orient ourselves however unpleasant this may be. However, if we are to think rationally and carefully about war and its prevention, most importantly the removal of the possibility that there will be some overwhelming nuclear catastrophe which will return this planet to the control of beetles, then we must use whatever psychological devices are available to assist us in clarity of thought rather than wallowing in self-indulgent emotionalism. Calling desperately important activities ‘games’ might be just one of those devices.