Culture and Conflict: Asia Writ Large II

Culture and Conflict: Asia Writ Large II
2015 to 2016
Emerging Networks

Of the 34 Level-1 Conflict Scenarios highlighted by a 2015 Council on Foreign Relations study, a staggering 32 are in Asia. Why do these conflicts persist despite seemingly endless and repeated interventions and negotiations? How do we educate students to acquire the necessary skills to better understand the complexity of historical hostilities and their possible resolutions and preventions? The Asia Writ Large project focuses on one of the most powerful ways to change our understanding of and response to conflicts and their dynamics: serious gaming.

The project is a response to the limitations and blind spots of currently available modeling tools, which are prevalent in political science and business schools. To addresses these inadequacies, the project conveners have started developing a new gaming platform in collaboration with TNO, a Dutch research firm specializing in game development for the Dutch government, NATO, and the EU. The platform they are inventing addresses two oversimplifications common to current models.

First, the game mechanism expands the understanding of “culture” beyond superficial rules of etiquette and polite or offensive behavior systems, allowing players to engage with deeply ingrained social mechanisms that undergo nuanced historical changes. Even if they don’t come to embrace the differing cultural perspectives brought into play, players will develop an understanding of the rationale behind the seemingly irrational and emotional reactions of other cultures.

Second, current gaming models also tend to assume that each party to the game is a homogenous entity and its members share interests and goals that do not change over time. The Asia Writ Large gaming model features multiple agents and diverse agendas within each party, allowing them to negotiate variable and conflicting goals that develop over time and may or may not align perfectly with those of the group as a whole. The more realistic assumptions encourage deep understanding of the intertwined histories and emotional structures of cultural conflict and develop the analytical skills to necessary to parse their divergent logics.

The game further encourages players to question their own moral high ground, relativism of perspectives, and the forces of history beyond individual actions or best intentions of involved parties to deepen the understanding of history as a dynamic interaction of multiple power relations. Pedagogically, this mechanism allows experiential learning of culture through an interactive game-based approach to learning and teaching, rather than relying on passive learning via lectures or textbooks. The game is structured to motivate students to become involved actively in their own learning process.

The next stage of the project will involve three arms.

(1). Monthly meetings to discuss readings, play games, and consider further progress on the game design. These regular forums will bring together a broad cross-section of enthusiastic undergraduates, professional students from the Business School, Computer Sciences, and faculty in Public Policy, School of the Environment, and Political Science who are conducting interdisciplinary research on conflicts and global security.

(2). Two week-long game design workshops, one in the Fall and another in the Spring with project collaborators in education gaming and game designs.

(3). Two courses: Conflicts, Culture and Gaming in the fall semester and Partitions in Asia in the spring. Conflicts, Culture and Gaming will introduce students to the history and theory of war games in the context of the emergence of the post-WWII nation state in Asia while engaging them in basic game design and development. Partitions in Asia will examine the problem of historical memory from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific, and will incorporate student research and game-play to further develop the game.

The project is energized by an overarching conviction that a humanistic perspective, which takes into account culture as a key component in conflict resolution, significantly enhances the relevance of gaming as a pedagogical tool.


Photo: Wikipedia commons


Leo Ching
Associate Professor
Chair of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Shai Ginsburg
Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Israeli Cultural Studies
Nayoung Aimee Kwon
Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Korean and Japanese Cultural Studies


Conflict Modeling and Games Seminar Series
Conflict Modeling and Games Seminar Series
-- Aug 29 2016

The aim of the year-long interdisciplinary seminar series Conflict Modeling and Games is two-fold: first, to examine how various fields in the humanities and beyond have conceptualized conflicts... Read More


Conflict Modeling and Games: Conflict, Peace Building and Development Simulation

-- Oct 20 2016 - 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Rex Brynen (McGill University) is the guest for an evening of discussion, analysis, and game play, part of a year-long seminar series.

Conflict Modeling and Games: Nicholas Pilarski

-- Dec 1 2016 - 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Nicholas Pilarski, an award-winning filmmaker currently working on a VR documentary about inner city conflict, is the guest for an evening of discussion, analysis, and game play, part of a year-long... Read More

Indie Games in South Korea and Busan Indie Connect Festival

-- Jan 26 2017 - 3:00pm to 5:30pm
Korean indie games are produced in relatively poor conditions, unlike those in the United States. The Korean video game industry is very openly commercialized. Many students and children are exposed... Read More

Conflict Modeling and Games: Introduction

-- Sep 22 2016 - 6:00pm to 9:00pm
The first event in this year-long seminar series is an introduction and general meeting. The series will offer discussions of the ways that the humanities and other disciplines have conceptualized... Read More

Conflict Modeling and Games: Anja van der Hulst

-- Oct 27 2016 - 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Academic and serious game designer Anja van der Hulst (University of Amsterdam, TNO research group) is the guest for an evening of discussion, analysis, and game play, part of a year-long seminar... Read More

Serious Games and Rhetoric: 21 Days (Syrian Refugee Game) and the Rhetoric of Failure

-- Jan 25 2017 - 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Video games can be political. Many video games try to convey a certain ideology. The rhetoric of video games has evolved into a variety of forms, from explicit to implicit. In this session, we will... Read More