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Trends in Modern War Gaming: The Art of Conversation

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Journal article

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Lieutenant William McCarty Little a war-gaming visionary was truly a man ahead of his time. Although physically sight impaired and medically retired from active naval service, he opted to use his ideational vision and keen mind to support the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island, during its first few years of operation after its founding in 1884. Initially an unpaid volunteer, he was appointed in 1887 as a member of the faculty, where he developed two-sided war gaming at the College a construct that is still in use at the state-of-the-art facility that today bears his name. Often touted as the father of modern war gaming, McCarty Little, who served on the faculty until 1915, understood that meaningful force-on-force gaming can occur only if two conditions are satisfied. First, decision makers must be provided with a suitable environment referred to in the language of fields theory as a safe container within which to develop strategies and contingencies. This container i.e., a setting in which the intensities of human activity can safely emerge must be more than simply a secure physical gaming space. Indeed, it must afford players intellectual security a mechanism for sharing ideas and perspectives in a nonjudgmental, attribution-free environment, whatever inner contradictions and inconsistencies may arise during the decision-making process. Second, he set out to clarify and expand issues beyond the content of a particular game to garner deeper insights into complex problems. McCarty Little appreciated the power to that end of dialogue, as well as the role of group processes in both micro-level systems for example, tactical unit actions and operational-level systems, such as battle fleets.

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  • Operations Research
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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