We are using the Statecraft simulation in this course to help us understand some of the concepts we have (and will) explore in the course, and to give you a sense of some of the difficult trade-offs that decision-makers must confront in dealing with global problems. As complex as the simulation may be, however, it remains only a simulation.
What are the limits of simulations in helping us understand world politics? In other words, in what ways can we usefully think of world politics as a game or simulation? In what ways is world politics different from a game?
I personally believe technology and simulations are a great way of letting students experience the dynamics of real-life world politics. We can usefully think of world politics as a game when introducing key concepts of peace and war, cooperation and isolation, allies and enemies. Simulations help us emulate world leaders’ decisions, envision the consequences of our choices, and explore different policies. World politics can resemble a game on a basic level – there are multiple actors, global rules/norms, winners and losers. The biggest similarity between world politics and games would be the competitive nature – actors aspire to be victorious.
However, on a deeper level of analysis, simulations are just simulations. Therefore, there are various limitations when using a game/simulation to understand world politics. Simulations, no matter how complex, do not carry heavy implications. Yes, our grades may be at stake. But that is no comparison to international security being lost. No matter how realistic simulations are, people’s lives and welfares are not on the line when we create policies and execute them.
World politics are different from a game because students (actors) are more likely to engage in risky altercations because we know it is a simulation and mistakes can be tolerated. World politics has no safety nets. In world politics, actors strive to avoid mistakes at all costs because the implications are real, and the loss of human lives is often the cost.
To conclude, the main limitations pertain to the human brain and how morality is perceived when we know we are in a simulation versus when it is real. Today, a student might launch a nuclear attack in a simulation just to test everyone’s limits and cause an entertaining dispute.
The same student, in 20 years working as a politician, will most likely avoid complications that threaten the established order out of goodwil