Review: Serious Games–Games That Educate, Train, and Inform

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Education (General), Education (Universities), Games, Models, & Simulations, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Commercial), Intelligence (Government/Secret), Intelligence (Public)
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Superb Overview for both Novice Games, and Non-Gamer Sponsors of Games,

February 25, 2007

David Michael, Sande Chen

This book is exactly what I hoped for when I ordered it from Amazon. In fact, it is much more. The first part, in three chapters, talks about new opportunities for game developers, defines serious games, and talks about design and development issues.

Then the book surprises. It has entire chapters on EACH of the following: Military Games, Government Games, Educational Games, Corporate Games, Healthcare Games, and a chapter on Political, Religious, and Art Games.

Following final thoughts, the book surprises again. The appendices are world-class. Appendix A is a tremendous listing of Conferences (13 in all), and Organizations (6), Contests (1, Hidden Agenda, $25K prize–we need MORE); web sites (6, less impressive than I hoped), and publications (5). Appendix B is a survey with results, and Appendix C is a very fine bibliography as well as a very helpful Glossary of terms in the field, and an index.

Ever since I saw the US Army sponsor the Serious Games summit, and then saw the emergent success of Games for Change, I realized that we were at the beginning of a major explosion of innovation that could change the world.

In my view, Serious Games need to become the new hub for life-long education, for inter-cultural understanding, and for simulating belief systems, including evil belief systems, at both the macro and micro neuroscience levels. The Earth Intelligence Network was just created this year in order to feed free real-world public intelligence to all Serious Gamers as well as to Transpartisan policy and budget developers.

In my humble opinion, Serious Games is the next big leap in the global Internet, especially when integrated with the Way of the Wiki such that open source software standards can allow games on every threat, every policy, every budget, every location, to interact and to empower the public with tools for sense-making and consensus-building that were once limited to a small elite.

This book was everything I hoped for, and much more. I am not now and never intend to be a game developer. I want to see Serious Games expand from isolated toy-like games that focus on one small issue in isolation, to a vibrant “Co-Evolution” Sphere that in an increasingly accurate representation of the Earth, past, present, and future. This book is my ground zero in observing this field, and I have very high hopes for the future of Serious Games.

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2006 State of the Future

6 Star Top 10%, Complexity & Resilience, Environment (Solutions), Future, Games, Models, & Simulations, Intelligence (Public), Strategy, Survival & Sustainment

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Clear Map of the Future and What We Do Wrong Now,

September 8, 2006
Jerome C. Glenn and Theodore J. Gordon
I have been much taken with the integrity and wisdom of the Honorable David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, who has been telling Congress that they are not providing for the future and that today's budget is inconsistent with sustainable national security and enduring national prosperity. He is right. This is the book he should buy and give to every Senator and every Representative, along with E. O. Wilson's “The Future of Life” and J. F. Richard's “HIGH NOON: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them.”

The book is actually in two pieces. 129 black and white pages that is comprised of an Executive Summary, a section on Global Challenges, a State of the Future Index, 40 pages on four global energy scenarios, a separate chapter on emerging environmental security issues (see my review of Max Manwaring's “Environmental Security and Global Stability”), and a final chapter on reflections as the project achieves its tenth anniversary.

The printed book also includes a table of contents for the CD-ROM of 5,400 pages with color graphics and global maps that are quite good, and the publishers are to be complemented for providing the CD material in both PDF form and Document form, the latter for ease of extraction of pictures and text for repurposing.

As I get ready to publish a book by Thomas J. Buckholtz entitled “INFORMATION METRICS: The GIST (Gain Impact, Save Time) of Successful Intelligence,” I cannot help but admire the manner in which the authors have leveraged the measurement of political, social, economic, and other indicators of quality and sustainability, a process that was first pioneered by Professors Banks and Textor in the 1970's.

The day will come when this book and the CD are available in a Serious Game that is both receiving near-real-time information feeds from all open sources in all languages, AND is connected to the real-world budgets of all governments and non-governmental organizations and private sector parties so that any individual can type in their zip code and their issue, and see the color-coded “threat condition” corresponding to whether or not their level of government or their organization is spending wisely, what I call “reality-based budgeting.”

The authors have done a superb job of documenting reality, and as I went through the book, I could not help but feel that we need a second book that evaluated national-level budgets in detail, to publicize the erroneous trade-offs that are being made without the public's real understanding or approval–too much money for a heavy-metal military and corporate tax loopholes, not enough for a global educational Marshall Plan and free telecommunications for the five billion poor (easily affordable for the half trillion the USA has wasted on the elective invasion and sustained heavy-handed occupation of Iraq).

In brief, this book, the CD, this project, are a *cornerstone* for building our future. Worth every penny, and worth several hours of a good read and reflection.

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Review: High Noo–20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them

6 Star Top 10%, Best Practices in Management, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Complexity & Resilience, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Future, Games, Models, & Simulations, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Priorities, Public Administration, Survival & Sustainment, United Nations & NGOs, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity

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5.0 out of 5 stars Straight-Forward, Understandable, URGENT, “Strong Buy”,

August 29, 2003
Jean-francois Rischard
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to aadd comment and links.

Comment: This is still the best strategic overview and a book I would recommend all. See the others below.

Having read perhaps 20 of the best books on global issues and environmental sustainability, water scarcity, ocean problems, etc, over the past few years (most reviewed here on Amazon) I was prepared for a superficial summary, political posturing, and unrealistic claims. Not this book–this book is one of the finest, most intelligent, most easily understood programs for action I have ever seen. The book as a whole, and the 20 problem statements specifically, are concise, illustrated, and sensible.

The author breaks the 20 issues into 3 groups. Group one (sharing our planet) includes global warming; biodiversity and ecosystem losses, fisheries depletion, deforestation, water deficits, and maritime safety and pollution. Group two (sharing our humanity) includes massive step-up in the fight against poverty, peacekeeping-conflict prevention-combatting terrorism, education for all, global infectuous diseases, digital divide, and natural disaster prevention and mitigation. Group three (sharing our rule book) includes reinventing taxation for the 21st century, biotechnology rules, global financial architecture, illegal drugs, trade-investment-competition rules, intellectual property rights, e-commerce rules, and international labor and migration rules.

The author's core concept for dealing with these complex issues intelligently, while recognizing that “world government” is not an option, lies with his appreciation of the Internet and how global issues networks could be created that would be a vertical complement to the existing horizontal elements of each national government.

The footnotes and index are professional, but vastly more important, the author's vision is combined with practicality. This is a “doable-do” and this book is therefore my number one reading recommendation for any citizen buying just one book of the 360+ that I have recommended within Amazon. Superb.

See also, with reviews:
The Future of Life
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Green Chemistry and the Ten Commandments of Sustainability, 2nd ed
Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

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Review: Robert Young Pelton’s The World’s Most Dangerous Places: 5th Edition

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Atlases & State of the World, Country/Regional, Future, Games, Models, & Simulations, Geography & Mapping, History

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5.0 out of 5 stars 5th Edition Even Better–Valuable to Business and Government,

June 19, 2003
Robert Young Pelton
I've heard Robert Young Pelton speak, and he is, if anything, even more thoughtful and provocative in person. He has written an extraordinary book that ordinary people will take to be a sensationalist travel guide, while real experts scrutinize every page for the hard truths about the real world that neither the CIA nor the media report. The 5th Edition is even better than the earlier version that I distributed to all the professional intelligence officers attending the annual Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) conference, so I am going to distribute the new improved version.Unlike clandestine case officers and normal foreign service officers, all of them confined to capital cities and/or relying on third party reporting, Robert Young Pelton actually goes to the scene of the fighting, the scene of the butchery, the scene of the grand thefts, and unlike all these so-called authoritative sources, he actually has had eyeballs on the targets and boots in the mud.

I have learned two important lessons from this book, and from its author Robert Young Pelton:

First, trust no source that has not actually been there. He is not the first to point out that most journalists are “hotel warriors”, but his veracity, courage, and insights provide compelling evidence of what journalism could be if it were done properly. Government sources are even worse–it was not until I heard him speak candidly about certain situations that I realized that most of our Embassy reporting–both secret and open–is largely worthless because it is third hand, not direct.

Second, I have learned from this book and the author that sometimes the most important reason for visiting a war zone is to learn about what is NOT happening. His accounts of Chechnya, and his personal first-hand testimony that the Russians were terrorizing their Muslims in the *absence* of any uprising or provocation, are very disturbing. His books offers other accounts of internal terrorism that are being officially ignored by the U.S. Government, and I am most impressed by the value of his work as an alternative source of “national intelligence” and “ground truth”.

There are a number of very important works now available to the public on the major threats to any country's national security, and most of them are as unconventional as this one–Laurie Garrett on public health, Marq de Villiers on Water, Joe Thorton on chlorine-based industry and the environment–and some, like Robert D. Kaplan's books on his personal travels, are moving and inspiring reflections on reality as few in the Western world could understand it–but Robert Young Pelton is in my own mind the most structured, the most competent, the most truthful, and hence the most valuable reporter of fact on the world's most dangerous places.

What most readers may not realize until they read this book is that one does not have to travel to these places to be threatened by them–what is happening there today, and what the U.S. government does or does not do about developments in these places, today, will haunt this generation and many generations to follow. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who cares to contemplate the real world right now.

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Review: Understanding International Conflicts–An Introduction to Theory and History

5 Star, Atlases & State of the World, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Games, Models, & Simulations, Intelligence (Public), Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, Post 9-11 Update, Excellent Adult Foundation,

January 10, 2003
Joseph S. Nye
First, it is vital for prospective buyers to understand that the existing reviews are three years out of date–this is a five-star tutorial on international relations that has been most recently updated after 9-11. If I were to recommend only two books on international relations, for any adult including nominally sophisticated world travelers, this would be the first book; the second would be Shultz, Godson, & Quester's wonderful edited work, “Security Studies for the 21st Century.”I really want to stress the utility of this work to adults, including those like myself who earned a couple of graduate degrees in the last century (smile). I was surprised to find no mention of the author's stellar service as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council–not only has he had full access to everything that can be known by secret as well as non-secret means, but he has kept current, and this undergraduate and affordable paperback was a great way for me–despite the 400+ books I've read (most of them reviewed on in the past four plus years–to come up to speed on the rigorous methodical scholarly understanding of both historical and current theories and practices in international relations. This book is worth anyone's time, no matter how experienced or educated.

Each chapter has a very satisfactory mix of figures, maps, chronologies, and photos–a special value is a block chart showing the causes for major wars or periods of conflict at the three levels of analysis–international system, national, and key individual personalities, and I found these quite original and helpful.

Excellent reference and orientation work. Took five hours to read, with annotation–this is not a mind-glazer, it's a mind-exerciser.

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Review: Boyd–The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

5 Star, Biography & Memoirs, Complexity & Resilience, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Games, Models, & Simulations, Information Operations, Military & Pentagon Power, War & Face of Battle

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Theory, Ugly Corruption, Sad Personal Decay,

December 15, 2002
Robert Coram
In forty years of adult reading, thousands of books, hundreds of biographies, I have not in my lifetime found a better integration of subject, sources, and scholarship. This book will make anyone laugh, cry, and think. There is a deep spirit in this book, and knowing a little about all of this, I was quite simply stunned by the labor of love this book represents. The author's skill and devotion to “getting it right” is breathtakingly evident across the book. His sources, both those close to the subject and those more distant, have been exhaustively interviewed and the quality of this book is a direct reflection of some of the most serious “homework” I have ever been privileged to read.On the theory of war, on the original contributions of John Boyd, the book renders a huge service to all military professionals by dramatically expanding what can be known and understood about the Energy-Maneuverability Theory and the nuances of the OODA Loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act–for the real Tigers, Observe-od-Act–a faster loop). Two things stuck out, apart from the heroic manner in which Boyd pursued the intellectual side of combat aviation: first, Boyd consistently had his priorities right: people first, ideas second, hardware last–this is the opposite of the existing Pentagon priorities; and second, truth matters–the book has some extraordinary examples of how both the Air Force and the Army falsified numbers, with disastrous results, while also selecting numbers (e.g. choosing to list an aircraft's weight without fuel or missiles, rather than fully loaded, a distortion that will kill aviators later when the aircraft fails under stress).

On the practical side, the insights into Pentagon (and specifically Air Force) careerism and corruption, as well as contractor corruption and cheating of the government, are detailed and disturbing. There have been other books on this topic, but in the context of Boyd's heroic endeavors as an individual, this book can be regarded as an excellent case study of the pathology of bureaucracy–the Air Force regarding the Navy, for example, as a greater threat to its survival than the Russians. Especially troubling–but clearly truthful and vital to an understanding of why the taxpayer is being cheated by the government bureaucracy, were all the details on the mediocrity and mendacity of Wright-Patterson laboratories and organizations nominally responsible for designing the best possible aircraft. The same thing happens in other bureaucracies (e.g. the Navy architects refusing to endorse the landing craft ideas of Andrew Higgins, who ultimately helped win World War II), but in this instance, the author excels at documenting the horrible–really really horrible–manner in which the Pentagon's obsession with building monstrous systems that increase budgets has in fact resulted in fewer less capable aircraft. The book is a case study in corrupt and ill-considered (mindless) gold-plating and mission betrayal.

As a tiny but extremely interesting sidenote, the book provides helpful insights into the failure of the $2.5 billion “McNamara Line,” a whiz-kid lay-down of sensors in Viet-Nam that Boyd finally ended up terminating.

On a personal level, the author treats Boyd's family life, and his neglect of his family, in objective but considerate terms; the author is also quite effective in identifying and addressing those instances in Boyd's professional life when his fighter-pilot embellishments might be construed by lesser mortals to be falsehoods. There are three sets of heroes in this book, apart from the subject: the ranking officers, including a number of generals, who protected Boyd against the corrupt careerists–there *are* good officers at the top; the enlisted and officer personnel that carried on in the face of poor leadership, mediocre aircraft, and daunting external challenges; and finally, the “Acolytes,” the six specific individuals (Tom Christie, Pierre Sprey, Ray Leopold, Chuck Spinney, Jim Burton, and Mike Wyly), each of whom endured what they call “the pain” to nurture John Boyd and his ideas. I found the author's dissection and articulation of the personal relationships and sacrifices to be quite good and a most important part of the larger story.

Finally, a few tributes en passant. The author does a great job of showing how Boyd ultimately was adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps rather than the U.S. Air Force, and how his ideas have spawned the 4th Generation and Asymmetric Warfare theories, for which the Pentagon does not yet have an adequate appreciation. The mentions in passing of two of my own personal heroes, Mr. Bill Lind and Col G. I. Wilson of the U.S. Marine Corps, and the due regard to the roles played by Dr. Grant Hammond of the Air War College and Mr. James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly, add grace and completion to the story.

This book is moving–if you care about America, the military, and keeping our children safe into the future, it *will* move you to tears of both laughter and pain.

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Review: Anticipating Ethnic Conflict

2 Star, Culture, Research, Games, Models, & Simulations, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Government/Secret)

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2.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight, Ignores History, Without Useful Sources,

October 13, 2000
Ashley J. Tellis
his is a simple-minded book that manages to obscure the basics with convoluted language. It also achieves a remarkable feat, failing to mention history as a relevant factor in understanding and anticipating ethnic conflict in the 21st Century. It does nothing whatsover to suggest to the interested analyst, for whom this “template” was designed, how to operationalize the few relevant factors the book identifies, and does not provide any discussion at all of sources and methods helpful to studying ethnic conflict. There is no bibliography and no index. The footnotes are lightweight.
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