A few years ago, the online magazine for computer gaming Gamesutra published an article by a game developer Alan Carpenter extolling the virtues of using risk analysis to balance role-playing games. In this case balance meant designing a game that was neither too difficult nor too easy, and it was the costly, time-consuming goal of game development companies–costly meaning an average of $3 million a title!
Carpenter had observed that by using the same operational risk software that the oil and gas industry uses to make decisions under uncertainty, a game designer could take advantage of the thousands of possible scenarios spun out by a Monte Carlo simulation to add a new element of reality to games where context and emotion may be big draws for the gamer but can’t sustain entertaining play.
Carpenter advises game developers that many games could be designed using the same Monte Carlo Excel spreadsheet. He offers a lengthy technical blueprint for games that are based on conflict–war, street fights, etc.–and in revisiting it what intrigues me is the idea that the same infrastructure of algorithms and probability functions that Carpenter lays out to capture events in an imaginary world could just as easily be applied to real-world political and military events.
If risk simulation is being used to help plan world events, it’s not widely talked about. But I suspect this is going on, and I would love to hear from anyone out there who knows more about this than I do.