Army Discovers the Weapon to Kill PowerPoint Briefings…Video Games

Karl Kapp, Kapp Notes, Oct 22, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Well, I think the so-called "worlds most challenging PowerPoint slide" is an over-simplification of conditions in the war - you can see the slide here - I think it does illustrate quite well the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan. Complexity is generated, first, by the existence of a number of factors or variables, and second, their inter-relatedness. You you change one factor, the effect ripples through the system, often coming full circle back to change the factor you thought you were controlling. Physiologists will recognize this - the human metabolic pathways diagram, the real candidate for 'most challenging slide'.

The thing about PowerPoint slides is that they lead people to represent things that are very complex as though they were very simple and easy to understand. Then people read those slides, understand the slides, and take it that they now understand the thing being represented. The reason games change this equation is that you can actually model the relations between the entities - in the case above, the relations between factors in Afghanistan, or in the case below, the relations between elements of the metabolic system (wouldn't that the be basis for a great game?). Because you can't understand the system just by looking at the diagram - you have to immerse yourself in it, and get a feel for how it responds.
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