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MORS Professional Gaming Workshop

Background for the meeting in Fairfax, Virginia, 29 September to 1 October 2015.

Adjudication

Adjudication is the process of determining outcomes of game events. Generally the most obvious of these are when the moves of players result in contact. It may be only the detection by one element of another, or a skirmish between small forces, or even a major clash on the battlefield.

Purposes of Adjudication

The adjudication process in a game serves two purposes. The first, and obvious, one is to provide players with an outcome based on their decisions and actions. This is a critical contribution during the play of the game. To be effective in this respect, adjudication must be plausible and timely. The level of plausibility can vary. At one extreme, there may be sufficient plausibility if players are willing to accept outcomes as reasonable. At the other extreme, almost any discrepancy with the perceived reality may too much.

The second purpose of adjudication is to support analysis. For this, a simple replay of a game, as is usually available following a computer-supported game, is rarely adequate. This will certainly show the unfolding of a game but it will be missing many parts that are critical to good analysis, particularly the player reasoning that when into moves, and diagnostic records so the analysis team can backtrack apparent anomalies to determine the source.

Four Types of Adjudication

Rigid

Kriegsspiel "Attacker with 3:1 advantage wins." An extreme case of rule-based adjudication is when a game is played with computer support.

Free

Free Kriegsspiel

Consensus

Hybrid

War games originated within the military community over two centuries ago. The techniques have since been adapted to a wide range of endeavors.

Rewind the Clock

When some particular outcome can be traced back to a specific contentious adjudication, it may be appropriate to rewind the clock to the event in question and to restart the game with a different adjudication outcome.

There are several impediments to this approach:

  1. The game apparatus may not allow it; this is particularly true of games that rely directly on computer support or indirectly on computer-supported command and control systems. Time for a program on a computer-based system is generally based on the system time (which is based in turn on the real time). Unless the program was designed with some facility to "play with time", it is notoriously difficult to reset the game time to some specific time in the past.
  2. The players may not be able to "clear their minds" of what happened on the first branch. This can influence their play of an alternate branch.
  3. The analysis team may not be able to keep up with events. It may, for example, be difficult to keep the data for one branch separate from that of another parallel branch.
  4. The time available for playing the game may not allow it. Often the available time of players (and other participants) is fully booked, so there is no spare time to replay any part of the game.
  5. Biases may creep in to the play of an alternate branch. For an example, a player may get into trouble by being too agressive the first time through a game; if part of that game is replayed that player may now act more cautiously.
  6. Keeping track of various replays may challenge the menthal agility of humans - players and analysts. Players (and analysts too) often have trouble keeping track of details for just one run of a game. If there multiple replays are conducted, the participants have to keep have to keep several "pictures" straight. Analysts will have to plan in advance to code data with the number of the replay in addition to the time of the event. Activity that humans may associate with some specific event, might actually be from a parallel time line where the various activities seem to be the same.