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IWP intern summer gaming workshop results in conference presentation

2019 Connections Display
A presentation by IWP Prof. Aaron Danis at the Connections 2019 wargaming conference at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

An eight-week summer gaming workshop utilizing the skills of IWP’s intern team resulted in a mid-August presentation at the Connections 2019 wargaming conference at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA, by project coordinator Professor Aaron Danis.  “The poster session at Connections garnered a lot of foot traffic and interest, as it was the only terrorism-themed analytic game at the conference,” stated Professor Danis.

The strategic analytic game, titled 9/11 – The Second Wave, is based on a little-known disrupted al-Qa‘ida plot to attack the West Coast and Midwest with aircraft after the 9/11 attacks.  While al-Qa‘ida was unable to conduct follow-on attacks because of increased U.S. security measures, the plot remained in the mind of 9/11’s primary planner until his arrest in 2003.  This “what if?” game postulates that the Second Wave became the primary targets for 9/11.

Prof. Danis comments: “The purpose of this game is to provide students in my Counterterrorism and the Democracies course with a challenging terrorist scenario on scale with 9/11, while mitigating some of the hindsight bias of those who have read a lot about or have personal experience from 9/11.  Game objectives include counterterrorism response, crisis and consequence management, and indications and warning of further attacks.”

The interns did research into the plot, worked on game mechanics, designed the play map, and drafted the action cards that drive play.  They also did an initial playtest of the first day, which focuses on the actual attack, its consequences, and the U.S. response.

Intern team playing Second Wave
The intern team playing Second Wave

“This research helped me better understand the world around me and the implications terrorist attacks have on policy and the larger statecraft of countries and coalitions,” commented Trai Gozzi, who interned at IWP in spring 2019.

Another spring intern, Mariham Philobos, commented: “The CT team at IWP has not only assured me of my desired career — being an analyst in Counterterrorism — it has also allowed me to grow in essential skills that I will need in the workplace such as researching, writing assessments, and verbally discussing terror events around the world.”

According to intern Cedric Shutts, in the gaming workshop, students use “critical thinking and analytic skills to respond to terrorist attacks in a timely manner.”  He also stated that the scenario “combined tactical and strategic approaches to counterterrorism.”

Professor Danis needs additional interns during the fall semester to dedicate one evening a week for further playtesting, game development, and finalizing the game graphics for his course in the spring.  Eventually he hopes to publish it for free for other schools and CT specialists to use.  “There is a mechanism to publish such games on the Paxsims website to share the benefit of the interns’ research and hard work.  I had strong interest in the game from some U.S. government and State and Local agencies at the conference poster session.  I hope next year to run full game sessions at the conference for interested parties prior to publishing it.”

Professor Danis would like to thank the following interns for all their hard work to date: Aiden C, Brant M, Caleb Smith, Cedric Shutts, Helen S, Khala D, M.L., Mariham Philobos, Trai Gozzi, William Hartnett, and Zack.

Summer intern team
The summer intern team who worked on the wargaming project.