Serious Analytical Gaming

The 360° Game for Multidimensional Analysis of Complex Problems

by Ryan Henry, Steven Berner, David A. Shlapak

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Research Questions

  1. What is the methodology behind a 360° Game?
  2. How is a 360° Game orchestrated and executed?

This report is intended to help researchers, project leaders, and sponsors who would like to design and run a 360° Game, which can be used in multidimensional analysis of complex problems. RAND originally developed it to support a DARPA research project concerned with optimizing technology transfer. The 360° Game was also successfully used to develop an overarching cybersecurity framework for the Hewlett Foundation in 2016. The report provides some background on serious games along with guidelines for scoping, developing, and running a 360° Game. The game's interactive design allows participants to investigate a problem from a variety of perspectives, and the objective-driven approach is meant to reveal solutions — and their feasibility and relative merit. By assembling a cross-section of stakeholders, subject matter experts, and hands-on operators, a 360° Game serves as an analytical tool that can characterize and help decisionmakers respond to complex, multifaceted problems in an efficient and comprehensive way.

Key Findings

  • A 360° Game, which fits within the larger family of serious analytical games, is designed to assist decisionmakers, program managers, and researchers characterize, analyze, and respond to complex, multifaceted problems in the quickest and most comprehensible way.
  • It does so by assembling a cross-section of stakeholders, subject matter experts, and hands-on operators to interactively investigate the problem from an encompassing set of perspectives and approaches.
  • The design is objective-driven to reveal solutions to a given target problem. It employs exploratory analysis to provide insights and learning experiences, but not decision-level answers.
  • The 360° Game is best suited for situations where the sponsor is dissatisfied with, or uncertain about, already proposed solutions. It may also be useful when other analytical approaches have proven insufficient.
  • During the game, participants play their assigned roles, report to the game's Senior Official, and search for solutions to some specific aspect of the game's overall target problem. Players interact within functional breakout teams or cells, which are facilitated by professional research staff. The game is played across a number of contextual vignettes (or alternative futures), which allows for triangulated analysis contributing to "360 degrees" of analysis of both the problem and candidate solutions along several analytical dimensions.
  • The 360° Game is played in a single, full day at a dedicated venue, moving back and forth between plenary and breakout activities. Players are divided into interdisciplinary cells where they brainstorm, discuss, assess, and report candidate solutions for their slice of the bigger problem, which is given to them in the form of a multimedia scenario/alternative future.

The research was separately sponsored by DARPA and the Hewlett Foundation and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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