Center for Gaming

Using innovative analytic games to improve decisionmaking

Strategy, policy, and operational decisions emerge from judgments made by human beings. Accurately simulating the complexity of this human decisionmaking is a challenge for many analytic techniques. Games, however, are simple models that incorporate human beings as their key variable.

At the most basic level, games are events that allow participants—bound by a set of rules—to make decisions and work through their potential consequences without affecting the real world. Games can be used to explore competitive situations—such as warfare—or cooperative situations where key stakeholders hold different preferences.

Gaming methods have deep roots at RAND, dating back to the 1940s when social scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and others pioneered the use of political-military crisis games to study nuclear deterrence.

On this legacy, the Center for Gaming supports a wide range of games to explore the sometimes unpredictable drivers behind human decisionmaking and to tap into human ingenuity, helping policymakers make better decisions and develop innovative solutions.

Games can serve many purposes. They can be used at the outset of the analytic process to better define poorly understood problems and identify hypotheses to test. They can also be used to evaluate and test different concepts or ideas. Finally, games can help assess whether research findings derived from other methods can survive contact with human decisionmakers.

The Center for Gaming brings together skilled game designers with RAND’s multidisciplinary staff—including economists, operations researchers, cyber experts, political scientists, climate scientists, engineers, educators, and beyond—so that our games combine both innovative design and deep subject matter expertise.

Our Focus

Because each type of game has its own unique strengths, we use various games—including seminar-style games, manual games, and computer-assisted games. We explore topics as diverse as urban planning, climate change, military strategy, drug policy and more.

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