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Olivier Barreteau, Christophe Le Page and Patrick D'Aquino (2003)

Role-Playing Games, Models and Negotiation Processes

Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 6, no. 2

To cite articles published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary

Received: 29-Mar-2003      Published: 31-Mar-2003

* Abstract

This special collection of papers on Role-Playing Games, Models and Negotiation Processes presents a selection of papers from two thematic sessions at the International Society for Ecological Economics conference held in Sousse, Tunisia, in February 2002. The aim of these thematic sessions was to share experiments involving negotiation using models and role-playing games (RPG), in order to review the range of these experiments and the methodological difficulties encountered.

Artificial Societies; Companion Modelling; Participatory Simulation; Role Playing Games

* Introduction

JASSS documents many experiments using computer models dealing with social issues. However experiments with RPG are rare among the papers published during the six years of the journal. We thought nevertheless that JASSS is a good place to publish this selection of papers because RPG, like most models described in JASSS , constitute artificial societies. They share the notions of roles and rules (Hanneman 1995; Odell, Van Dyke Parunak et al. 2003), the basic entities in the constitution of artificial societies. They are "toy worlds" about which social scientists may theorise (Kohler 1999). RPG are also a means to reveal some aspects of social relationships by allowing the direct observation of interactions among the players. This may be especially useful when the players are stakeholders.

RPG derive mainly from management science and operational research. War games are among oldest to have been used as simulation tools (Mermet 1993). They are reported to be good tools to put stakeholders in close to real situations as well as good communication tools. However it is difficult to reproduce the results, if one expects to compare them in a systematic way. Too many factors remain uncontrolled. Even if the players are willing to play again, what they have learnt from one session to another can not be erased, and this changes the context of the game session. The design stage is also laborious since each test is a game session itself.

The use of models as artificial societies is increasing (Moss and Davidsson 2001; Janssen 2002; Lansing 2002). The approach enables the testing of scenarios and repetition with full control of chosen parameters. Where management issues are concerned, their "learning by simulating" approach has fewer side effects than the usual "learning by doing". However, as soon as complex systems are at stake and there are users outside the team of model designers, these models may appear as black boxes, very difficult to assess and accept because they represent a specific, but not fully explicit viewpoint (derived from expert knowledge). Moreover, the validation of such models goes beyond the classical concept, and this problem is also challenging the community (Manson 2002).

There are potential synergies between Role Playing Games and Models. However their use together is rather new, except for a few precursors such as the Fishbanks game (Meadows and Meadows 1993). To explore this potential synergy, the thematic sessions were focused on the issue of joint use of these tools in the specific context of negotiation and dialogue processes. Both kinds of tools have already been used in such contexts either to explain the process or to develop it as an intermediary object among stakeholders (Vinck 1999).

* The papers

This special collection includes revised versions of six papers from the thematic sessions. Four of them describe case studies while two others are more theoretical and methodological. Three of the papers are published in this issue, and the remaining three will be published in the next issue of JASSS, in June 2003.

Etienne et al. describe the use of both RPG and ABM tools within an on-going negotiation process. They use an ABM within an interactive setting concerned with local planning issues. Their simulation interface resembles the territory covered by the negotiation. The use of various viewpoints about the evolution of the land was important because it made the discussion about acceptable trends easier.

Etienne uses RPG sessions to learn from the behaviours of players so that he might improve his representations for further versions of the ABM he is building. Repetition of sessions with various sets of players enables him to identify a typology of emergent collective behavioural patterns, constituting benchmarks for the calibration of his ABM. Although his RPG initially aimed at providing inputs for the ABM design, it also proved to be suitable for learning. This experiment shows that even if quite different goals are at stake when designing these experiments, multi-objective tools may be considered, and potential side-effects must be dealt with.

Barreteau proposes a classification of joint uses of RPG and models, based on the case studies presented at the ISEE conference in Sousse, as well as other experiments published elsewhere. These come from experimental economics and policy exercises. This classification leads him to consider the use of RPG and models together as a post-normal version of an experimental approach to complex systems.

In a paper in the next issue, D'Aquino et al. will present a methodology for using ABM and RPG in local planning. They have gone the furthest with the idea of participatory modelling: for them, a RPG is the expression of the model collectively designed by stakeholders, while an ABM is its computerized implementation to ease the simulation of various scenarios.

Also in the next issue, Duijn et al. will describe an experiment at the heart of negotiation processes, tested through a simulation of negotiation. They make use of a traffic simulation in a virtual Dutch city. Their approach separates the representation of "physical processes" (traffic, city development) in the computer model from the social interactions in the game model. The benefits of this approach for the outcome of the negotiation process arises from the quick and easily understandable feedback to participants about the implications of the proposed options.

Finally, Dare and Barreteau will discuss the connection between what is happening in a RPG and real social relationships: the extent to which real village life is represented in the RPG. They propose a methodology for such an assessment built upon the analysis of sessions of a RPG, aiming at developing an ABM of an irrigated system in a Senegal river valley.

* A charter for good practice

The conclusion that these case studies suggest is that these tools are powerful and open to a wide range of uses. A group of scientists from a number of disciplines has proposed a charter to define their specific position in using them for companion modelling, incorporating scientific as well as ethic safeguards.

* References

HANNEMAN R A (1995) Simulation modeling and theoretical analysis in sociology. Sociological perspectives, 38. pp. 457-462.

JANSSEN M A, (Ed.) (2002) Complexity and Ecosystem Management. Edward Elgar.

KOHLER T A (1999). "Putting social sciences together again: an introduction to the volume", In Kohler T A and Gumerman G J (Eds.) Dynamics in human and primate societies: Santa Fe Institute.

LANSING J S (2002) Artificial societies and the social simulations. Santa Fe Institute for Complex Studies. http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/publications/Working-Papers/02-03-011.pdf.

MANSON S M (2002). "Validation and Verification of Multi-Agent Systems", In Janssen M A (Ed.) Complexity and Ecosystem Management: Edward Elgar.

MEADOWS D and Meadows D (1993) Fish Banks news. Durham, NH, USA: Fish Banks limited and Laboratory for Interactive Learning University of New Hampshire.

MERMET L (1993) Une méthode de prospective : les exercices de simulation de politiques. Nature Sciences Sociétés, 1. pp. 34-46.

MOSS S and Davidsson P, (Eds.) (2001) Multi-Agent-Based Simulations. LNAI Series. Springer.

ODELL J, Van Dyke Parunak H and Fleischer M (2003) The Role of Roles. Journal of Object Technology, 2. pp. 39-51.

VINCK D (1999) Les objets intermédiaires dans les réseaux de coopération scientifique. Revue Française de Sociologie, 40. pp. 385-414.


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