Game Design and the CIA

You don’t often think about board games and the Central Intelligence Agency together, except in the case of designing a game about the CIA.  But for Volko Ruhnke, they go hand in hand as he has designed games specifically for the public and games specifically for training in the CIA.  And he isn’t a light weight when it comes to his games, he has designed some highly rated games like Labyrinth: The War on Terror, Fire in the Lake, and the COIN series of games.  So it’s not that much of a stretch to learn that he creates similar games for the CIA.  The games are used to help train operatives on when to take action given the intelligence they have gathered, and what effects that can have on the situation.  The most notable training game, or at least the one he can share, is about capturing the drug lord El Chapo, a game that teaches how to use intelligence to track someone down.  One person plays El Chapo trying to escape, while the other plays the law enforcement agency tasked with capturing him and bringing him to justice.  As the game goes on, both sides will be getting new information and have to make critical decisions based on that information, helping them learn critical judgement skills.  Once time for the game is done then the players are debriefed back in the classroom to help them integrate skills from the game into real life.

Volko enjoys this style of training as it sets up a more informal atmosphere and allows for more interaction and connection than a classroom setting.  Also when asked about if he finds it hard to differentiate between designing for the public and designing for the CIA, he says it’s “easier than than you may think“.  The main reason being is that the CIA has the procedures and personnel in place to help keep him from putting anything sensitive in his historical games, just like when they prepare press releases and the like.  Overall the interview was very interesting and you can read the full article on the Polygon website.