Wargaming for International Relations Research
45 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2020 Last revised: 5 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 4, 2021
Political scientists are increasingly integrating wargames into their research. Either by fielding original games or by leveraging archival wargame materials, researchers can study rare events or topics where evidence is difficult to observe. Scholars, however, have little guidance on how to apply this novel methodological approach to international relations research. This article evaluates how political scientists can use wargames as a method of scholarly inquiry and sets out to establish a research agenda for wargaming in international relations. We first differentiate wargames from other methodological approaches and highlight their ecological validity. We then chart out how researchers can build and run their own games or draw from archival wargames for theory development and testing. In doing so, we explain how researchers can navigate issues of recruitment, bias, validity, and generalizability when using wargames for research, and identify ways to evaluate the potential benefits and pitfalls of wargames as a tool of inquiry. We argue that wargames offer unique opportunities for political scientists to study decision-making processes both in and beyond the international relations subfield.
Keywords: wargaming, political science, methodology, international relations
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