NATO Science presents: Training by gaming

  • 06 Jan. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 06 Jan. 2021 13:09

NATO Science | Training by gaming

Questions and Answers with scientist Berke Çaplı

Location: Ankara, Turkey

Project name: Gamification of Cyber Defence/Resilience

Project description: In the future, threats could come from all sides: disinformation, urban warfare, cyber attacks, civil unrest, robots, drones, and even augmented humans. It's NATO's job to imagine every possible threat and plan how to best protect our populations. Gamification can be a valuable tool in getting people to ask questions they haven't asked before. The combination of competition, excitement and fun is crucial when training the next generation of security specialists. Through its Science and Technology Organization, NATO is working with cognitive and behavioural scientists at Atılım University in Turkey to set up simulations – from board games to future games in virtual reality – that hit the perfect pitch of learning and creativity. In the end, the knowledge and experience gained from these games will help NATO and Allied leaders make better-informed decisions on defence matters.


  1. What is gamification and why is it important?

    Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of games. More simply, you can think of gamification as using games to explore complex, real-life situations. It is important because it allows people to be immersed in a complex scenario and struggle with challenging issues in an exciting and fun environment.
  2. How does this research project fit within NATO?

    The research project, formally titled SAS-129 Research Task Group on Gamification of Cyber Defence/Resilience, is a research activity within the NATO Science and Technology Organization's (STO) multi-national collaborative programme of work. The work is overseen by the STO's System Analysis and Studies Panel, which supports our efforts.
  3. The Gamification of Cyber Defence/Resilience project has been ongoing since 2017. What are the biggest lessons learned or advancements in the project since it began?

    The team initially aimed to gather a catalogue of cyber security-related "serious games" (that is, games whose main purpose is more than just entertainment) as well as to develop one or more prototype games. However, initial research showed that cyber warfare did not exist as a separate entity from other domains of war. In addition, events occurring during the start of the research showed that there was a significant shift towards multi-domain concepts. Whereas joint meant collaboration and synchronisation, multi-domain meant integration of combinations. The research group decided to adapt its research accordingly and moved to develop a serious game smart acquisition & development guide as well as switched its efforts to design and validate a wargame for multi-domain operations.
  4. Have you ever participated in one of the simulation games depicted in the video? What was it like? What kind of feedback do you typically hear from participants?

    The research activity has already conducted demonstrations and prototype testing of the game at a number of national and NATO venues: the National Informatics Congress in Ankara, Turkey; Command and Staff College of the German Armed Forces in Hamburg, Germany; Strategic Reconnaissance Command Grafschaft, Germany; Turkish General Staff Partnership for Peace Training Centre in Ankara, Turkey; the Land Training Centre in Amersfoort, Netherlands; and at the NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference in Ottawa, Canada.

    The idea of wargaming is engraved in the fabric of NATO member nations – think of tabletop exercises, where military leaders practise various crisis scenarios processes during simulated scenarios. But serious games are a developing concept. When our prototypes leaned more on the traditional wargame concept, feedback also leaned towards classic wargame requirements. However, when the prototypes were more "gamey" (that is, had more elements of modern, fun games than traditional military simulations), participants struggled to adapt to the game mechanics and had a hard time to place the game in their natural military environment. Nevertheless, in both cases the facilitator and/or umpire proved to be the critical factor in a good serious game (or wargame). A facilitator helps decrease the complexity of learning the game but at the same time helps the designers to protect the complexity of the game.
  5. What are the next steps for the Gamification of Cyber Defence/Resilience project?

    Before ending the project, the team will complete their guide for serious games and then "box" the game as a finished product and release the final version. However, the research team hopes to continue marketing the game to disseminate it as broadly as possible within the NATO community as well as provide key expertise on the subjects of multi-domain operations, wargames and serious game development in the NATO network.
  6. This project involves a larger number of NATO countries. What is it like working with a multinational team?

    This project would not be possible without the broad range of expertise provided by the multinational team. The team required key expertise in all domains of war (land, sea, air, space, information), new concepts of operations and the threat environment, as well as wargame and serious game development. NATO's Centres of Excellence (CoE) structure and scientific collaboration network was critical for the research team to continue its work. Through this network, the research group was able to receive cyber expertise from the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence CoE in Tallinn, Estonia; the Archaria Megacity Model from the NATO Modelling and Simulation CoE in Rome, Italy; and information operations expertise from the Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) CoE in Riga, Latvia.
  7. How does your research and the Gamification project contribute to the goals of NATO?

    Military operations in the hybrid threat environment is the new normal for NATO. This changing paradigm requires reimagining high-tech defences against relentless, coordinated attacks from every domain of conflict – land, air, sea, space, cyberspace – as well as from the electromagnetic spectrum and the information environment. This gives rise to a new military problem: how should NATO forces be trained, organised and equipped to comprehensively understand, execute and sustain joint operations, and create desired effects across the multiple dimensions of increasingly complex and dynamic environments? When faced with similar strategic changes, militaries have always relied on wargames to pave the way. This research effort focuses on developing a wargame to change the current military mindset towards a more multi-domain approach and enable a motivational learning environment for non-technical personnel on the use of the information domain (cyber, cognitive and electromagnetic) in near-future operations.
  8. What advice would you give to young people who want to get involved in behavioural science research projects like this one?

    For anyone who is seeking a career in behavioural science, being immersed in the human experience is key. It is only possible to understand how people behave by going out into the world and testing the theoretical knowledge we gain in school among and with other people.


Learn more about other innovative science projects on the NATO Science main page.