How Games Influence Strategic Culture

Rules define many of the ways a player or team can achieve the primary goal in a given game. For example, because American football requires teams to advance the ball a certain distance over a series of downs or give up the initiative, the game evolves as a series of set-piece plays. Soccer, in contrast, is far more fluid, with virtually continuous activity throughout the game. Soccer and American football do share one common rule in that both last a standardized period (albeit with opportunities for additional time). Games like chess, go, and League of Legends have no set time limits (go’s so-called game of the century, for example, lasted from October 16, 1933 to January 29 of the next year).

At higher levels of play, of course, these sports and games teach more nuanced strategic lessons. Fans of aggressive, offensively oriented teams, such as the Air Coryell offense of the (then) San Diego Chargers or the Total Football strategy epitomized in the play of soccer legend Johan Cruyff, have likely internalized different lessons than those of fans of teams that sought deliberate command of a game’s flow rather than explosive offense, such as Dean Smith’s four-corners basketball offense or Woody Hayes’s “three yards and a cloud of dust” ground-control form of American Football.

In reference to means, go offers perhaps the simplest and starkest example. Here each piece has the same weight and capabilities. Its importance in terms of the game depends entirely on where and when it is played. A piece placed in a critical position at exactly the right time can find itself, over the course of just a few more turns, in a position of relative unimportance. Contrast this to games like chess and American football, where each piece or player is highly specialized. Modern video games are at the far opposite extreme from go. League of Legends, for example, has 120 playable characters, each with its own set of capabilities and limitations. Other video games, with nearly endless customization options, offer even more choice.

Games do more than implicitly teach strategic principles, however. Popular games also give people a common language with which to communicate strategic principles to others. Go has a long tradition of influencing Chinese strategic thought in business, politics, and the military. There does not appear to be a thorough scholarly project tracing the etymology of sports-related words and phrases referenced in national strategy documents. However, many of the common words and phrases from sports used in the workplace and in historical references are immediately recognizable.


Folksonomies: games strategy

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/sports/football (0.696006)
/business and industrial/business operations (0.610833)

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San Diego Chargers (0.885742): dbpedia_resource
Game (0.847806): dbpedia_resource
Play (0.696881): dbpedia_resource
United States (0.648211): dbpedia_resource
Football (0.647840): dbpedia_resource
Down (0.634937): dbpedia_resource
Games (0.622048): dbpedia_resource

 The Games We Play: Understanding Strategic Culture Through Games
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Wheaton, Kristan (2022-03-23), The Games We Play: Understanding Strategic Culture Through Games, Modern War Institute at West Point, Retrieved on 2022-03-25
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  • Folksonomies: strategy gaming