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First-years deal with 'NATO crisis'

For their honours internship, second year students of the Honours College 'Governance & Global Affairs' created the serious game Fallen Angels. In the game you take on the role of NATO, and have to deal with a crisis. Last month, a new generation of Honours students had the opportunity to be the first to try out this simulation.

As a way of getting to know their Tackling Global Challenges track, first-year students find themselves in a crisis situation. A helicopter has disappeared close to the Russian border. It is crucial that the students recover the missing crew, and resolve the crisis as quickly and efficiently as possible. They form four groups to do this: Intelligence finds information and shares it with other groups; Logistics decides which resources will be used and where; Operations is responsible for executing the mission, and Public Affairs Officers are responsible for communication with the public.

Information overload

The simulation takes place via the Discord communication platform. Each team has its own channel for sharing its findings with the other teams. Other rooms are used for briefings or press conferences. New information is constantly coming in as a result of the activities of the teams or via the Twitter livestream. Online proves to be an ideal environment for this kind of dynamic exercise. ‘If we had to do this in a physical environment, we would have had to hire a whole building,’ says Hidde, the organiser of the assignment.

One of the participants, Iris, remarks that the start of the exercise was quite chaotic. ‘There was so much information to process and the time pressure was huge.’  That came as no surprise to Hidde: ‘ One of our aims was to have everyone experience information overload. The hectic start with a flood of information meant that the participants had to sort out and prioritise the information that was coming in.’ Co-organiser Helena adds: ‘The team members worked really well with one another and with the other teams, so they made progress very quickly.’ 

An unexpected request

The Leiden NATO team completed the mission successfully. Noah, Oliver, Helena and Hidde are very proud of the first live session of their self-made NATO simulation. ‘We found that most simulations are based mainly on diplomacy and negotiations, so we wanted to create a case where diplomacy wasn’t the main solution.’

The proud designers of the NATO simulation, which they created behind their desks at home.

The organisers put a lot of work into their creation. ‘We have been working on it for over a year; we’ve done several practice sessions and this evening it was time to go live.’ One important element was the care that was taken in gathering the documents. The students even got in touch with NATO to make the game more realistic. ‘I received a mail later from NATO head office,’ Oliver says. ‘They asked me to make it clearer in the document that this was a Leiden University simulation. NATO could barely distinguish our documents from their own official ones. That really was a high spot!’ 

Original text: Thijs Endendijk
Translation: Academic Language Centre
Pictures: students
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