Wargames Resurgent: The Hyperrealities of Military Gaming from Recruitment to Rehabilitation

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While games are commonly viewed as frivolous fun, their rapid proliferation across the US defense establishment compels us to think again. Spanning spheres as diverse as total immersion training, near-peer/cyber conflict, and future force strategies, a gaming renaissance is currently underway across the US military. Surprisingly given International Relations’ (IR) interest in the production and projection of military power, the discipline has neglected to engage with this revival. This article argues that hyperreal games – that is, games that produce realities – play an increasingly important role in the attraction, production, management, and recovery of warfighters. Drawing upon one hundred hours of interviews undertaken with US military games designers, trainers, trainees, and veterans between 2017 and 2019, the article documents first-hand experiences of hyperreal gaming in warfighter recruitment, training, deployment, and rehabilitation. The core argument developed is that unlike simulations, which model scenarios, games are productive of people, values, and identity. If it is to understand games’ use as tool of warfighter subjectification, the article argues, IR must renew its focus on military gaming disaggregated from the broader hyperrealities of modelling, simulation, and exercises with which it has hitherto been conflated.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Jan 2022


  • Wargames
  • US military
  • International Relations theory


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