Facilitators: who needs them? Your guide to picking the right facilitator for your wargame.
Wargames used for training or educational purposes often require facilitation. Facilitators are able to make or break the game. Their purpose is to ensure that the game processes and timings are adhered to and the wargame objectives are met. A good game is a flowing game.
In our experience too many facilitators are frustrated rockstars. They seek to reinforce their own opinions and attempt to play the game their way.
So, how do you pick the right facilitator?
#1 Go for the safe option, find a person with relevant experience.
Preferably from outside your organisation, you should find a facilitator who is also an expert wargamer. The facilitator should be fully cognisant with the mechanisms and rules of the particular game being played. Often the facilitator is also a game designer.
#2 Is impartial
Facilitators who have a vested interest in the outcomes of a game tend to be biased. A wargame run by your boss will invariably fail. Players will be too busy scoring brownie points and not game points. This will ruin your game as you will not be able to fully test your concepts, ideas or plans. It might even affect your experience, and fun, as this bias could seriously affect gameplay. A good facilitator is a good referee. A good facilitator doesn’t succumb either to the opinion bias of the client.
#3 Acknowledges all participants and doesn’t attempt to lead the discussion
Too many facilitators like to hog the limelight and showcase their own knowledge and / or expertise, strutting around the floor plan armed with a big pointer. Whereas a good facilitator will intervene only at the process level. He or she will keep the game play moving in order to achieve its objectives.
#4 Is a time keeper
A game can be bogged down in dispute and minutiae if the facilitator does not keep activity and process moving. A good facilitator manages time and knows when to step in to keep the game flowing.
#5 Has a good sense of humour
Wargaming has to be fun. A good sense of humour helps in creating a safe learning environment
#6 Doesn’t draw conclusions
Rather, he or she allows the participants to do so. In our experience we have seen facilitators interfere when players are making content, as opposed to process, mistakes. While it is often met as an act of good will or kindness. It does of course negate the agency of the player. The player should be able to learn from his or her mistakes. That’s why we are gaming!
#7 Knows when to end the game
There is no point flogging a dead horse. When the training objectives have been achieved, it is time to call it quits, let the players have the debrief from their superiors and head to the bar. Victories have to be celebrated and defeats commiserated.
#8 Does not praise or appraise
This is the job of the client and the most senior person in the room, for example a game director or an observer mentor. Praising and appraising individuals will have a negative effect on the group or those who are left out or perhaps have minor - but still critical - roles.
#9 Does not critique in the debrief
When the game is over, the facilitator’s role has ended. The game director - or an observer mentor - should lead the debrief. Where necessary the facilitator gives his inputs prior to the debrief in private on game process only.
#10 Knows when to exit
When the game is done, participants need time to decompress and reflect. The facilitator should concern himself or herself with cleaning up and packing the game away. The facilitators are also the roadies. That helps keep them grounded.
Facilitators may of course have support teams and personnel. We’ll look at those in subsequent blogs.
Coming up next, the mighty Adjudication team.