take me to the darkportal mmowgli game!       

dark portal MMOWGLI is now complete!

Thank you National Defense University (NDU) students, staff and faculty!

The darkportal game ran 30 September-26 November 2013. Players participated by using
ndu.edu, irmcollege.net or .mil email addresses. 

We're excited about these important topics, and think you will be motivated too!
The darkportal blog and
Invitation flyer have the latest game information.



Big Picture

Dark Portal is a cyber-war-game produced by NDU's Center for Applied Strategic Learning. The Dark Portal exercise provides a forum for information exchange and consensus decision-making in the context of a major national security event.  Participants will examine the gravity, complexity, and difficulty inherent in responding to a series of physical and cyber incidents affecting critical infrastructures and key assets in the United States and will explore potential responses to those incidents.  Special emphasis is placed on critical infrastructure interdependencies and challenges to the nation's defense and economy. 

Dark Portal MMOWGLI is supported by the NDU 6003 elective Wicked Problems in Complex, Chaotic National Security Problems, Center for Applied and Strategic Learning, iCollege, NDU Library and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).  We will be using MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet) an NPS game platform designed to find and collectively grow breakthrough ideas to address urgent problems.  You do not have to be experts in cybersecurity or wicked problems to play and participation is voluntary.


Why We Are Playing the Game

The goal of Dark Portal MMOWGLI is to introduce the NDU Community to the challenges of effective decision-making in a complex, surprise-filled world that is increasingly influenced by cyber power.

Participants will:

  • Get an overview of Cybersecurity issues and work together to offer innovative strategies in Action Plans.
  • Acquire a basic framework for approaching wicked problems.
  • Experience how this type of gaming platform can be used for education, brainstorming, and addressing complex problems.  Crowd sourcing has proven to be a very effective way to find creative approaches to tough issues and participating in this MMOWGLI will give you a hands-on understanding of how this is accomplished.

This is the first NDU-wide project that's ever been undertaken to harness the minds of the faculty and students to generate innovative approaches to a significant National Security problem.  You can win NDU awards for your game play for yourself as an individual and for your component.  Awards will be presented at an NDU townhall.

  • If your component is interested in playing as a team: There will be a drop-down field in your Player Profile with a list of NDU components for you to choose from.  After you have registered and are in the game, make sure you have your component listed in your Player Profile, in the box labeled "location." To get to your Player Profile, click on your avatar/screen name on the upper left corner of your screen.


Access and Game Dates

Dark Portal MMOWGLI is intended for NDU community members and will run over the course of 3 Rounds:

  • Round 1: 30 September - 14 October,  Define the Environment
  • Round 2: 15 October - 4 November, Define the Problems
  • Round 3:  5 November - 26 November, Alternative Formulations

Each phase of the game will start by the partners posting ‘root' cards which pose questions on the topic for that phase.  Players then post ‘Idea Cards' that other players can respond to by either building on, countering, redirecting, or calling for further expertise.  Points are earned based on each idea card's influence and perceived value.  Individuals contributing to particularly intriguing concepts are invited to collaborate on an "Action Plan" to move that idea forward.  Published action plans are awarded further points by all players providing ratings and additional comments.  Significant achievements will be recognized.


Dark Portal MMOWGLI Resources

Cyber Security Resources

General Information

Critical Infrastructure


Electric Grid

Financial Sector


US Policy

The White House

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Defense

Department of State

Department of Justice

Department of Treasury



Wicked Problems Resources

"Wicked" problems are hard or impossible to solve due to requirements that are contradictory, incomplete and changing, and often hard to recognize. Dr. Nancy Roberts, of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Monterey, describes a class of problems "that defy solution, even with our most sophisticated analytical tools."  In her words (Roberts, 2000, p.1):

These problems are called "wicked" because they have the following characteristics:  1).There is no definitive statement of the problem: in fact, there is broad disagreement on what ‘the problem' is.  2). Without a definite statement of the problem, the search for solutions is open ended.  Stakeholders – those who have a stake in the problem and its solution – champion alternative solutions and compete with one another in a way that directly connects their preferred solution and their preferred problem definition.  3). The problem solving process is complex because the constraints, such as resources and political ramifications, are constantly changing.   4). Constraints also change because they are generated by numerous interested parties who "come and go, change their minds, fail to communicate, or otherwise change the rules by which the problem must be solved."

Also focusing on government officials and public managers, she defines three types of problems (simple, complex and wicked), and characterizes them by the degree of conflict in problem definition and solution. 

Wicked Problems and Network Approaches to Resolution, by Nancy Roberts.This article offers three coping mechanisms for taming wicked problems.

Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber. This is the definitive paper which coined the term "Wicked Problems."

Wicked Problems & Social Complexity, by Jeff Conklin. This paper provides a detailed discussion on wicked problems and complexity.

Commander's Appreciation and Campaign Design, United States Army. This is intended for use by commanders charged with designing, planning, and executing a campaign. "Wicked" problems are called "Ill-Structured."

Solving Wicked Problems, by Steve Nixon. A short video introduction to wicked problems.

Nancy Roberts: Solving wicked problems and #MillionPeopleMarch, interview on Rappler.com