Episode 13: The Psychology and Design of Everyday Games

What might a cognitive psychologist say about game design? We discuss some of the issues Don Norman raised in his classic book The Design of Everyday Things and how that relates to game design, both from the player and the designer’s point of view.

Game References

Assassin’s Creed, Atari 2600, Catan, Fresco, Horizon Zero Dawn, Nintendo Wii, Pandemic, PS4, Scythe, Terraforming Mars, Ticket to Ride

Research References

Lindsay, P. & Norman, D. A. (1972). Human information processing; An introduction to psychology. Academic Press, New York.

Norman, D. (1988). The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books, New York.

Selinker, M. (2011). The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design. Open Design.

Episode 12: Cognitive Gamer Cognalysis: Horizon Zero Dawn

This episode contains a deep dive into the cognitive ins and outs of the Playstation 4 game Horizon Zero Dawn. Much of the analysis, though, could be applied to most open-world games. We’ll consider narrative, skill transfer, and types of knowledge.

Game References

Assassin’s Creed, Horizon Zero Dawn, Player Unknown’s Battleground, Watch Dogs

Research References

Crossman, E. R. F. W. (1959) A theory of the acquisition of speed-skill. Ergonomics, 2, 153–166.

Gunzelmann, G., & Anderson, J. R. (2006). Location matters: Why target location impacts performance in orientation tasks. Memory & Cognition34(1), 41-59.

Madigan, J. (2017). Don’t do your best: Goal setting and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Retrieved from http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2017/10/dont-do-your-best-goal-setting-and-horizonzero-dawn/

Newell, A. & Rosenbloom, P. S. (1981). Mechanisms of skill acquisition and the law of practice. In Anderson, J. R., editor, Cognitive skills and their acquisition, pages 1–55. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ.

Seijts, G. H., & Latham, G. P. (2001). The effect of distal learning, outcome, and proximal goals on a moderately complex task. Journal of Organizational Behavior22(3), 291-307.

Sweller J., Ayres P., Kalyuga S. (2011) The Goal-Free Effect. In: Cognitive Load Theory. Explorations in the Learning Sciences, Instructional Systems and Performance Technologies, vol 1. Springer, New York, NY

Episode 11: O Memory, Memory, Wherefore Art Thou Memory?

Cognitive psychologists make a lot of distinctions with different types of memory. In this episode I provide an overview of the various ways that scientists have divvied up memory, and how each relates to how we play games.

Game References

Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Call of Duty, Clank!, Dominion, Kingdomino, Scrabble, Uno

Research References

Anderson, J. R. (2014). Rules of the mind. Psychology Press.

Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memory. Psychology of learning and motivation, 8, 47-89.

Corkin, S. (1968). Acquisition of motor skill after bilateral medial temporal-lobe excision. Neuropsychologia, 6(3), 255-265.

Sperling, G. (1960). The information available in brief visual presentations. Psychological monographs: General and applied, 74(11), 1.

Tulving, E. (1986). Episodic and semantic memory: Where should we go from here?. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9(3), 573-577.

Episode 10: Tell Me a Story

Many of our memories are structured around stories. They are a very powerful device, that allow us to remember and experience more than what we might otherwise. Using story and narrative within games can increase our enjoyment of them. I discuss the psychological reasons for this.

Game References

Adventure, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Charterstone, Colossal Cave, Dungeons and Dragons, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Fiasco, Gloomhaven, Gone Home, Haunted House, Horizon Zero Dawn, Kingdom Death: Monster, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Missile Command, Pandemic Legacy, Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War, Space Invaders, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Tales of the Arabian Nights, and What Remains of Edith Finch

Research References

Bartlett, F. C., & Burt, C. (1933). Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. British Journal of Educational Psychology3(2), 187-192.

Blessing, S., & Skowronek, J. (2014, January). The Power of Personalization: Making a Museum Visit More Memorable with a Personalized Story. In Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society (Vol. 36, No. 36).

Sulin, R. A., & Dooling, D. J. (1974). Intrusion of a thematic idea in retention of prose. Journal of Experimental Psychology103(2), 255.

Schank, R. C. (1990). Tell me a story: A new look at real and artificial memory. New York: Scribner.

War of the Ghosts story

Episode 09: Don’t Count Your Cognitions Until They Hatch

Kids can learn a lot by playing games. In this episode I talk with Dr. Jennifer Blessing about the skills that children learn by playing games, such as turn taking, goal setting, and number sense.

Game References

Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Count Your Chickens, Don’t Break the Ice, Happy Salmon, Hi Ho! Cherry-O, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Memory, Operation, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, Sorry SlidersTicket to Ride

Research References

Ramani, G. B., & Siegler, R. S. (2008). Promoting broad and stable improvements in low‐income children’s numerical knowledge through playing number board games. Child development79(2), 375-394.

Next episode will be up soon!

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Hi all! Just wanted to give a quick update on Episode 09. This will include an interview with a special guest, and we’ve been at issues on scheduling! At the latest, we’ll get it done this weekend, so look for a new episode by early next week. Sorry for the wait (it will be worth it, though!). In the meantime, play some fun games! In the last few weeks we’ve acquired and played Sagrada, the Metagame, and 7 Wonders, all of which I would recommend! And, special shout-out to Ryan, who gifted me with a deck of Epic Card Game and a couple of other goodies he acquired at GenCon. Here’s a picture of the “gaming pile” on our dining room table.

Episode 08: Go Search, Young Game Player!

Games can be thought of as solving one big problem: How do I win? Cognitive psychologists think about problem solving in terms of a search process, how to get from your current state to a goal state. I discuss what this means for how we play games.

Game References

Assassin’s Creed, Breath of the Wild, Chess, Dungeons and Dragons, Europa Universalis IV, Go, Just Cause, Legend of the Five Rings, Magic: The Gathering, Othello, Pac Man, Ratchet and Clank, Space Invaders, Tic-tac-toe, Ticket to Ride, Twilight Imperium

Research References

Newell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human Problem Solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Smith, Q. (September, 2017). Review: Legend of the five rings, https://www.shutupandsitdown.com/review-legend-of-the-five-rings/

Growing slowly but surely!

I’m trying to get the word out about the podcast. If you found this website via Boardgame Geek and my attempts there to get the word out better, welcome! I’m now seeing triple digits in some of the episodes! Woo hoo!

I know what the next episode will be, one on problem solving. Then, either Episode 09 or Episode 10 will have a special guest it looks like. We are still working out the details.

Thanks for being on this ride with me! I hope you are enjoying it!

Episode 07 : That Blows Chunks: Increasing Working Memory

One constraint that everyone has is working memory capacity. Or in other words, how many things you can remember at any one point in time. While there are individual differences in this, another aspect turns out to be more important: chunking.

Game References

Chess, Guitar Hero, Konami Code, Scrabble

Research References

Chase, W. G., & Ericsson, K. A. (1982). Skill and working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 16, pp. 1-58). New York: Academic Press.

Chase, W. G., & Simon, H. A. (1973). Perception in chess. Cognitive Psychology4, 55-81.

Miller, George A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81-97.

Episode 06: Cognitive Gamer Cognalysis: Pandemic

I consider the popular board game Pandemic from a number of different angles. What makes it an interesting game, cognitively speaking? I touch on decision making, attention, cooperation, and also the Legacy and iPad versions.

Game References

Burgle Bros, Mechs vs. Minions, Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy

Research References

Daviau, R. & Leacock, M. (2017), The Making of ‘Pandemic Legacy,’ GDC 2017.

Schank, R. C. (1995). Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Sherif, M. (1961). Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Toronto: York University.

Treisman, A. M., & Gelade, G. (1980). A feature-integration theory of attention. Cognitive Psychology12, 97-136.