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 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/

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 05: (I Can’t Get No) Satisficing

Humans do not always make the most optimal decisions. We are limited by our cognitive resources. We usually make decisions, even in playing games, that are just “good enough.” The process of making a “good enough” decision is known as satisficing.

Game References

Backgammon, Indulgence

Research References

Blessing, S. B., & Ross, B. H. (1996). Content effects in problem categorization and problem solving. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition22, 792-810.

Griggs, R. A., & Cox, J. R. (1982). The elusive thematic‐materials effect in Wason’s selection task. British Journal of Psychology73, 407-420.

Simon, H. A. (1947). Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-making Processes in Administrative Organization. New York: Macmillan.

Wason, P. C. (1968). Reasoning about a rule. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology20, 273-281.

State of the Podcast

I’ve now done four episodes of the podcast. I’m pretty proud of them. I know what the next two are going to be. The next one will be about decision making (well, one small area within decision making, as that broad topic could have 6-8 episodes at least). Then, the sixth one will be a different type of episode, one I’m currently calling a “game vivisection,” where I take one game and examine it from different angles, both cognitively and otherwise. I think I know which game it will be first.

Six episodes then I think will be, not necessarily a “season” but a set. A set of episodes will then have 3-4 shows where I look specifically at a cognitive concept, relating that one concept to a number of games, 1 or 2 more philosophical podcasts, and then 1 or 2 game vivisections.

And, there are people I don’t even know listening to the podcasts! The Word Press plugin I use gives me some info about number of downloads per episodes, along with how they got the episode (Hello! Overcast listeners; that’s the app I use; and, hi to my one listener from Stitcher!)  I set a pretty modest goal of listeners for the outset, think double digits, and it has been met. Once I get six episodes in the can, I’m going to try to “market” a bit more and I have a new goal for after that.

Thanks to all who have listened so far!

Episode 04: Shall We Play a Game? Rise of the Machines

For about as long as there have been computers, there have been computer programs that play games. This episode considers some of the history of game playing computers, and how that has shed light on the nature of human intelligence.

Game References

Chess, Go, Jeopardy!, Pong, Tic-tac-toe, Uncharted, Video Olympics

Research References

Isaacson, W. (2014). The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. Simon and Schuster: New York: NY.

Licklider, J. C. (1960). Man-computer symbiosis. IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, 1, 4-11.

Metz, C. (2016). What the AI behind AlphaGo can teach us about being human, Wired.

Montfort, N., & Bogost, I. (2009). Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Episode 03: Attention, Please! The Role of Attention in Playing Games

You need to have focused attention while playing games. If you don’t, you might miss a critical move in a board game, or totally miss that other player about to blast you in Call of Duty. This episode considers how attention works as we play games.

Game References

Captain SonarHorizon Zero DawnPandemic Legacy, Stroop

Research References

James, W. (2013). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. Perception28(9), 1059-1074.

Simons, D. J., & Levin, D. T. (1998). Failure to detect changes to people during a real-world interaction. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review5(4), 644-649.

Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology18(6), 643-662.

Simons and Chabris Visual Attention Demo

Simons and Levin Visual Attention Demo

Change Blindness Demo

Episode 02: Now You See It, Now You Still Do: The Use of Visual Imagery in Memory

Visual memory has a different character than verbal memory. This episode examines the nature of our visual memory, and how it is used in such games as Tetris, Carcassonne, and any game that has a map that your character must navigate.

Game References

Assassins Creed, Asteroids, Breakout, Carcassonne, DixIt, Horizon Zero Dawn, Pandemic, Patchwork, Risk, Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, Tsuro, Watch Dogs 2

Research References

Shepard, R.N., & Metzler, J. (1971) Mental rotation of three-dimensional objects. Science, 171, 701-703.

Kosslyn, S. M., Ball, T. M., & Reiser, B. J. (1978). Visual images preserve metric spatial information: Evidence from studies of image scanning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 4, 47-60.

Pylyshyn, Z.W. (2002). Mental Imagery: In search of a theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 157–182.

Clive Wearing video

We’re Live!

Okay, the first episode of the podcast is now up on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. More than likely, no matter how you listen to podcasts, it probably works with one of those services (but, let me know if it doesn’t). Please subscribe!

The direct links to each of those services can be found here, on the About page.

Episode 01: You Must Remember This: The Use of Activation in Game Playing

How verbal items are stored in long term affect how they are retrieved. This in turn affects how we play a fair number of games, as they require retrieval of items from long term memory. In particular, I consider such games as Codenames, Scattergories, and Taboo.

Game References

Codenames, Monikers, Scattergories, Taboo, Trivial Pursuit, Wits and Wagers

Research References

Loftus, E. F. (1973). Activation of semantic memory. American Journal of Psychology, 86, 331-337.

For those who want to know more about the mathematics and computation behind memory retrieval:

Raaijmakers, J.G.W. (2008). Mathematical models of human memory. In H. L. Roediger, III (Ed.), Cognitive Psychology of Memory. Vol. 2 of Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference, 445-466. Oxford: Elsevier.