Chapter 6 of this book discusses “Deep Learning and emotion in Serious Games,” to further validate Psychology’s role in game design and game play. The authors present the concept of “serious games,” or educational and therapy-related games. These oxymoronically worded games, they say, are “designed with the explicit goal of helping students learn about important subject matter, problem-solving strategies, and cognitive and social skills” (83). These games successfully integrate gameplay with curriculum, and “the learning of difficult content” via these game platforms becomes “enjoyable and engaging” for the student; strenuous mental activity becomes transformed into play (83). In order to understand how this is achieved, however, game designers must investigate the principles of psychology to fuse those principles with those inherent to game design.
The art or science of teaching, education, and instructional methods with games must undergo further analysis and far more utilization however; as of now, very few games exist with this integration in mind. Those that do exist, however, incorporate “behavioral, cognitive, and social task analysis between game features and the desired learning objectives” (84). To support their belief in the power of “serious games,” the authors introduce several psychological principles that are crucial for understanding how games play on the user’s mind, for example: Principles of instructional design are mapped onto particular features of games; the mapping of game features can be linked to the four levels of evaluating training (student reaction, leaning, behavioral transfer, and systematic results); these features are also linkable to a specific learning model that has five major branches of cognitive demand—these branches are: content understanding, problem solving, self-regulation, communication, and collaborative teamwork (83). Ideally, Graesser, and his co authors believe that these games would increase enjoyment, interest in the topic at work, and the “Flow” experience McGonigal made familiar to us. “Such engagement in the game would be expected to facilitate learning by virtue of time spent on task, motivation, and self-regulated activities, so long as the focus is on instructional curriculum rather than exogenous game components” (83).
Several taxonomies of games exist: 1st person shooter, action-adventure, strategy, puzzle, trivia, simulation, role-playing, and MMORPGs. Each genre corresponds to “specific behavioral, cognitive, or social skills acquired as a function of increasing playing time, practice, tests, and challenges. These skills span perception-attention-motor skills, working memory management, memory for content, reasoning, planning, problem-solving, and social interaction” (84).
Deeper levels of learning involve the following: analysis of causal mechanisms, logical explanations, creation and defense of arguments, management of limited resources, tradeoffs of processes in complex system, and a way to resolve conflicts (84). More shallow levels include: perceptual learning, motor skills, definitions of words, properties of objects, and memorization of facts.
This article answers exactly what I questioned: What makes games successful psychologically? What is their psychological impact? How can game designers more effectively utilize psychological responses in their execution? What aspects of psychology specifically correspond to the components of games? Is all media and entertainment simply a crafted manipulation of our psyches? Do we care if it is? Does understanding our own psychologies serve as a handy defense against unfair or unwanted manipulation? These thoughts apply not only to gamers and game designers, but to students, parents, teenagers, doctors, lawyers, everyone. Name one person that hasn’t played a game. We’ve all been psychologically manipulated somehow, but most of the time, we love it! 🙂
Graesser, Arthur., et al. Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects. New York: Routledge, 2009. 83-90. Print.