Video game design through perceptual, cognitive and learning development (Harmon, 2009)

So, I have completed my TOEFL because some grad schools aren’t giving exemptions about my being educated in an Canadian university (Read: English!). I had an easier time writing the essay section than the GRE essay section. I reason the GRE essay questions are more formulaic than the TOEFL. I was so transfixed on following the writing style outlined in my practice books. When I couldn’t remember what to do, I panicked, I remembered less and wasted time.

Josh Harmon, a student from Kennesaw State University, posted his senior thesis on perceptual, cognitive and learning research on video games. It is an up-to-date and comprehensive overview of the research. Much of his paper described the research in a positive light, he did discuss some limitations game design ‘s effects on certain cognitive abilities, although I wanted to see some reservations on some studies’ methodologies, such as defining video game players.

From these studies, Harmon posited a theory to explain improvements in cognitive abilities. However, it’s preferable to read his post since the following is my attempted summary of the theory. This is called the virtual interaction theory which is a system of feedback loops between the perceptual system, cognitive system and learning abilities. With time and learning, bottom-up processes becomes more efficient with units of information merged into large chunks effectively processing more information, this would in turn affect top-down processes as information organization becomes efficient. This would improve the cognitive system in dealing with information presented in a video game to come up with effective responses and strategies. When firmly established, the systems become efficient in dealing with other, but similar experiences or video games genres. For example, an expert in a specific game has much easier time playing similar games (i.e. same genre)  than a non-expert.  What distinguishes this theory is its integration of the level of control we have in a game and the feeling of presence as part of the feedback loops. Any impairment in either of the two factors can lead to weaker feedback loops. Incidentally, it reminded me of a study on temporal delay in virtual environments. For example, lagging can lead to disassociations between behavioural actions and visual feedback. I hate it when you understand, but can’t express it well.



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