Getting lost in buildings (or an FPS level) (Carlson et al. 2010)

Saw that on Kotaku

Via BoingBoing, Laura Carlson (University of Notre Dame) and company have published an interesting article in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The article discusses architectural designs of buildings and how individuals navigate within them using navigation strategies, cognitive maps and the like. The theoretical framework they propose is of interests for FPS map designers (IMO) of which they can create complex maps without confusing players’ sense of direction. Although, I don’t know if there are any research regarding videogame navigation or map designs for videogames enjoyment and experiences.


People often get lost in buildings, including but not limited to libraries, hospitals, conference centers, and shopping malls. There are at least three contributing factors: the spatial structure of the building, the cognitive maps that users construct as they navigate, and the strategies and spatial abilities of the building users. The goal of this article is to discuss recent research on each of these factors and to argue for an integrative framework that encompasses these factors and their intersections, focusing on the correspondence between the building and the cognitive map, the completeness of the cognitive map as a function of the strategies and individual abilities of the users, the compatibility between the building and the strategies and individual abilities of the users, and complexity that emerges from the intersection of all three factors. We end with an illustrative analysis in which we apply this integrative framework to difficulty in way-finding.

I skimmed the article since  the end of this quarter is near and two papers that can’t write by themselves.

Some interesting information that stands out are how we pick certain objects and features as landmarks in helping navigate a floor. There’s a preference for regularities in the distance, angle and structure in a floor, they cited a virtual reality experiment by changing an  elevator’s orientation relative to two other rooms. One particular result from that experiment is that participants had a easier time in finding their way when the elevator’s orientation is aligned with the two rooms.

At the top of my head, videogames would be useful in building navigation training. But, nowadays players have access to minimaps to help them navigate. Perhaps, some game designers may opt out the minimap as a game design choice, and instead use the game environment itself to help players construct a cognitive map of a given level that’s not too linear, nor disorienting from players quitting the game. I could see some potential that level designers would understand more of the player-centric processes of navigating in a virtual environment.

Well I’ve drawn a blank now…

Carlson, L. A., Hölscher, C., Shipley, T. F., & Dalton, R. C. (2010). Getting Lost in Buildings. Current Directions in Psychological Science , 19 (5), 284-289. doi: 10.1177/0963721410383243


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