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Videogame Design for Cognitive Enhancement through Micro-Puzzle Cognitive Profiling

2013; IITSEC; Gallagher, P.S.; Prestwich, S.

The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative's Next Generation Learner researchers previously investigated whether five video game design features hypothesized to be contained within Portal 2 might increase cognitive adaptability (CA). Their results highlighted a lack of understanding of the cognitive elements of video games within the literature. Subsequently, a protocol for applying cognitive task analysis (CTA) to video games was developed and a CTA was performed on Portal 2 to understand the cognitive components, decisions, and knowledge needed for successful gameplay, as well as to gain a detailed understanding of its design. As a result of the CTA, a compendium of within-level tasks and puzzles the player must complete, referred to as "micro-puzzles," was compiled, and mapped to the five design features for CA.Results from the initial study showed that certain measures of CA were increased in those playing Portal 2; however, the design of Portal 2 was treated as a "black box." Through performing a CTA, the presence of the five design characteristics for adaptability was validated by location and by micro-puzzle. Although precisely identified and mapped by game location, there were no specific alignments identified between cognitive measures and micro-puzzle attributes, or between micro-puzzle typology and design feature support. For this reason, the researchers are cognitively codifying micro-puzzles in Portal 2 by type according to their measurable cognitive attributes. This involves defining the micro-puzzles and mapping them to cognitive skills, measurable by the CANTAB battery of tests for CA, followed by empirical testing in the game environment. This paper details this codification and mapping, as well as efforts to build levels in Portal 2 based upon this information in order to cultivate specific cognitive skills, empirically validate the correlation of puzzle type in-game to cognitive gains, and further validate hypothesized game design features to improve cognitive functioning.