Cognitive Gamer

The Cognitive Gamer examines how psychology intersects with playing games. All aspects of psychology will be considered, centered on cognitive psychology, but also touching on other areas such as social, developmental, biopsychology and others. And, all types of games will be discussed. Give it a read and listen!
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Another success at the Cognition of Game Playing class!

Stephen Blessing
United States
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Hi all! Last September I wrote about a class I had taught the previous May, a psychology class called The Cognition of Game Playing. It's essentially an introduction to cognitive psychology class, but we play games to illustrate course concepts. I taught the course again this May, and just wanted to provide a quick update. For more complete info, refer back to that blogpost. The syllabus was relatively similar as last year (link below), but with some changes to the games:

The University of Tampa has a two-week May term, where students can take one class that meets everyday for several hours. Both last May and this May, my class met from 8am - 1pm everyday for the two weeks. We had lectures using a traditional textbook and discussions surrounding the book Getting Gamers by Jamie Madigan, all interspersed with game playing. Last May, the first time for the course, I had 8 students and this May I had 20 students. The word had gotten out! The additional students presented some challenges, like how to have multiple tables of games going. With 8 students, I could arrange things so that everyone played each game at the same time. But, with 20, I had to be more creative. Some games we could play as a larger group (e.g., Taboo), some times I paired games up that had higher player counts (e.g., half played Deception in Hong Kong, half played Secret Hitler), and I also instituted what I called "Touchstone Games." These games play 4-6, and I broke the class up into 5 different groups. Each group played one Touchstone Game per day, so that at the end of the 5 days, everyone had played all the games. That worked pretty good. For each day, one student was assigned to be the teacher of that game. I made several resources available so they could learn the game ahead of time.

The course evaluations were incredibly positive; about the highest of my career. I also had the students fill out an "exit questionnaire" in which I asked how well they liked each game, using a 7-point rating scale. If you're interested, here are those means and standard deviations:

6.50 (0.89) Playstation VR [Sensation & Perception]
6.40 (0.75) Codenames [Long term memory]
6.30 (1.38) Telestrations [Visual Imagery]
5.85 (1.14) Taboo [Long term memory]
5.85 (1.81) Carcassonne* [Visual Imagery]
5.75 (1.16) Guesstures [Perception / Attention]
5.70 (1.22) Decrypto [Memory]
5.70 (0.92) Concept [Concepts]
5.70 (1.17) Word Slam [Verbal Memory]
5.40 (2.09) Scotland Yard* [Problem Solving / Decision Making]
5.30 (2.03) Secret Hitler [Decision Making]
5.30 (1.92) Sagrada* [Problem Solving]
5.25 (1.07) Pit [Attention]
5.10 (2.22) When I Dream [Visual Imagery / Memory]
5.10 (1.89) Deception: Murder in Hong Kong [Decision Making]
4.95 (1.61) Two Rooms and a Boom [Decision Making]
4.95 (1.28) Wits and Wagers [Decision Making]
4.90 (1.59) Modern Art* [Decision Making]
4.70 (1.03) Dixit [Imagery]
4.15 (2.48) Sheriff of Nottingham*
4.00 (1.52) A Fake Artist Goes to New York [Imagery]

The ones marked with an asterisk were the Touchstone Games. As you can see, most games were liked by most people, but the two at the bottom didn't see a lot of love (doing quick one-sample t-tests, those are the only 2 that don't significantly differ from the neutral point). I wanted everyone to play a bluffing game, but Sheriff of Nottingham might not have been the best choice. Three students listed it as one of their top three games (a separate question on my exit questionnaire), but 10 people listed it as a bottom three game. The others all had a much more even mix (e.g., 6 people listed Scotland Yard as a top 3, but 4 people listed it as a bottom 3).

We also played some other games, but just for a short period to illustrate a specific concept (e.g., we did a quick round of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes to illustrate pragmatics in language)

Of course, the point of the class isn't necessarily to like the games, but it does help. They all appreciated the cognitive aspects of playing these types of games, and we had some great discussions on what parts of cognitive psychology go into playing each game.

This fall I'm teaching this course as a full semester one, with 25 students. Having a May term course with 20 students was a good test to see what works (like, the Touchstone Games).

If you have any questions, please let me know!
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