Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Computer Science

Supervisor

Dr. Kamran Sedig

Abstract

Computer games have been touted for their ability to engage players in cognitive activities (e.g., decision making, learning, planning, problem solving). By ‘computer game’ we mean any game that uses computational technology as its platform, regardless of the actual hardware or software; games on personal computers, tablets, game consoles, cellphones, or specialized equipment can all be called computer games. However, there remains much uncertainty regarding how to design computer games so that they support, facilitate, and promote the reflective, effortful, and conscious performance of cognitive activities. The goal of this dissertation is to relieve some of this uncertainty, so that the design of such computer games can become more systematic and less ad hoc. By understanding how different components of a computer game influence the resulting cognitive system, we can more consciously and systematically design computer games for the desired cognitive support. This dissertation synthesizes concepts from cognitive science, information science, learning science, human-computer interaction, and game design to create a conceptual design framework. The framework particularly focuses on the design of: gameplay, the player-game joint cognitive system, the interaction that mediates gameplay and the cognitive system, and the components of this interaction. Furthermore, this dissertation also includes a process by which researchers can explore the relationship between components of a computer game and the resulting cognitive system in a consistent, controlled, and precise manner. Using this process, three separate studies were conducted to provide empirical support for different aspects of the framework; these studies investigated how the design of rules, visual interface, and the core mechanic influence the resulting cognitive system. Overall then, the conceptual framework and three empirical studies presented in this dissertation provide designers with a greater understanding of how to systematically design computer games to provide the desired support for any cognitive activity.


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