Using Microgenetic Methods to Investigate Problem Solving in Video Games

Alice Anderson.

I didn’t get a lot of information on this, but I guess if you’re teaching it could be fascinating research when it’s finished.


Research goal is to help learning in classrooms – providing games to help middle school (secondary school – 10-13 year olds) life science classes, which are engaging and fun.

Main aim is to sustain learning skills, such as scientific thinking skills. There was no choice of specific educational games, but they are fun.

Need to find out how effective they are – asking the students questions – one player to one researcher to ask questions as the players play, such as “Tell me more about what just happened” – open ended questions to get an idea of what is going on in their heads.

A lot of boys, since it was an afterschool program, typically in 15-20 minute sessions, 3-4 playthroughs of each games over time – with 4 games – World of Goo, Auditorium, Crayon Physics, Portal – because they are fun, good, and small puzzle games with well defined problems. There are also multiple paths.

Inspecting specifically World of Goo. There is efficiency of design (to get the right amount out the pipe), undo use (time bugs), and building structures.

Custom coding schema to define the players – short and long actions, etc. – made to be generic, and generalise and also take into account players who don’t play videogames.

There is some questions on the research – the coding scheme needs to work (since it is custom), the methodology might also not be the best either – so need to ask questions on the organisation of it. Additionally for the subjects there is one major question “are kids monitoring their own strategies?”.

Still need to work on analysis this year. In the future also going to look at the teachers and the DS console. See for more information.


Why the DS?

Possibly, being honest, part of the grant! Portability, government interest and convenience too.

What about gender differences (even though it’s a small sample size)?

Hesitant to talk about that, but anecdotally one interesting players was a girl who played but not within the game rules – building up a pyramid of balls for instance, not endorsed by the game. Interesting and something to be looking at.

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