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Okay, now THIS is a post I can sink my teeth into. You make me very glad I went to the GDC, Bill.

I think similarly - most of my theorizing happens visually. So I'll put one more vote on the 'think in 3D for SCIENCE!' edge of the universe.

I would hesitate to say that it's the only way - or even the best way - to go about thinking scientifically. But it seems to be a good way.


To leave a clumsy return-comment to your comment on my site, if a gamer has higher spatial reasoning abilities than the game tests for, couldn't you easily determine that by their in-game performance... and up the complexity?

I've just got the Torque 2D engine, so I'll post something nifty in an hour or so on my blog.

(Sorry about the cross-reply, but I wanted to make sure you would read it. I'm greedy, I guess.)


Craig, not greedy at all. I need to figure out how to use the track back feature more effectively. I appreciate your comments. They keep challenging me to refine my thinking.

regarding the test - I don't think a game would be used to test for high spatial ability per se. There are standard tests for this (http://www.nfer-nelson.co.uk/catalogue/catalogue_detail.asp?catid=84&id=1016).

My question is does dealing with a 3D camera in a virtual environment where you can move around freely (think the z-button map in Metroid Prime) and analyze a 3D object have a positive, statistically significant effect.

Some people don't like the map, don't get the map, and might choose not to play metroid. Others may choose to struggle with the map controls until they get a feel for the freedom it provides, basically a hemisphere with views possible from the horizon to the azimuth and all intervening angles, with varying levels of zoom control.

The controls become second nature fairly quickly, or at least they did for me. And then that in-game tool allows me to reason about strategies to follow in solving the puzzles.

But I digress.

What if someone has low spatial ability, but perseveres with the tool so that they begin to understand how it works. Does that then translate into higher performance on subsequent spatial ability tests. Does it persist? Is it more effective than just working with 3D building blocks.

Hypothesis - blocks may be dismissed as childish, and so the person would not pay as close attention to their interactions and the visual relationships as they would with the onscreen representation.

And then there is the added cognitive load of maintaining foreground and background on the 2D display space.

But these are things I need to formalize and restrict the scope of the inquiry a bit. Then maybe I can produce a study that can tell me something useful.


Well, my preference is to test in pseudo-3D - essentially, multi-layered 2D - because those kinds of games can be created in less than fifty man-hours. 3D games are much more complicated.

But I would think spatial reasoning growth can be tested simply by a series of specially designed games or levels.

Now, that said, I don't think computer games are ever going to match 'real' games and toys for teaching 'core' spatial reasoning. The depth of interaction gained from actually rotating and stacking blocks is, I would bet quite a bit of money, far better at training spatial reasoning than trying to navigate a static maze or shoot bad guys.

But there's more than one kind of spatial reasoning. We're talking about 'depth' - but what about 'width'? Speed of computation? Reaction speed? Filtering 'safe' and 'unsafe' vectors? Tracking large numbers of events simultaneously? Remembering ever-larger maps?

Depth of spatial reasoning isn't the only kind of reasoning which is important, and I don't know if depth can be trained by video game.

But my gut instinct is that most of the other kinds that I mentioned are perfectly suited to being video-game trained.

As a side note: most of my imaginary graphics when picturing a new theory are not in me-centric 3D. They're in diagrammatic 3D. First-person shooters bear little resemblence to how I, personally, think.

Conrad Lynch

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