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“Using Cognitive Task Analysis as a Tool to Make Serious Games More Serious”

CTA is set of analysis tools for expertise. Expertise (in this framework) is knowledge that can be applied to a problem. CTA provides methodology for describing and classifying problems and how easily a particular expertise can be applied to them.

The talk was about applying CTA to games along with playability considerations. The game is always “how to apply expertise X”, and you make a bunch of problem scenarios into which the expertise is more-or-less-successfully applied. If the game gets boring, make the problem not fit the expertise as well (“well-formed problems” vs “poorly-formed problems”).

Jargon note: “Serious Games” at GDC embraces both “Art Games” and “Simulation Games.” The former are made to be presented to boutique or gallery audiences as content, and the latter are a form of training exercise. That is an enormous scope, and I have been confused by it.

Art games go back at least to Dada, but they tend to be in service to polemics or process– Duchamp, Dada, Fluxxus– good art making a point, but not play-tested, not playable, and very unsatisfying as games.

Simulation games are a billion-dollar industry that go back to the Franco-Prussian war– think tank battalion training exercises.

Strange two things to lump together– art and war. But they are certainly serious.


1 hold events
2 stand for something & articulate it
3 start small & keep on going
4 analyze the events afterwards & refine (“stay learning”)
5 repeat often — meet regularly
6 be inclusive– don’t turn people away; help them grow. If you want to have a certain crowd, control that with invitatons
7 ID core values (see also 2)
8 design the experience- schedule, topic sequence, activities, room layout
9 teach participants how to control the event
10 help people duplicate your event in other venues
— Jeff Lindsay , Glider Lab

Jim Munroe also gave an excellent presentation, but it was more anecdotal/ less pithy.