טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
M.Sc Thesis
M.Sc StudentShtekelmacher Daniel
SubjectThe effects of Engagement and Cognitive Load on
Performance in a Firefighting Serious Game
DepartmentDepartment of Industrial Engineering and Management
Supervisor Professor Avi Parush
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Abstract

Since the early 2000's, the rising popularity of video games has led to the development of Serious Games (SG) which are video games designed to achieve some change in the player (e.g. change in knowledge, attitude, physical ability, cognitive ability, etc.). Merits and popularity of video games can be harnessed to motivate and engage players in achieving predefined goals other than pure entertainment. Such games can support their goals through increased accessibility, easy content update, low costs per trainee, interactivity, user customization possibilities, visual attractiveness and acceptability as an engaging and entertaining activity.  This potential has earned SGs with growing popularity, with implementations including classroom education, government, financial services, healthcare, hospitality and catering, science and technology, telecommunications, corporate and military training, etc.

One of the main concepts in SG is Engagement, defined as “increased interest that represent intrinsic motivation toward specific goals”. A more engaging experience is more likely to be beneficial in achieving the SG goals. However, some studies suggest that engagement effects and goal achievement in SGs are mutually exclusive, and it may be due to Cognitive load imposed on the players by different gaming elements.

This study investigated the relation between engagement, cognitive load and performance in a commercial desktop firefighting serious game. Four fire-fighting scenarios were created to provide varying levels of two gaming elements: collaboration and challenge, by having players paly alone or in a pair, and two scenario difficulty levels.

The findings demonstrated the positive effects of engagement on better game performance, and the negative effects of cognitive load leading to poorer performance. Pair-play facilitated better game performance with reduced cognitive load and increased simulation performance. The results highlight the centrality of extraneous cognitive load (i.e. load related with the presentation method) in serious game play, and the importance of affective aspects of engagement in determining the play outcome. 

The results highlight the not straightforward relation between game engagement and cognitive load. On the one hand, serious game implementations should focus on creating a positive experience that would not be exceedingly frustrating or effortful for players. At the same time, the results also stress the importance of controlling for cognitive load levels in serious game implementations. The study implies that, compared to individual play, playing in a pair or a team can facilitate players’ ability to accomplish their “serious” goals.