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A cognitive look at World of Warcraft

Mike Schramm

The Human/Computer Interaction Design group at Indiana University seems interesting -- they're apparently working on the connections between the Human/Computer interface, both studying what's already being done between humans and technology and thinking of new ways for the two to interact. And they're concerned with abstracts, not specifics -- they look not at which buttons are being pressed, but why and how the software informs you what to do next.

One of the students in a class there has written up a cognitive account of what it's like to play World of Warcraft, which is a look at the game strictly through sense perception. Even if you're an experienced player, it's interesting to see the game in a new light like this -- rather than talk about the lore or the mechanics of gameplay, the writeup is all about the sights and sounds of the game, and how Blizzard's overall design clues you in to what can and can't be done in Azeroth.

There's probably lots more work that could be done on this as well -- lots of games, including World of Warcraft, use design elements like colors and lighting to nonverbally clue you in on the next door to go through or where to send your attention during a scene or fight. Most of their other cognitive accounts are about actual UI design, but there are many, many things left for those studying user interfaces to mine out of the way videogames express themselves to the user.

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