Assessing Players’ Cognitive Load in Games






Alberto Faria Coutinho da Silveira Ramos



Due to the exponential growth of computer technologies, video games are becoming more complex each passing year; with tasks and challenges that, very often, defy the player's cognitive abilities. Handling limitations of the Working Memory and proper Cognitive Load management is crucial when dealing with problem-solving tasks; however, these concepts appear to be highly undervalued, or even unknown, in the gaming industry. To address this problem and help game designers to better understand the intrinsic complexity of their games, this work applies the attention-shifting principles of the Time-Based Resource Sharing (TBRS) Memory Model in the game Way Out (a game we have developed from scratch). We formulated the idea of Attention-Grabbing Events and tried to incorporate them into the game, aiming to create a tool-set that estimates the player's Cognitive Load while playing a video game. To validate our hypothesis, we compared the data collected from the game with the questionnaire NASA TLX -- a subjective method that assesses the mental workload experienced during a task. Although we were unable to directly estimate the player’s Cognitive Load, we believe that this work was a step forward towards achieving that goal. The amount of Attention-Grabbing Events and gameplay time, when compared with the NASA TLX, seem to be a good indicator of Cognitive Load levels. However, the TBRS Cognitive Load formula, in its current form, does not appear to be reliable when directly applied in a general gameplay scenario -- at least following the approach we did.