Overlearning and Sequenced Difficulty

When knowledge and skills have developed to the point of mastery, continued practice provides the opportunity for overlearning. Overlearning allows knowledge and skills to become automatized and solidified in memory so that cognitive resources can be freed for a learner to draw upon and apply new concepts and information. For example, when students learn to read, they first must sound out letter by letter until a word forms. As this process is repeatedly practiced, the processing of words becomes automatized and now the meanings of the passages come into focus (Bloom, 1986). Most video games are designed with mastery and automaticity in mind. Early levels train basic game skills; later levels are only solvable if the basic skills have been automatized so that more complex skills can be learned and used.

The difficulty and complexity of game play is carefully sequenced so that players are never overwhelmed by the task at hand, but that they master necessary skills for future game success. At the beginning of many games, for example, there are “training modes” in which players are slowly exposed to each of the controls used in the game. If players are not yet able to continue on to the next stage in a game, they are often allowed to continue playing at a lower difficulty (e.g., replaying a level) until the necessary skills have been mastered.

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