Encoding New Skills With Computer Game Based Learning (Avenues to Maxhumanism)

By on December 15, 2022

Increasingly, computer games have been overturning their poor reputation to be recognized as a form of brain training.

See also: We Don’t Need Transhumanism, We Need Maxhumanism

Arguably, something like Doom: Eternal could be superior at training your reflexes, visual attention, focus, and decision making than many so called “brain training apps.”

Not mine. Mine’s perfect.

I think we will discover more and more benefits of computer games for the brain going forward. The fact that each new game teaches an entirely new series of button inputs, contextual controls, and more, means they keep us constantly learning and adapting.

This will only be amplified further when more games make the move to VR.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

Rather, I’m here to discuss how we can use lessons learned from video games to optimize learning and potentially “encode” new skills directly into the brain.#

How Computer Games Enhance Learning

What we can’t argue with, is that computer games are a fantastic tool for learning.

Specifically, games are great at teaching us to play them better. They make this process fun and they quickly develop a kind of mastery that would take years in other areas.

Brain Training

Take an average player and get them to try their hand at some Super Meatboy. The gulf in there ability during the opening levels versus the final levels will be HUGE. They will be pulling off movements that previously would have seemed absolutely impossible.

Games do this so well because they maintain a perfect difficulty curve, designed to keep the player in a constant flow state. It’s also due to the immediate feedback loop, consisting of extremely gratifying sounds and graphics when the player does well, and the equivalent of a wet fart when they fail.

Combine this with the ability to restart immediately, colorful and varied graphics to maintain attention, and a clearly-defined goal, and you have an experience that’s extremely compelling.

Biomind App

And also perfect designed to tap into the dopamine pathways in the brain: to quickly wire new engrams corresponding to the perfect ballet-like combination of button presses.

So, what if we took this same approach and applied it to learning other types of skills?

This is “gamification” but not in the naff sense that we are familiar with.

An Example

About ten years ago, I was obsessed with the idea of increasing my text input speed. My aim was to build an app, and ideally one I could use on a phone. I wanted to be able to type faster and more accurately with one hand, on a phone, than I would on a laptop.

I was a full-time copyrighter and I hoped this would allow me to quickly work while standing up, while jogging, tidying the hose, working out, etc.

I was, and am, weird.

To do this, I devised a system that would translate thumb swipes into letters and other characters. The system worked well-ish to begin with, but was too slow owing to the amount of time it took me to remember which symbol was which.

Cognitive Processing

My solution? To create a computer game. This computer game would essentially prompt me to make the different swipes in accordance with backing music and prompts. This would be fun enough that I’d want to do it, and at the same time, it would teach me the inputs that I’d need to use.

Very quickly, I was able to memorize the different gestures and start writing very quickly.

Unfortunately, there were lots of problems with the actual app itself and it ended up being a lost cause. It never came close to being faster than typing. A bit like my various attempts at an AI writer to replace me!

I often have little side projects like this going on. But I wouldn’t call this one a failure. The success was actually the learning tool – I think it has a lot more potential.

“I Know Kung Fu”

Essentially, using a game to teach motor skills in this way, is a little like hacking the brain’s dopamine systems to teach something faster. It’s almost an unconscious learning process; especially if you can make the game itself genuinely fun.

What else could you “imprint” into the brain, this way?

There are plenty of other examples: this is nothing new. The Typing of the Dead, for example, is a game that challenges the player to type quickly in order to fend off zombies. It’s a game that revels in its ridiculousness.

cognitive load

I choose this example, over the countless others out there, because it better straddles that line between “game” and “educational tool.” This is crucial: so many of the learning games that are out there amount to little more than flash cards, quizzes, or memory games. These are not fun: they don’t keep the player in a flow state, nor do they utilize a powerful instant-feedback loop. There is no “cool factor” to draw in the attention.

The Typing of the Dead works because it is based on an actual computer game: The House of the Dead 2. Thus, it comes with all the spectacular bosses, all the sound effects and music, etc.

All I’m suggesting that is new here, is that we re-examine the potential of computer games as a learning tool. Especially for physical activities and complex movement patterns.

The Future

In the future, I believe we could take this further. Specifically, by using VR with advanced motion tracking and analytics.

Imagine playing a fighting game, but as you do, you get immediate and precise feedback regarding your punching technique. The app can not only see your precise posture – enough to know if you’re generating power from the feet and hips – but even the level of tension in the different muscles.

If we could integrate a vibration mechanism – so that a body suit would vibrate whenever the technique was slightly off until the user got back “in the pocket.”

Combine this with actual fun gameplay, rewarding sounds and cool visuals that play when you get it right…

I think you could teach someone far more perfect technique in a fraction of the time. And it would be scalable: you could help hundreds of thousands of people to move better. Almost like pro-athletes.

And this could apply to areas outside of movement, too. An obvious example would be language learning. And this is where we could get really experimental: even creating and learning new languages to convey and manipulate more information, more efficiently.

This, I think, is the better, maxhuman, solution to the “communication bottleneck” problem that Elon Musk talks about.

Full dive

How about finding new ways to learn maths skills. Some highly effective mathematical savants talk about “visualizing” the size of numbers, or getting a “feel” for their size rather than consciously processing the information. Perhaps this is something we could learn through a game?

Either way, I think there is huge potential for the technology we already have to accelerate our learning in particular areas. And once we can learn much more quickly, we can make some fundamental changes to the way we think and move.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

One Comment

  1. James Bell says:

    Are… are you seriously talking about making what amounts to The Animus in Assassin’s Creed? (Movie version is better than the game’s IMO).

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