EAE 4900 – Psychology of Games


In this course, we will examine in-depth a variety of cognitive principles relevant to the design of video games. The purpose of this course is two-fold: (a) to provide students with a deep understanding of the psychology at work during play and (b) to identify how to make psychological principles actionable during the process of designing a video game. We will explore challenges around human perception, attention, memory, problem solving, and learning, in order to predictably design the engaging games we intend.


This course covers the psychological principles of play, including:

  • Perceptual Engineering: perception of depth, motion, color, sound, and events; attention
  • Cognitive Psychology: memory, language, beliefs, desires, and intentions
  • Ecological Psychology: learning, emotion, decision-making, problem solving
    In addition, the course also covers:
  • Game design science, including: Game design structures, methodologies, rationales, and processes
  • Linking psychological principles to design principles.
  • The ethics of entertainment psychology and engineering.

Expected Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Identify and explain the psychological principles present in designed video games.
  2. Evaluate designed video game content in reference to psychological principles.
  3. Assess the effectivity of designed video game content in relation to human performance.
  4. Question video game designs in terms of ethics applied to effects on human psychology.

Class Details

Next Offering: Spring 2023

Previous Term(s): Spring 2021

Instructor: Nancy N. Blackburn

Syllabus: available upon request

Prerequisites: Full major in (Games or Computer Science) OR Permission of the Instructor.

Format: Class format is primarily lecture-based, drawing from several books and supplementary readings provided by the instructor.

Textbook: Celia Hodent. The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX can Impact Video Game Design. CRC Press, 2017.