Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Gautam Agarwal

Reader 2

Carlin Wing

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A large part of experimental design in neuroscience revolves around the tasks that are designed for participants to complete to understand the complex system that is the brain. However, as Alan Newell pointed out in his 1973 paper, “You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win,” as designed tasks often answer a binary question that limits their contribution to understanding the brain as a system or a “genuine slab of human behavior.” Games provide an apt solution to this problem, as their complexity embodies a naturalistic task while their well-defined rules create a robust experimental system. Video games specifically have been growing in popularity for cognitive research, and I have defined three different ways in which they are used: as treatments, as Big Data sources, and as sites for training computational models. Their greatest strengths lie in the accessibility, quality, and quantity of their data, and their manageable task complexity. However, most current studies fail to take advantage of the opportunities games provide for research, often due to a lack of understanding of the design choices made that contribute to the player experience. I outlined some principles for using games in neuroscience research, including deciding whether to use a commercially available game, a clone game, or a self-made game to produce meaningful data collection. When opting to create one’s own game, I recommended working with a game designer to gather an optimal quantity of data without impairing the quality of the composite task.