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Grade Level:
7th - 9th Grade
Time Required:
1.5 Hours
Group Size:
5 - 6 Groups
Subject Areas:
Biology Mathematics Game Design Psychology Computer Science

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Design of Memory Game

Contributed by:Edbox Team

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In this game courseware, students will explore knowledge on brain science memory that game designers use when designing "Memory Game", including memory classification, influencing factors, working principles and game design (such as levels, rules and feedback); analyze the difficulty design in memory games, study the differences in difficulty between levels, design new games, and use Edbox game editing tool to create their own game.

Students will explore the most basic biological principles of Memory Game and knowledge of game design, which is crucial to the initial design process of Memory Game designers. Students will recognize that visuospatial working memory can be trained and improved through the Memory Game card game. They will also learn that the game can show various possibilities by changing card patterns, time, and level difficulty settings and rules to display game experience data. After the lessons, students will be able to apply their knowledge acquired from this course to design Memory Game.

After the lessons, students shall:
1. Explain the relationship between Memory Game and visuospatial working memory;
2. Explain the principles of game difficulty design in psychological terms; 
3. Understand the impact of card patterns and time settings on the game level difficulty; 
4. Understand the principles that should be followed when designing the difficulty settings between different levels;
5. Understand the key points and importance of rules to display game experience data settings; 
6. Understand what kind of information should be provided to the player at different stages of the game; 
7. Understand game planning.

NGSS: Life Sciences

Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.

Science and Engineering practices Disciplinary core ideas Crosscutting concepts
Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

• Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and method used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence.
Information Processing

• Each sense receptor responds to different inputs electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical, transmitting them as signals that travel along nerve cells to the brain. The signals are then processed in the brain, resulting in immediate behaviors or memories.
Cause and Effect

• Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural systems.

NGSS: Engineering Design 

Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

Science and Engineering practices Disciplinary core ideas Crosscutting concept
Asking Questions and Defining Problems

•  Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool,
process, or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

•  The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge likely to limit possible solutions.
Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World

•  All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short- and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.

•  The uses of technologies and limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.

Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Science and Engineering practices Disciplinary core ideas Crosscutting concepts
Developing and Using Models

•  Develop a model to generate data to test ideas about designed systems, including those
representing inputs and outputs. Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Developing Possible Solutions

•  Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions.
 Optimizing the Design Solution 

•  The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution.

Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

Science and Engineering practices Disciplinary core ideas Crosscutting concepts
Analyzing and Interpreting Data

•  Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.
Developing Possible Solutions

•  There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. 

•  Sometimes parts of different solutions can be combined to create a solution that is better than any of its predecessors.
 Optimizing the Design Solution

•  Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process—that is, some of those characteristics may be incorporated into the new design.

Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Science and Engineering practices Disciplinary core ideas Crosscutting concepts
Engaging in Argument from Evidence

•  Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.
Developing Possible Solutions

•  There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem. 


Use functions to model relationships between quantities.

• Describe qualitatively the functional relationship between two quantities by analyzing a graph (e.g., where the function is increasing or decreasing, linear or nonlinear). Sketch a graph that exhibits the qualitative features of a function that has been described verbally.

Students need to have prior knowledge of computer science, presentation slides editing, and common graphics editing software (such as Photoshop).

The Memory Game is often used to test memory. In Chinese, it is known as "Pairs” and "Memory Game", with "Memory Game” as its English name. The main rules of the game are as follows: At the beginning of the game, all the cards are facing down, and the player needs to open two cards at a time. Cards that are not identical to each other will be flipped back to its original position. When you flip the cards, you must remember the card pattern and continue to find matching pairs. The game ends when all the cards are paired. (Figure 1)


 (Figure 1)

The advantages of Memory Game include easy control of game difficulty, easy to change memory logarithm, simple game rules, and it is suitable for individuals or groups to play and for people of all ages, cultures and languages. Even people who suffer from dyslexia, mental disorders, dementia and communication disorders can play the Memory Game. (Next, students will play the game so that they will have an in-depth understanding of the game and use their experiences to think about related problems. See course evaluation 1.1)

I. The relationship between Memory Game and visuospatial working memory
The Memory Game is a clear-cut memory task. To find two cards that can be correctly paired, it is necessary for the player to remember the patterns on the card and positions of the cards. When the player is playing, he/she must use his visuospatial working memory to retain and process a large amount of visual (card pattern) and spatial information (position of appearance). To understand the working memory of visual space, it is necessary to start with working memory.  According to scientists, memory can be divided into four types: sensory memory, short-term memory, long-term memory and permanent memory, depending on how long the information is stored in the brain. External information enters short-term memory through the sensory channel. Short-term memory is a limited-capacity memory and processor that allows memory to turn into long-term memory.  For short-term memory, information can be stored for about 15~30s  or it can be converted to long-term memory through retelling. Baddeley and Hitch proposed the working memory concept in 1974 from the short-term memory concept. Unlike short-term memory, working memory is a limited-capacity memory that temporarily stores and processes information. Other than storing information for a short time, it also emphasizes the information processing function.  For example: If you must calculate 25*25 without paper, pens, or calculators, then mental arithmetic is required. First, you must remember the two numbers in your working memory, use the multiplication rule to multiply the individual numbers and keep the calculation results in your working memory, and finally add the results retained in the working memory to get the correct results, reflecting the workability of working memory. However, after you finish the calculation of this question, the results of the previous calculation will soon be forgotten when you calculate the next question or deal with other things, which reflects the transitivity of working memory. Baddeley and Hitch believe that working memory consists of at least three parts, phonological loop, visuospatial sketchpad and the central executive system (Figure 2). The phonological loop is responsible for maintaining and processing voice-based information. The visuospatial sketchpad is a temporary storage system that integrates visual and spatial information. It plays an important role in terms of vision, language or long-term memory, as well as thinking, memory and processing tasks.  The central executive system is the most important component of working memory. It is a control system with limited resources and monitors information processing in working memory. It is also responsible for using limited resources to coordinate the activities of the phonological loop and visuospatial sketchpad, and stay in touch with long-term memory. Therefore, people's attention to visuospatial working memory begins with the visuospatial sketchpad of the above model.



visuospatial working memory is the storage and processing of spatial information. As a subsystem of working memory, it is temporary and workable. The Memory Game can be used to test a person's visuospatial working memory. The tester must remember the positions of different card patterns. When the tester sees one pattern, it is necessary for the tester to quickly extract the location of the same pattern card, which reflects visuospatial working memory. While playing the game, other than examining visuospatial working memory ability, it also investigates the players' visual resolution and attention span. Visual resolution refers to an individual's ability of distinguishing one object from another, including the ability to seek similarities and differences. Attention span, in psychology, is the ability of a person's mental activity to point to and focus on something. During the course of the game, the player needs to pay attention, carefully observe, and identify differences of card patterns, especially for complex and highly similar patterns, as these have higher requirements for visual resolution and attention span.

II. Factors that affect the difficulty of Memory Game​.

(Next, show students pictures of memory game with different amounts of grids, colors and patterns, and the thinking problem. Lead students to discuss about the pictures and the problem, see Course Assessment 1.2 (a) & (b).)

The Memory Game requires us to remember two parts: the pictures and position of pictures, and pair them within a certain period of time. Thus, the type of picture, card position, and time will affect the difficulty of the game. First, check how the card position affects the game difficulty. Comparing the two images in Figure 3, you will notice that it is more difficult to remember the right picture than the left picture. This is because the number of grids is small, the number of images in the grids is small, and image positions that need to be remembered is low. Thus, the player's attention span, visual resolution and visuospatial working memory requirements are relatively low, reflecting the low game difficulty. Otherwise, the game difficulty will increase.



Next, let's look at the difference in the card pattern when the number of grids is the same, how does it affect game difficulty? The following is three sets of pictures (Figure 4, Figure 5 and Figure 6). Comparing any set of pictures, you will find out that it is more difficult to remember the right picture than left picture. Why? Because, as shown in Figure 4, the images on the right are in the same color. When you focus on such images, the interference of colors is relatively large on visual resolution. We cannot distinguish and locate the pattern of the card by the color factor immediately. We can only identify and remember a large number of images in the same color based on the pattern's shape. For the left side of the picture, we can immediately distinguish and locate cards to be memorized by color. Then, within a limited number of grids, the shape of patterns is used for positioning and memory recognition. Thus, the requirement for players to challenge the game is relatively low, and the level of difficulty is relatively small.







In Figure 5, we will find that the patterns on the right card are similar in shape and color. Our eyes can observe and distinguish many similar contents in a short time, and quickly extract key features of pattern details for memory. This improves the player's attention span, visuospatial working memory and especially the ability to distinguish visually, so the level of game difficulty will increase.
Let's take a look at Figure 6, you will notice that the overall content of the picture becomes more complicated other than because of the similarity of the picture we mentioned earlier. The amount of information in the picture will greatly increase, and the content that the player needs to distinguish and memorize will become more difficult. Thus, the overall game difficulty will increase. In general, the number of grids, the type of card and card patterns set in the game affect the skill levels required to play the game, and not determine whether the game difficulty is low or high. 
(Next, students will design and produce card patterns in a group. Once this has been completed, every group will show their works and share their design concepts; for the activity, see practical activity I.)
(Next, students will watch a video and think about how the factor of time limitation affects the difficulty of game, see Course Evaluation 1.2(c).)
In the video, we can see the observation time and player experience time of "page stop", whereby the "countdown” has been set. This will force the player to remember the image and its position, and recollect everything in a set time. Due to the time constraint, the player will feel the pressure of time, and the pressure caused by time will have a direct effect on physical and mental ability. The shorter the time limit, the greater the pressure and the skill requirements required to complete the game will increase, including attention span, visual resolution, and visuospatial working memory. The sense of pressure caused by time will directly affect the entire game's difficulty.

III. The principle of setting Memory Game difficulty
(Next, organize students to think about how they should change the difficulty between different levels in the light of their previous gaming experience, see Course Assessment 1.3.)
The game is usually divided into parts based on the difficulty, which we call phases or levels. What should we pay attention to when setting the game difficulty in different levels? The following chart (Figure 7) shows us a trend in the difficulty of different levels. Through this picture, we'll find that as time progresses, the difficulty between levels will show a slow rising trend, and will not increase the difficulty between levels. Why? Next, we explain this through a picture (Figure 8). This picture shows the relationship between player's ability and game difficulty. When the player's ability is balanced with the difficulty of the challenge tasks, they will enter a satisfactory state, that is, the "moderate" area here, which is psychologically called "Flow". If the challenge is too difficult, the player becomes anxious. If the challenge is too simple, the player will get bored, and may cause the player to stop the game. Thus, when we set the degree of difficulty in the game level, the goal is not simply set a difficulty level, but think about how to adjust the difficulty within a reasonable range, so that the player is always in a "Flow" state. In this picture, we will also see a phenomenon, that is, when the next level begins, there is a slight decrease in difficulty. The purpose of this setting is to give players time and an opportunity to rest and adjust their state after completing a level, in order to allow players to better enter the next level.



IV. What information does the player need to know in Memory Game?  
(Next, students will think about what information is necessary to the player based on their previous game playing experience, see Course Evaluation 1.4). 
The difficulty of the game is obtained through the player's own perception, and some information in the game needs to be presented to the player in different ways. First, at the beginning of the game, we need to tell players what challenges they are facing. Is it a memory challenge or a shooting game? What are the rules of the game, matching cards within a specified time or hitting several targets within a set time? Second, while playing the game, we need to tell the players whether their actions are a success or failure. Here you can use sound effects, actions, indicators to show the results of the player's actions. For example, in the card game, the card will disappear if the pairing is successful; the card will be restored to its original state if the pairing failed. It also tells what state they are in. Are they at risk of failing? For this part, it is usually displayed on the interface in the form of hit points, energy, an indicator of the remaining time, to warn the players that one of these items is close to the danger line and that they should be careful. Finally, at the end of the game, we need to tell players how they're doing. Usually, the player will receive a report with information, action, and sound, clearly telling them whether they are doing well or not. This is commonly referred to as "feedback" in a game. This information is what we want to tell the player clearly in the game, and it is also something we need to consider during the game design.

V. Precautions for setting rules to display game experience data in Memory Game
(Next, show students the different results in the form of feedback at the end of the game, provide questions to the student to reflect and discuss. See Course Evaluation 1.5).
Many games will use the star rating or score to report the player's behavior when they are settled. The star rating or score is only an external explanation of the feedback results, with a certain evaluation rule hidden behind this. This evaluation rule is compared with the behavior of players, before the feedback results are given. In the Memory Game, different evaluation criteria can be used to assess the player's behavior, such as time or card-flipping count, but the most important thing is to evaluate the rationality of the standard value settings. In game design, in order to verify whether the standard settings are reasonable, it needs to go through an iterative process of research, analysis and adjustment. This is a critical step and is important for the entire game design.
(Next, organize students to conduct the Memory Game design and production activities in a team. Once this has been completed, each team will display their works and share the design concept. See Practical Activity II)

1. Experience Card Matching Memory Game - Students play Memory Game themselves and learn about the core mechanics of it.
2. Watch the Memory Game card gaming experience video - Students watch video to explore the impact of "time" factor on game difficulty.
3. Design and production of card patterns- Students use the card pattern to understand the impact of the game level difficulty, design and make the card pattern.
4. Design and production of Memory Game - Students use their comprehensive knowledge of the game design involved in the Memory Game design and production. 

Click the link to know more...

1. Instantaneous memory: It is also known as "sensory memory" and is a type of memory system that stimulates short-term memory caused by the sensory organ that usually refers to a time of about one second; 
2. Short-term memory: After the external stimulus is presented in a short time of 5~20 seconds, and no more than 1 minute without retelling;
3. Long-term memory: After the external stimulus is presented in a short time, keep the memory for over 1 minute; 
4. Permanent memory: Refers to long-term memory that can be retained for many years, even a lifetime, and turned into permanent memory.
4. Working memory: It is a memory system with limited capacity for temporary processing and storage of information. 
5. Phonological loop: Responsible for storing and processing sound and voice information.
6. visuospatial sketchpad: A temporary storage system that integrates visual and spatial information;
7. CES (Central Executive System): Responsible for coordinating activities between subsystems and maintaining contact with long-term memory;
8. visuospatial working memory: A secondary system in the working memory model, responsible for maintaining and manipulating visual and spatial information during the individual's information processing;
9. Attention: The ability of a person's mental activity to point to and focus on something;
10. Visual discrimination: Refers to the ability of distinguishing one object from another, including the ability to seek similarities and differences;
11. Levels: The game is divided into several parts according to the increase in difficulty, called stage or level;
12. Flow state: When the capacity of the person performing the task is balanced with the difficulty of the task they are facing, they will enter a satisfactory maximum state of production, known as the Flow state in psychology;
13. Display game experience data: Give players an emotional reward for success or the emotional blow for failure through text information, actions and sounds, clearly telling them whether they did well or not, or when they won or lost. When the player completes a level, give him/her a report, such as a score summary, task summary or some text.

During the course                  
1.1 To give students a preliminary understanding of the Memory Game, it is possible to organize the students to experience the game, and to think about related problems. Examples: 
(a) What content do players need to remember when playing the game?
(b) In what way can the card patterns be memorized?
1.2 Show students a different number of grids, different card patterns and video of the game experience. Students are expected to recognize:
(a) The effect of the number of grids on game difficulty;
(b) The impact of the color, similarity and complexity of the card pattern on game difficulty;
(c) The influence of time limit on game difficulty.  
1.3 Let students watch the video of the gaming experience, present their questions, and organize the students to discuss them. Examples: 
(a) How should the difficulty between different levels be changed?
1.4 Organize students to think about what information must be provided to the player, based on their previous experience of playing the game. Examples: 
(a) What information must be provided to the player at the beginning of the game, during the game, and at the end of the game? In what form is this information available to the player?
1.5 Show students different results feedback from pictures at the end of the game, and give questions for them to reflect and discuss.
(a) What rules would you use to determine the player's outcome?
(b) When you determine the rules, how do you verify their rationality?

Career focus: Game planner
Game planner is a job title, the person is responsible for design planning in a game development team and is the core of game development. Their main job is to write game background stories, develop game rules, design game interactions, calculate game formulas, and all the details of the entire game world. To be able to handle these tasks, game planning requires a lot of abilities, such as insight, ability to conduct market research, appreciation of programs, art, music, the ability to express words, language, etc. What we usually call game planning is a general term. In fact, a company will also subdivide the planning, such as master planning, numerical planning, level planning, system planning, etc. They work together to complete the design and creation of the entire game.

(1) Shanshan Zhou, Xinmin Wang. (2017). A Study on the Relationship between Children's visuospatial Working Memory and Concentration Game. Master Thesis.
(2) Baddeley, Hitch, G. J. (1974). Working memory. The psychology of learning and motivation, 8, 47-89.
(3) Alloway, T. P. (2006). How does working memory work in the classroom?  Educational Research and Reviews, 1 (4), 134.
(4) Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. (1991). Flow: psychology of Optimal Experience.  New York:  Harper Perennial reprint edition. 
(5) Adamsl, Ernest. Rollings, Andrew. Editor: Pengjie Wang. Translator: Xiguang Dong (Published in 2009-01) Fundamentals of Game Design, China Machine Press. 
(6) Short-term memory. Wikipedia.
(7) Instantaneous memory. Wikipedia.
(8) Long-term memory. Wikipedia.
(9) Permanent memory. Baidu Baike.

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