Experiences for learning

Computer Games

Designing virtual pets to foster mindfulness and collaborative practices

Can a computer game help us live more mindful, reflective lives? In 2010-11, Gabriel Recchia worked with Pía Mota to build an initial prototype of a game with this as its primary goal, which borrowed insights from the research literature on mindfulness, positive psychology and emotional intelligence. In 2011, the Games for Change conference involved just under 125 speakers including Gabe Newell, Jesse Schell and Al Gore, so having the opportunity to present about this effort at that venue was a great privilege. Our original prototype of a single-player computer game ultimately transmuted into a multiplayer card game, and a limited print run was produced for Games, Learning, and Society 10.0 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Crowdsourcing property generation data

Getting people to write down the properties of concepts (dog: “is furry”, “has four legs”, etc.) has long been a method used by psychologists and linguists to learn more about how people conceptualize word meanings, but the pace of research is slowed by two major challenges: the difficulty of collecting large amounts of data, and the variability in the descriptions produced by study participants. WordBots, a game in which you describe objects by selecting from a list of pre-defined properties or writing your own, aims to solve both of these problems. The version in the video above was later supplanted by a somewhat simplified version for use in controlled experiments.


Gabriel Recchia was selected as lead programmer in Ted Castronova’s one-semester game development course for the team that developed “Recollection.” You can learn more about what we created and get the download here.

Auditivity: an adaptive MIDI rhythm game

This is a music game that makes letters appear to the beat of any MIDI file you may choose to load. The player’s job is to press the letters before they reach the center orb. After using the C# MIDI Toolkit to interpret the MIDI file, it guesses at the most prominent notes and makes letters appear in appropriate locations at appropriate times. Surprisingly addictive!