Games, Cognition, and Emotion

University of Hamburg, 5-6 July 2013

Keynote Lecture “Games and Cognition”

Torben Grodal, University of Copenhagen

Video Games, the PECMA Flow and the Conflict Between Control Pleasures and Pleasures of Abandonment

The lecture will first provide a short sketch of the brain in relation to narratives and games, based on the PECMA flow model. It will describe how art and entertainment may be described in relation to the brain flow from perception to motor action, and focus on five different functions: perception, association-memory, emotions, cognition/motor planning, and arousal reduction features. Entertainment and narrative may be divided in four different prototypes: those that focus on perception, those that focus on associations, those that focus on cognitive and motor control, and those that focus on giving up control (sad narratives, comic narratives and playfulness). It will discuss how games are strongly related to the third group that is based on cognitive-motor control, supported by dopaminergic seeking functions, whereas games to a large degree rule out emotions based on passive effects. It will discuss the paradox that although video games are described as a form of playfulness, it is in several dimensions distinct from playfulness, due to the importance of control.

In continuation of this, it will discuss why games predominantly are linked to ‘control’ genres such as action-adventure, horror, and activities based on low order control like Angry Birds, whereas genres based on giving up control such as comic entertainment, sad melodramas or love stories are much less suited for being made into games. It will describe how games are based on a link between frontal brain areas and the peripheral muscles, whereas sad and comic entertainment activate central muscle groups, and stories of love, attachment and playfulness integrate experiences linked to reduction of body delimitation that is the opposite of motor control.

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grodalTorben Grodal is Professor of Film Studies at the University of Copenhagen. His books include Moving Pictures: A New Theory of Film Genres, Feelings and Cognition (1997) and Embodied Visions: Evolution, Emotion, Culture and Film (2009).

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