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.

Class Details

Term: Spring 2022

Location: CSC 25

Date and Time: MW / 03:00PM-04:20PM

Instructor: Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera






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


Class format is primarily lecture-based, drawing from several books and supplementary readings provided by the instructor. Grading is based on 5 written assignments and 4 exams.


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

LaValle, Steven M. “Virtual Reality”. 2nd Edition (Self-published), 2019. 
This textbook is freely available here: http://lavalle.pl/vr/

Zagal, José P. Game Design Snacks: Easily Digestible Game Design Wisdom. Lulu.com, 2019. This textbook is freely available here: https://press.etc.cmu.edu/index.php/product/game-design-snacks-easily-digestible-game-design-wisdom/

Elsewhere on the Web


Merrill Engineering Building, #3153
50 Central Campus Drive
Salt Lake City, UT, 84112, USA