PALO Player Actions with a Learning Objective

One challenge that researching games has, is how to describe game content and especially capturing ongoing psychological processes in a way that makes them comparable. We tried to capture gaming behaviour in Blooms taxonomy which is a popular tool for objectives-based evaluation as it allowed for a high level of detail when stating learning objectives.

Stating a learning objective requires a verb and an object, where the verb refers to the intended cognitive process and the object refers to the knowledge level that must be acquired or constructed [1]. We used this verb/object structure to formulate Player Actions with a Learning Objective (PALO) for five different psychotherapeutic games, among which the game Personal Investigator.

Personal Investigator is a single-player 3D computer game with role-playing characteristics. In the game the player becomes the personal investigator that “hunts for solutions to personal problems,” keeping a notebook along the way to keep a record of the hunt and the solutions found. It is played over roughly three therapy sessions, taking just over half of the one-hour session each time. During the sessions, the player plays the game on the computer, while the therapist observes and offers explanations if requested.

Personal Investigator is based on Solution Focused Therapy (SFT) and aimed at adolescent psychological patients. SFT is “a structured rather than a freeform therapeutic model,” similar to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The game is meant to help adolescent patients go through five different conversational steps with their therapists. These five steps are translated into five main areas in the 3D game world, where the player interacts with nonplaying characters [2].

13 PALOs in Personal Investigator

(1) The player is asked to give a detective name to his/her avatar.

(2) The player is asked to write down a problem he/she has that they would like to work on in the detective notebook.

(3) The player is asked to turn a problem into a goal they would like to achieve—this becomes the goal of the game.

(4) The player is encouraged to think about situations in which the problem that is opposite of the goal is absent or less prevalent.

(5) The player is encouraged to understand (but we do not know how) what they are doing differently when the problem is absent or less prevalent.

(6) The player is asked to set goals for repeating the behaviours that result from action 5 more often.

(7) The player is asked to write about how he/she copes with difficult situations.

(8) The player is asked to write about positive, active ways of coping that draw on their strengths and interests.

(9) The player is asked to identify people that can help achieve the goal (in real life).

(10) The player is asked to think about personal strengths and write down in the detective notebook things they are good at and past successes.

(11) The player is asked to draw the answer to the Miracle Question in their detective notebook.

(12) The player is asked to write down what they and others would think, feel, and do differently after the Miracle.

(13) The player is asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 how close they are to achieving this new future.

We found that applying Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy to our five games provided a structured discussion of player actions in relation to cognitive processes, knowledge levels, and design goals. We feel that such discussions would be useful in the design process of psychotherapeutic games. Describing possible player actions in terms of a PALO provided an interesting perspective on the translation of (therapeutic) goals into game content.

Can Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy Be Used as a Checklist during the Design of a Psychotherapeutic Game? Our discussion to formulate PALOs provided a structured way of describing how game design connects player actions to certain objectives and might provide support during the design process of a psychotherapeutic game. Attempting to place these PALOs in the taxonomy establishes a discussion of the game content on the level of cognition. Although categorization of content based on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy is too subjective to be used as a design checklist, we do feel the process facilitates a discussion of high value.

Can Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy Support Psychologists in Making a More Informed Choice Concerning Psychotherapeutic Games That Might Be Included in Their Therapy? By describing content in terms of Player Actions with Learning Objectives, the designers provide a better insight into how their choices relate to the intended processing by the player and the desired overall outcome of gameplay. This gives any therapist a better insight into the level of cognitive engagement envisioned (lower bound) for different game content, which would support a more informed choice. 

Although, we have established that Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy cannot be used as an objective classification of game content for psychotherapeutic games due to very low intercoder reliability. We did find the process of describing Player Actions with Learning Objectives of value, as it forces game designers to formalize their intentions.

All is described in more detail, and with all five psychotherapeuric games in our paper “Using the Revised Bloom Taxonomy to Analyze Psychotherapeutic Games”


[1] L. W. Anderson, D. R. Krathwohl, and B. S. Bloom, A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives, Allyn & Bacon, 2001.

[2] D. Coyle, M. Matthews, J. Sharry et al., “Personal Investigator: A therapeutic 3D game for adolecscent psychotherapy,” Interactive Technology and Smart Education, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 73–88, 2005.

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I Solemnly Swear: Code of Ethics

I Solemnly Swear: Code of Ethics
I Solemnly Swear: Code of Ethics

Codes of conduct or ethical codes exist in many professions. Engineers can also commit themselves to being good.

Engineering Ethics

The first code of ethics for engineers is the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer — written by Rudyard Kipling in 1925 — for new Canadian engineers. It says an engineer shall not suffer or pass any Bad Workmanship and will not refuse their time, thoughts and care towards any work. Fair wages are expected and colleagues shall not be evil-eyed. After swearing to this in the presence of more senior engineers, the new engineer receives an Iron Ring. This ring is to be worn on the pinkie of the working hand as a constant reminder of both pride and humility in all engineering work.

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Machine Rebel with a Cause: Chris Julien on Ethical Electronics and More

Chris Julien is a researcher at Waag Futurelab for technology and society while doing his PhD in “Ecological governance: Deep adaptation machines.” He is also part of the climate activism group Extinction Rebellion, taking part in climate protests that block off roads and institutions. “Like a lot of people, I am really concerned about our climate,” he explains. “I got involved in Extinction Rebellion because I felt really motivated by their way of acting. Being arrested has made me a legal ‘object of interest’ for the state but I have yet to pay one fine. My main consequence is that I feel less powerless and frustrated now. It has brought me more mental health and a bit of extra spine.”

…continue reading at Elektor

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System Change, Not Climate Change

In her inaugural lecture, Dr. Heleen de Conick spoke about system change. She is now Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation and Climate Change in the Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences Department of the Eindhoven University of Technology.

…cotinue reading at Elektor

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Tech Is Not Going to Save Us (Because It Already Can)

We should not wait on technology that is not yet fully developed to maybe save us in the future. Tech is already there for us; now we need to be there for it.

Climate Tech

We are experiencing more extreme weather events all over the planet. We might look to technological innovation to get us out of the climate corner we have industrialised ourselves into. Speculative technology such as carbon capture, electric aviation and geoengineering are dropped into the public conversation as things that will definitely solve all our problems in the not-too-distant future. Without us having to do anything now.

…continue reading at Elektor

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Women in Tech: “It’s All About Merit Until Merit Has Tits”

Bias Galore

Societal expectations that are based on gendered roles start early. Clothes for toddlers come mainly in pink for a girl and astronaut for a boy. Books for girls might focus on long-haired princesses waiting in a tower to be rescued, while books for boys tend to have main characters like chocolate technicians flying off in elevators. Thousands of ‘little things’ are scaffolded into systemic barriers that diminish the likelihood of any random human being who happened to be born a woman from becoming an (electrical) engineer.

…continue reading at Elektor

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