Fragile Eggs gets CPHS approval
Fragile Eggs, a game to study the development and ‘trainability’ of the foundational visual-spatial cognitive skill of mental rotation, just received approval for “Human Subjects” testing by Berkeley’s Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS). This important step ensures protection of the rights and welfare of research participants playing our games. While it seems obvious that playing a game is not generally a high-risk activity, we are collecting very detailed records of how each person plays, which is considered private information. Therefore, as researchers, we take on the considerable responsibility of making sure that these records do not compromise the identity of or disadvantage a participant in our studies at any point. Recently, the New York Times published this article about how little thought is given to the issue of personal information in commercial games, especially for children. Game records describe, down to the millisecond, how fast and accurate a player’s mind is, and how a player solves problems. This data could be very interesting for employers and government agencies, as it provides a functional x-rays of how a person’s mind works. I have long advocated for people to include their game history in their CV’s, but there is a big difference between a person divulging their own records and these private records being collected and resold by third parties. Gamers, own your stats!
Back to Fragile Eggs: the objective of the game is to improve mental rotation in players. Andie Hshieh made amazing graphics for the game, and Li Chen Han programmed a smooth and beautiful game mechanic for the IPad. Faraz Farzin, the Chief Scientist at the Social Apps Lab, ensured that the game is relevant in terms of cognitive development. In January we’re starting playtests with volunteers at the Berkeley School to establish the typical base-line performance of mental rotation in our game.