Publication: Press Pause when you Play: Comparing Spaced Practice Intervals for Skill Development in Games

Games allow players to fulfill the need for competence by providing well-designed, increasingly difficult challenges. To meet these challenges, players repeatedly attempt to achieve objectives---and through this repetition, they improve their game skills. Players are keenly aware of whether they are making progress during these attempts, and they want to get better as quickly as possible. Previous research suggests that one way of improving skill development is by taking breaks between periods of activity (called ``spaced practice''). However, there is little knowledge about whether this idea works in games, what the optimal break length is, and whether the effects last. We carried out a study comparing spaced and continuous practice in a Super Hexagon clone, using five-minute play intervals and five break lengths (no break, two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, one day). We found that spaced practice led to significant gains in performance, particularly for novices. This result shows that players can achieve an immediate improvement in skill development, simply by scheduling short breaks in their play session; designers can also make use of this result by building rest periods into the structure of their games. Our study also indicated that breaks are valuable both in the short and the longer term---in a retention test after one day, all of the groups performed similarly, suggesting that even if a player does not use spaced practice initially, taking a break after the play session can still lead to improvements. Our study provides new information that can aid in the design of practice schedules for perceptual-motor tasks in games.

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Participants

Colby Johanson
University of Saskatchewan
Carl Gutwin
University of Saskatchewan
Jason Bowey Regan Mandryk
University of Saskatchewan

Citation

Johanson, C., Gutwin, C., Bowey, J.T., Mandryk, R.L. 2019. Press Pause when you Play: Comparing Spaced Practice Intervals for Skill Development in Games. In CHI PLAY '19, Barcelona, Spain. DOI=10.1145/3311350.3347195.

BibTeX

@inproceedings {551-Spaced_Practice_in_a_Digital_Game,
author= {Colby Johanson and Carl Gutwin and Jason Bowey and Regan Mandryk},
title= {Press Pause when you Play: Comparing Spaced Practice Intervals for Skill Development in Games},
booktitle= {CHI PLAY '19},
year= {2019},
address= {Barcelona, Spain}
}