Game Element: Pattern Recognition

Many games involve creating, identifying or predicting a pattern. This is a common element in many basic and electronic games. It is also an important element for many professional and academic skills. Pattern recognition is the ability to recognize order in a chaos or to see relationships in disjointed information. Patterns can be found in concepts, ideas, and series of words, symbols, numbers, and images. They can also be found in behavior, economies and historical events. In every discipline, patterns are crucial for predicting the future, estimating the right course of action and determining diagnostic steps.

Salespeople use patterns to sell product, psychologists use patterns to help patients, lawyers use patterns to help settle cases and researchers use patterns to fight disease.

A simple example of a pattern recognition game is tic-tac-toe. In the game the player attempts to align 3 X’s or 3 O’s before an opponent can do the same. This process requires the player to both focuses on the pattern he or she is creating with their moves as well as the pattern of the opposing player. In tic-tac-toe, if both players are adept at pattern recognition, the game usually ends in a stalemate.

This same concept has been carried onto electronic games like the popular Candy Crush. In the Candy Crush game, the goal is to find patterns and align different candies, when the candy is aligned, it disappears and the candies around fall into place.

Candy Crush is about recognizing and creating patterns.

A similar concept is used in Tetris where the players work quickly to align shapes to create solid lines across the game screen. When a solid line is accomplished, the line disappears and the pieces move closer to the bottom. The goal is to avoid the top of the game from overflowing with pieces. Once the top overflows the player loses.

Another non-electronic version of pattern matching is Connect Four where a player attempts to connect for checker pieces on a vertical game board. The player who “connects four” first wins the game.

In gamification example, pattern recognition can be used to teach a sales person to see a pattern in the type or request they are making relate to a specific type of product. The learner might be rewarded for identifying statements that support a certain buying pattern. In teaching history, a learner might be asked to identify the pattern of behavior of a certain country or group of countries that lead to armed conflict. Adding pattern identification and creation into gamified learning events provides challenge to learners and is motivational as the learners work to identify what makes a pattern.

As you are implementing gamification within your learning environment, consider the following when thinking about pattern recognition.

  • Start with simple patterns and then work toward more complex patterns.
  • Start with more tangible patterns and then work toward abstract patterns.
  • Provide multiple opportunities to recognize a pattern.
  • For more knowledgeable learners, patterns can be more obscure, for learners who are newer with the subject matter, keep the patterns more basic.

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Karl Kapp
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