Abstract Details

Application And Function Of Paradoxes In Applied-Games

In recent years, paradoxes have proven to be crucial in the expansion of knowledge of many subjects and are not considered as wordplay limited to literature. By definition a paradox is:

“A statement or proposition which, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems logically unacceptable or self-contradictory.” (Oxford Dictionary, 2019)

They are self-contradicting, cyclic ideas with undefined conclusions. Paradoxes find their roots in Philosophy as observed in Liar Paradox (Epimenides, 6th century B.C.). Paradoxes are often observed as complex ideas due to their inter-looping and inconclusive nature, as a result, they are often deemed as philosophical theories used as a tool to refute academic arguments (Cantini et al., 2017).

While paradoxes do find their use in philosophy, Kapur (2011) presents a new theory about paradoxes representing instances where there is a deficiency in current knowledge, causing inconsistencies between theories and actual findings, suggesting that the resolution of paradoxes, through a legitimate process, is directly proportional to the expansion of knowledge. To explain his theory Kapur presents the example of the Russel’s Paradox (Russel B., 1901), which suggests that the paradox arising in the naive set theory about ‘The set of all sets being not members of themselves’, which redefined several postulates about the core structure of the set theory. This suggests that the presence of paradoxes is directly proportional to the expansion of knowledge, but is hindered due to the complexity of the paradox itself. This complexity could be made intelligible if they presented through digital games, as the player would essentially interact and manipulate the paradoxes allowing them a greater understanding of how a paradox is constructed.

Aims and Objectives

This project aspires to develop a playable prototype which would showcase the integration of paradoxes as game elements while also functioning as a learning tool to help individuals understand the nature and application of paradoxes.

  • To construct a design framework which would breakdown paradoxes into game elements, while utilising the said framework for the development of a playable prototype
  • To synthesize the design methodologies required to integrate paradoxes into games while also determining if these methodologies vary depending on the gameplay.
  • To observe the evolution of an individual’s understanding of paradoxes through applied-games.

Research Questions

  1. How could an implicit idea such as a paradox be integrated into an explicit, rigid framework such as a game?
  2. What challenges and limitations are observed during the development of a paradoxical game and how do they impact the game’s development process?
  3. How does a paradoxical game affect an individual’s perception of paradoxes? How does the game impact an individual’s outlook on the subject of their interest?


The research will utilise two methodologies with the first being ‘practice-based’ during the development of the artefact while the second one being a survey-based research method utilised for data collection to observe the results of the developed artefact.

Artefact Development

The development of the artefact will be carried primarily by understanding how paradoxes could be perceived as game elements. For this, a preliminary framework is presented below:


Attributes (right) Inference of Probable Outcome Forced Choice Solvable
Principles (left)
Paradox A N N N
Paradox B Y Y N
Paradox C N Y N
Paradox D Y N N

Table 1 Paradoxes as Game Design Components

The above framework breaks down paradoxes into four principles based on the presence/absence of the three attributes. The artefact itself would be developed based on the framework presented above, presenting a series of varying gameplay types, with each type containing a number of puzzle-solving elements built upon the above four principles.

Analysis Procedure and Data Collection

For the purpose of this research, individuals aged between 18 to 34 would be selected who have minimal to non-existent knowledge of paradoxes. These participants will play through the previously mentioned prototype working their way through a series of levels based on self-contradiction and contrary choice, they would also be provided with an option to choose and skip a certain level if they too much of a challenge to progress.

For the purpose of data collection during the playthrough, a think-aloud procedure would be utilised where the participants would narrate their thought process as they progress through the game levels. This narration would be based on the following parameter:

  • Their perception of paradoxical game elements.
  • Their methodology of solving a paradoxical puzzle.

While at the end of the playthrough, an interview would be conducted, based on:

  • Their understanding of paradoxes before and after playing the prototype.
  • How could they apply this knowledge to their subject of interest?


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