Abstract Details

Castle Of Mind: A Non-Linear Board Game For The 21st Century

The problem

Game-based learning is an increasingly popular educational method. Playing games with educational values makes it possible to improve cognitive skills and help people learn about subjects, expand concepts, reinforce development in an enjoyable yet highly effective fashion.

In the early years of the 21st century, mankind is facing challenges that have been unprecedented in human history. These challenges originate from the complexity of systems around us (such as the global climate or the economy as a whole), where each component has its own effects on the rest in a highly non-linear fashion. Using the traditional, linear approach has not proved sufficient to tackle these challenges. As a result, a new mindset, a new philosophy is needed.

In this talk, we present an approach that can be used to train players` cognitive skills to understand and comprehend highly non-linear and complex systems, in the form of an entertaining and challenging board game.

The game

In the game Castle of Mind (COM), novel game mechanics have been introduced to reflect the complex nature of interdependent systems, stimulating player’s brains. The main goal of the game is to train players to see through the behaviour of complex systems with non-linear correlations of their components.

The secret of COM lies in its capture mechanics. Namely, the captured piece may be located anywhere on the board, not necessarily in the vicinity of the capturing move. Though simple, this idea elevates the gameplay into a new realm of complexity. As a result, a winning approach necessitates a holistic view of the board as players need to consider the entire game to evaluate the consequences of their next move – just like in real complex systems. While doing so, their brain needs to practice viewing the board as a whole and this strengthens important cognitive skills, such as problem solving and holistic sequencing.

Players often describe the gameplay as challengingly non-linear, as no game is clearly lost or won, since there is no single metric or strategy that defines a winning condition. As a result, a mere lead in the number of captured pieces is usually insufficient to ensure victory, making the game suspenseful until the final moves.

Results

COM has been a great success. As of early 2020, three official tournaments have taken place and the game itself has won numerous Board Game of the Year Awards in Hungary, including the Reader’s Choice of the prestigious GameRelation.com portal in the first year of its publication.

Seasoned players report improvement in their cognitive abilities, which can be experienced even in everyday situations, such as logic, problem perception and general problem solving, attention, flexibility, anticipation and inhibition.

The game is used as an educational tool in several primary schools and educational institutions. Students report improvement in faculties that require analytical and logic skills. The Fontanus School of Philosophy (https://www.fontanus.hu/en/fontanus-center/) has been using the game as a tool for the improvement of cognitive skills for several years, in the form of an in-house championship that spans over an entire semester.

Prospects

Psychologists now agree that cognitive functions can be improved, regardless of age, IQ or other factors. Lifelong development is an option for all people on Earth, as is the opportunity comprehend highly complex systems around us. We believe that COM can be utilised by a broad circle of educational professionals and anyone who wants to improve their mental skills for a happier and more proficient life and to create a better world around us.

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