An Examination of Skill pt.2
Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 6:50PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Skill, Super Mario Bros.

KNOWLEDGE is the most complex and prevalent skill among all video games, hobbies, and disciplines across the planet. Every action outside of our automatic biological functions is learned. As babies our eyes are wide open while we slowly build language, motor, and other cognitive skills. With practice, skill, and/or raw talent the power of the human mind can be world changing. After all, human brains created advanced societies, the internet, blogs, and video games in the first place. It's funny that as far as science has progress, our minds are still a great mystery. Getting to the bottom of knowledge skill will simultaneously give us the insight necessary to understand our personal learning styles and to debunk myths about learning. 

Remember my article on depth vs complexities? There is no video game that can escape featuring at least one bit/element/piece of data. Because games are interactive systems with rules and goals, each game automatically has at least three elements to learn. In fact, everything from the interactive to non interactive elements in a game are bits of data that make up a game's knowledge base. With that said, we come to the simplest and most fundamental test of one's knowledge skill; recalling stored data. We can test this knowledge with simple quizzes. Here are some examples of data questions on a game we should all know very well by now. Super Mario Brothers. 


So many questions.

Even if you're a veteran Mario player, you probably don't know the answers to most if any of these questions off the top of your head. In many ways, this speaks to the relatively small amount of data that must be memorized to successfully play Super Mario Brothers. In other words, you don't have to memorize much outside of which enemies are dangerous, how to defeat enemies, which items are good, and how to maneuver Mario around. Everything else that you need to know to beat the game is easy enough to see, evaluate, and strategize through on the fly

Beyond the kind of information that can easily be described in clean numerical answers (how many fireballs it takes to kill Bowser/how many points you get from a Super Mushroom), for Super Mario Bros. and all games that feature emergent gameplay there's even more to learn about how the elements, dynamics, and game rules come together. The more emergent the gameplay, the faster this emergent data vastly out races the static, simple data. 

So many possibilities and thousands more. 

Think about it this way, we all know that you need to JUMP over the Goomba on the first level of Super Mario Brothers. But even this simple action can be executed in hundreds, and maybe thousands of different ways. If each pixel that Mario can move forward changes his position and timing that the JUMP must be executed, then there are already hundreds of different possibilities. Now consider that players can JUMP onto the brick structure and avoid the Goomba or that the player is free to approach the first Goomba at various speeds (by running, walking, or decelerating). The emergent possibilities even in this simple example are more than I'm willing to count. Such is the nature of emergence and knowledge. No one can consciously or subconsciously think of all of the possible variations in an emergent system like Super Mario Bros. Instead, we greatly reduce the amount of brain power required by understanding the rules of the game and creating flexible models in our heads. This involves higher level thinking 

A fitting analogy compares the human mind to a computer. Each can receive, encode, store, process, and output data. Naturally, I'm interested in taking a closer look at each step in the human process of acquiring knowledge. To accomplish this task, I'm using the language and framework from neuropsychology.

Consider that long term memory (LTM) is the place we want to store all important data. Unfortunately, most people can't consciously and directly put data into LTM. For this reason, we have to rehearse, study, and use a variety of other techniques to develop our LTM. At some point along this arduous process line, data from our short term memory is converted into long term memory. So we'll start with short term memory (STM) which includes working memory.

The following are aspects of one's knowledge skill. 

Short Term Memory

Mental Capacity

Long Term Memory


With the components of knowledge skill outlined and defined, my next task is to provide examples of how I've used knowledge skills throughout various hobbies and activities in my life. Since this post has already grown quite long, it's up to next time. 

Stay sharp. 

EDIT: Later, I refined the subfacets of knowledge skill into 6 subcategories: long-term memory, short-term memory, muscle memory, analyze, code/decode (chunking), and channels. 

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (
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