Stop Getting Lost: Make Cognitive Maps, Not Levels - Deepstash
Stop Getting Lost: Make Cognitive Maps, Not Levels

Stop Getting Lost: Make Cognitive Maps, Not Levels

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The role of maps

The role of maps

In a gamified system, maps serve important functions:

  1. Orientation: Provide users with a visual representation of the game environment.
  2. Navigation: Helps players navigate the app or game.
  3. Goal Setting: Maps can be used to set goals & objectives for players. Like visiting all the locations on a map or completing challenges in specific areas.
  4. Progression: Can be used to track a player's progress through a game & provide a visual representation of their journey.
  5. Storytelling: Maps can be used to tell a story, convey information about the game world, and provide context for the player's actions.


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Cognitive Maps (CM)

Cognitive Maps (CM)

A good map has to map the environment in the mind of the user, not to faithfully represent the terrain. The map is not the territory.

When the map does not match the territory (or the environment), users get lost. They usually quit the game. 


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Deconstruct cognitive maps

Deconstruct cognitive maps

In games maps can be made of:

Path - a route that players can follow. In 3D games it can literally be a road. 

Landmark - usually fixed, recognisable elements that act as reference points helping players orienting themselves. 

District -  used to divide a large game world into smaller, more manageable regions. 

Edge - they have to separate or break the world continuity. Gates, Walls etc. They can mark the end of the world or be used to transition to new areas.

Node - a hub that can be used to access multiple locations. A plaza, intersection etc. Usually placed between districts.


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Life-long learner. Passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship, philosophy, Buddhism & SF. Founder @deepstash.


Maps are important in designing any game. This resource helped me understand how to think about designing them.

Vladimir Oane's ideas are part of this journey:

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