Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture




1-22 pp.


The mouse sets the bowling ball in motion, which falls and squeezes the bellows, which sends out a puff of air, which sends the balloon into the gears that are connect by a belt to another mouse’s exercise wheel. The balloon pops. Having learned how this routine functions, I then move my mouse to connect the rest of the on-screen mice so that the pulleys of all of the caged mice spin with their wheels to punish the puzzle in time allowing me to move to the next level. Eventually, I will be able to make my own versions of Rube Goldberg machines turned into puzzles based on what I have seen and learned in playing through the eighty challenges provided for Mort the mouse, Bob the fish, and me. Although it is more than twenty-five years old, by teaching about games, learning through games, and learning itself, The Incredible Machine (Dynamix, 1992) continues to defy several key deterministic viewpoints about video games. Said another way, The Incredible Machine (TIM) anticipates Hacker’s defining study of meta-cognition—i.e., “knowledge of one’s own knowledge processes”—in games and simulations. As a game about learning, TIM resists the prevailing scholarly notion that pleasurable games must follow the cultural imperative for accumulation, competition, and/or conquest and that pleasurable games are not suitable for teaching. Indeed, Hacker’s later work emphasizes so-called “serious games,” which are explicitly and didactically aimed at learning, a process that has “met with mixed results.” Thus, my paper will examine the metacognition that occurs in and through the very unserious playing TIM.


InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture (IVC) is a student run interdisciplinary journal published online twice a year in an open access format.

Original Publication Citation

Ouellette, M. (2019, April 18. 2019). "I'm controlling and composing": The role of metacognition in The Incredible Machine. InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture(30).