Some vitamin company in Germany has decided to market a pill "specifically designed" to improve the performance of the "electronic athlete". That's right, it's viagra for the gamer brain. Apparently, energy drinks aren't enough anymore in the highly competitive realm of first-person shooter competitions. Looking at the list of ingredients, however, I don't see much different here from an energy drink, and this really boils down to a glorified vitamin. At any rate, hopefully this won't lead to a endless string of doping scandals in LAN parties. ZOMG, BRAIN H4X!!!
We all know the spiel here about how ‘exercising’ your brain with simple puzzles and memory games will give you a ‘younger brain age’. Now this claim has the endorsement of several scientists (in addition to Nicole Kidman). So, why do I find this endorsement somewhat misleading and deceptive?
As a cognitive scientist in training myself, I find the idea behind games like Brain Age to be simplistic and kind of silly. The idea that mini-games made up of tasks adapted from IQ tests and cognitive experiments is the way to keep your brain active is my main problem here. I would guess that any sort of mental activity that’s actually engaging and challenging would ‘work out’ your brain just as well.
To be sure, ‘brain games’ probably do help with mental flexibility and quickness. But other, typically brainy things probably help just as well. Reading a book, having a deep conversation, or coming up with a witty comment for Dtoid all exercise the brain pretty well I’d bet. Hell, how about just playing a game that’s actually mentally demanding? I would guess that any FPS, RTS, RPG, etc., would ‘work out’ your brain pretty damn well. For those of you who are old enough, think about how much memory and planning it took to get through Metroid or Zelda for the first time as a kid, all without the help of the internet. Games today can be far more complex and challenging than those, and they don’t even have to be about memorizing colored block patterns.
Does this mean games like Brain Age shouldn't be made, bought, and played? Well, no. If you happen to find those types of mini-games entertaining and fun, then by all means, you should play them. If you’re not doing anything else, it could even sharpen your wits I suppose. But the point is that so can many other things, including most other videogames, and scientists who only advocate one and not the other are doing gaming a bit of a disservice.