You’re at work, introducing a new employee to a co-worker, and you momentarily forget their name. Or you go to the grocery store to pick up something “urgent”, and you aimlessly wander F95zone the isles trying to remember why you’re there. Sound familiar? As we age, we generally find our brains feeling less and less reliable in our daily lives, and at some point, perhaps we cross a threshold and momentarily worry that this might be a trend. But the real question is: What can we do to keep our brains sharp?
There are many things we can do to challenge our brains. We could enroll ourselves in an advanced math course, or read the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary from front to back, but neither of those choices seems to be particularly appealing. Another option is to play any of the growing number of brain fitness games that are popping up in a variety of areas, including online, CDs and DVDs, and even game consoles. If you’re going to do something healthy, you might as well enjoy yourself in the process.
Brain fitness games have a strong foundation in science, and offer a varied and complex workout across multiple areas of the brain. Although these games rely on science in order to be effective, for them to gain mainstream acceptance, they must also be delivered in an entertaining and engaging manner. Casual gaming principles are a perfect fit, as they are designed to be fun and accessible to diverse audiences, including those that are new to gaming. The engagement and polish of a well-designed brain game not only has the potential to interest a large demographic, but can also help players find motivation to exercise their brains on a regular basis.
Brain Fitness and Casual Gaming
The explosive growth of gaming continues to bring a great deal of diversity into the industry, including new genres, distribution models, platforms and input devices. As a result, the demographic continues to expand, creating more opportunities in areas that were previously considered too small or niche to reach the mainstream. With genre-creating titles like The Brain Age, Wii Fit and Guitar Hero enjoying blockbuster sales, more and more people that haven’t traditionally considered themselves to be “gamers” are getting actively involved in games on a regular basis, which isn’t just great for the existing industry, but also for new companies and business models that push the boundaries of what we currently refer to as “games”.
There is a large segment of the casual audience, generally in the baby boomer demographic, who enjoy casual game content but didn’t grow up with games, and as a result don’t necessarily feel that games offer enough value to be a regular part of their daily lives. However, the recent surge of health-oriented games has generated new interest, bringing more people into games and shifting the perception that games offer only entertainment.
Brain fitness games in particular are a great fit for these truly casual audiences, as the 30+ crowd that makes up the core casual demographic, is also more likely to consider the importance of keeping the mind sharp, for their everyday lives, as well as their future. The online space, with its ease of access to so many people, is the perfect place for people to play fun, healthy games that stimulate the brain, and even feel that it’s a valuable use of their time.
Strengthening the Mind by Increasing “Brain Reserve”
One of the essential concepts at the core of brain fitness is the concept of “brain reserve”, also related to the concept of brain plasticity, which can be strengthened at nearly any point of person’s life by doing tasks that are novel and complex, and stimulate a balanced variety of areas within the brain.
Brain reserve relates to the brain’s ability to physically reorganize itself in response to the demands placed upon it. A brain with a strong reserve is one that has formed many cellular connections and is rich in brain cell density. A strong reserve is generally believed to have the ability to delay the onset of mental deterioration, such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Simply put, mental diseases must work longer and harder to manifest in a brain that has built up strong reserve.
A healthy brain should look like a lush and vibrant jungle, rather than an island with a single palm tree. A jungle-like brain is representative of a healthy brain, because it is full of cellular connections that are very dense, and therefore indicate a very strong brain reserve. If you think of mental disease like AD as a weed-whacker, it invades the brain and begins to do its damage by destroying brain cells. However, it takes AD a long time to show any impact, if it has to destroy a jungle’s worth of brain cell connections. In contrast, AD can manifest fairly quickly after infiltrating the brain if it simply needs to destroy only a relatively few cellular connections, like an island with a single palm tree.