Cognitive Workout

More news on the mental fitness front:

Cognitive Fitness as a New Frontier of Fitness

For decades, physicians and scientists asserted that declining mental performance is an immutable fact of aging. Brain cells inexorably are lost with age and wear-and-tear, they believed. And unlike most other organs capable of self-repair, lost brain cells cannot be replaced, they said.

But the past 15 years have brought about a revolution in thinking about the brain — not only its ability to generate replacement cells but to respond at any age to a stimulating environment by strengthening and developing new connections between cells and among different regions of the brain.

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Now change “cognitive fitness programs” to “cognitive fitness video game” and there you go. Bonnie knows wassup:

Bonnie Theis, a 65-year-old from St. Cloud, Minn., now spends roughly $10 per month on Happy Neuron’s cognitive fitness programs, after putting in “way too much time in front of the boob tube” following her recent retirement from library science. The Happy Neuron program, designed by French neuroscientists and widely used in Europe, “takes itself very seriously” but is fun to use and has coached her to improve in the areas in which her performance is weakest, said Theis. After spending some time with the program most days for a year, she feels her attention to details in her environment has sharpened, her memory has improved and her response time to cues like traffic signs seems faster. And that perceived improvement is all she needs to justify the expenditure of time and money in a program.

“How much proof do you need to go see a movie? The expense is the same,” said Theis. “It’s $10 a month — big whoopee deal. . . . And the time I spend on it would be time spent doing a hand-held Sudoku game or watching TV. I’d prefer to be learning while being entertained.

Real world game interactions

New York based game developer area/code specializes in “real-world games”. The real world integration using technology bending techniques exploring social dynamics is brilliant. I originally found them through this Sharkrunners article but perusing their website I’m finding more interesting examples. I’ll probably circle back to this for further examination.

The Discovery Channel is using Sharkrunners, an online game, to teach people what it’s like to be a marine biologist who is tracking sharks. The game is easy to play, but original.
Players are given a virtual boat and virtual crew. They use it to track real-life sharks that have been tagged with a GPS recievers. When a boat encounters a shark the player is alerted via email and/or SMS. The player has three hours to select how to try to collect data about the shark and its behavior. The goal is to gather as much data about sharks as possible.

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Wii makes games available for older generations

Retirement communities across the world are stocking Wiis as residents are discovering the joys of video games that are more accessible to non-teenage-boys.

At the Sedgebrook retirement community in Lincolnshire, where the average age is 77, something unexpected has been transpiring since Christmas. The residents, most of whom have never picked up a video game controller in their life, suddenly can’t put the things down.

“I’ve never been into video games,” said 72-year-old Flora Dierbach last week as her husband took a twirl with the Nintendo Wii’s bowling game. “But this is addictive.”

The Wii has become so popular at Sedgebrook that on Sunday afternoon there will be a video game bowling tournament in the lounge. More than 20 residents have signed up to compete.

[ARTICLE]
People who were otherwise intimidated by video game consoles are getting into the Wii. The real world games like bowling are already well known and people who otherwise couldn’t get out to play or physically unable now have this option. It’s also building real world community interactions (not just online) which is how technology should work for us.

See also: OAPs say nurse, I need a Wii

Residents as old as 103 have ditched knitting and bridge after getting hooked on the console.

Wii Fit!

We’re getting closer to merging video gaming and exercise! I always loved the Wii controller and how it brings games and people closer. Video games are not just for button mashing teenage boys anymore. The Wii has opened up compelling interactive experiences (or “games”) to a much wider audience of players.

The Wii Fit and it’s special controller is making moving fun. Moving should be fun. Our bodies are meant to do it. But in our modern society where alotta people do the same repetitve tasks or site at consoles all day our bodies don’t get the movement they evolved to do. We’re getting fat, we’re getting unhealthy. The toll that takes on our society is hard to even grasp. I can’t wait to see more of this Wii Fit. I’ve experimented with other fitness games before and i’ll poist reviews hopefully soon.

Harnessing brainpower

Luis von Ahn has discovered the most powerful CPU is the human brain and coaxing those clock cycles from human s requires…fun. He’s using video game design to solve problems and having people do all the “work”.

Play is the unexpected glue that lashes human brains together into a global overmind. So to build a good human-computation project, you can’t merely be a scientist; you also need to be a videogame designer.

He’s the guy that invented Capchas which are often used in login screens to thwart spambots. He also made The ESP Game to help label images on the web.

Supposedly he’s planning on launching a company called “Games With a Purpose ” to help harvest spare brainpower to help with real world issues like helping identify dangerous items in baggage and verifying bank checks. Awesome.
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Effect on mental and physical fitness

Ok so the idea is how one might be able to utilize games not just for entertainment but as a means to improve oneself. How can games improve mental and physical fitness? I’ll just touch upon these ideas and get into more detail later.

Concerns about video game’s effect on the brain and it’s link to violence and attention span have long been debated. In a similar vein though, games have been lauded to improve problem solving and multitasking skills. Now games such as BrainAge use gaming platforms to train people’s brain. Studies and experiments are being flung about and i’ll start to post them here as i come across them.

A no-brainer is how games can get more interactive and improve physical fitness. I’ve been saying for YEARS how video games have sucha potential to make workouts fun. I can sit down and play a fun game for HOURS, workouts though seem to last forever. Making exercise fun through video games can make exercise rewarding enough to get in shape. Bally’s and all those workout places need machines all hooked up like an arcade with leader boards, progress tracking and interactive assisted coaching. Imagine that! In the very least it wouldn’t be so hard to make an interface from workout machine as a controller at home to video game console. The technology is here, we just need the creative to build it!

Make your applications “fun”

via Boing Boing:

Alice from the Wonderland blog is at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference and she blogged her extensive notes from Ralph “Theory of Fun” Koster’s amazing talk on game design’s lessons for web applications. Raph took us through what Amazon would look like if it was designed to maximize fun. It was mind-blowing.
If people don’t care to come to it over and over, then it will fail.
It has to involve skill. You need to be able to do it better or worse. Purchasing on eBay is compelling – you figure out tricks! Sniping. Evaluation. In order to learn, you have to feel like you’re growing more competent.

Fun comes from a growth in competence.

As you come to accomplish it, there need to be variant challenges. Connecting to a CEO on LinkedIn vs. connecting to the pr dude = different.

What you want is for the game to acknowledge the fact that it’s tougher to get on Reed Hoffman’s linkedin rather than someone who sells ads.

Social media is about cooperation, but the core of games is competitive. As soon as you give people a ladder to climb, they’ll climb it.

Ratings. Metrics of contribution. Other people need to see it to measure against it.

and the description from ETech:

Recently, game designers have been engaged in figuring out just what the heck games are: how they work, what makes them fun, what core elements go into making something what we call a “game” as opposed to a “toy” or “a hobby.” Surprisingly, what has started to emerge from this fledgling study is an understanding of the atomic parts that make up game systems – and they turn out to be surprisingly applicable to all sorts of interaction design. Each of these elements can be boiled down into a simple checklist for making your customer experience more entertaining. Come learn what the core bits of a game are, and how you can apply them to whatever web site or product you happen to be building!

Finally somebody’s putting two and two together. what about behavioralism?