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Games for All

Posted Jul 25 2014 11:17am

Years ago, in the early days of video gaming, people worried that a generation of kids were going to grow up as couch potatoes, unable to do anything but stare at a screen, frantically pressing the buttons on their controller. It hasn’t quite worked out like that! These days, we have fitness apps, we have brain-training apps, and it seems that the medical community is recognizing that, properly used, games can be beneficial after all.

Games For All

One of the interesting side effects of the spread of easy-to-use touchscreen devices and always-on connectivity has been that all kinds of people, young and old, are using their phones and tablets to play. It’s not just teenage boys – which was a stereotype that was never completely accurate anyway! Sit in a coffee shop for a few minutes, and you’re as likely to see a group of young girls playing Angry Birds as you are to see an elderly person spinning the roulette wheel at a casino site like It’s often claimed that video games can improve hand-to-eye coordination, but late last year it emerged that a new app that claims to stave off age-related cognitive problems was in development.


EVO will be a tablet game in which players explore a rich in-game world, collecting various objects and solving puzzles as they go. It sounds familiar, right? But EVO is based on a project called Neuroracer, a driving game which has been shown – under laboratory conditions – to help seniors with memory and attention problems. In fact, the developers are aiming for FDA approval in the USA, allowing them to market the game as a medically useful product.


Of course, so-called “brain-training” games aren’t new, but there’s been little scientific evidence up to now that they do much more than teach you how to solve the in-game puzzles more quickly – not that that’s a bad thing, of course! One of the newest of these apps is Brain+, free to download, which claims to improve memory, attention span and other mental faculties. The new app’s USP is that the developers claim a scientific basis for its benefits, even stating that it can help people with brain injuries or diseases.

The Future

There’s also a host of fitness apps, and more will follow as wearable tech like Google Glass and smartwatches go mainstream, but these rely on people following an exercise regime rather than just playing the game. What would be interesting would be to see a scientific study into whether playing games generally – from driving and adventure games, to puzzles and casino apps – helps with mental agility. It might take a few years though!

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