Train Your Brain
> 3/28/2006 9:30:22 AM

That's what video game company Nintendo is hoping that millions of Americans will want to do come this April. The Washington Post reported today on a story that has been getting a ton of press over the past six months in less main stream news outlets. The game is called Brain Age, and it may indeed represent a sea change in the way the public views video games. Indeed, that has already happened in Japan, where the game was released nearly a year ago.

While its aims may seem lofty, the game itself is pretty simple. Designed behind the research of Japanese neurologist Ryuta Kawashima, Brain Age seeks to help keep brains fit, especially as they grow older. Many have likened it to a daily workout for your brain. Utilizing timed but simple word and number games, Brain Age calculates your brain's age, giving you a benchmark number on which to improve. By practicing his games for minutes a day, Kawashima claims that your brain will stay younger and healthier.

As mentioned in the AP article linked above, this story has been developing for some time now in Nintendo's homeland of Japan. Games almost always go to shelves first in Japan, and then move across the Pacific to the US. In this case, Brain Age has fuelled a resurgence on the part of Nintendo, who had recently taken a back seat in video game market share to Sony. The reason for the monumental gains is that Brain Age is not intended for your typical video game fanboy. With its simple controls, using a touch screen stylus and microphone, it is simple for even the most reticent player to pick up and play. Brain Age also scores points with new gamers because it is a game that is only meant to be played for 10 to 20 minutes a day.

As the WaPo story makes clear, there is no hard evidence that the game makes players brains healthier, but this type of criticism doesn't really concern the game developer. In many cases, the demonstrable achievement and improvement in scores may be enough to convince gamers that they are improving in some physically measurable way. Success in Japan is certainly no guarantee, but with Americans already hooked on crosswords, word-searches and su doku (an electronic version of which will be included in the US game), is it so hard to believe that Americans might be ready to test their brains on a new platform?

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