Brain Age

Most video games are what author Nick Montfort would call “interactive fiction.” It is quite clear how games like The Legend of Zelda fit into that category. There is, more or less, a set story which you follow from beginning to end. But like most puzzle games, Brain Age, doesn’t have a built-in plot. It has instead a personal narrative. The player develops based on his or her level of interaction and interest. The story of your Brain Age is a singular experience that cannot be replicated by anyone else.

The Interactive Personal Narrative

The personal narrative in Brain Age is one of growth. Like with self-help books, which could be classified more as “cultural texts” than as “literary texts,” Brain Age is designed to help the player think more clearly. This is a real-life goal, rather than a virtual one. For many participants, this is a far more attractive outcome than saving a princess who rewards you with a single virtual peck on the cheek.

The interesting thing about Brain Age versus other “self-help” texts is that you follow a reverse chronology. While you move forward in the game, unlocking new areas and puzzles, most people’s “Brain Age” score invariably falls. When I began the game, I had a score of 89, one of the worst possible. The game, which is based on the research of neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, claims that the older you are, the weaker your brain is. Conversely, going sixty years younger into the 20’s represents a far better state of cognitive acuity. Age 20 is considered an ideal score.

Over the course of the next few weeks, my score continued to decline until it reached age 28. In order to succeed at Brain Age, I had to grow younger, instead of older. In most pieces of literature, the converse is true. With age comes wisdom, experience, and patience. Without that growth, the hero could not accomplish his mission. However in the case of Brain Age, age brings slow reflexes and sluggish cognition. Youth is now the key to achieving your goal.

Voluptuous Young Brains

Though this may seem to be a testament to our increasingly youth-oriented global society, it should be noted that your brain age is not at all limited by the number of years you’ve been alive. Persons of any age are apt to score at any level. Upon giving the game to my mother, she outscored me quickly and continues to enjoy the game. Both of our experiences were personal, and in that respect, Brain Age is more of a work of “interactive non-fiction.”

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