Our own Anne McLaughlin was featured in a recent article in Time.com. Anne and her colleagues Jason Allaire (NCSU) and Maribeth Gandy (Georgia Tech) were recently awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study using games to moderate cognitive decline in older adults.
Their plan is to study what parts of games might help cognitive performance and then to create a new game based on these components.
There is, of course, no cure for memory loss, and no preventive vaccine. Yet a rapidly growing body of evidence suggests that certain behaviors may reliably slow the effects of age-related cognitive decline. Chief among them: eating right, exercising and engaging in social activity and mentally challenging tasks.
McLaughlin and Allaire’s new study will follow 270 seniors as they play the Wii game Boom Blox. Gameplay involves demolishing targets like a medieval castle or a space ship using an arsenal of weapons such as slingshots and cannonballs. While those particular skills may not seem transferable to off-screen life, McLaughlin says she and her colleagues chose Boom Blox specifically because it does require a wide range of real-world skills, including memory, special ability, reasoning and problem solving. [ed: ‘special ability’ should be spatial ability]
Why Boom Blox? Anne tells me that she:
“…actually chose the game after doing task analyses on many games, seeing what fit our profile, then showing those games to OA [older adults] in a focus group and getting “buy in” for what they said they would play.”
Below is an annotated screen shot of Boom Blox and an excerpt of the task analysis of the game and what abilities are required.