The Trivial Brain Training Games

In the mid 2000s, games to make you ‘smart’, well smart at a couple of mental teasers, were the craze. Now they are just another part of the fad chest, along with our guitar controllers and wii fit boards.

It was a good selling point for handheld consoles to your casual gamer: “want to do something on the train that isn’t just trying avoid eye contact with the guy who has stared at you the whole journey, well do a brain teaser.” This did brilliantly until people got bored of the same 10 brain games, then they just went back to their old routine of sitting and praying no one sat next to them. It was a good idea but the lack of varied content meant it got boring quickly. Besides once you’ve mastered a task there is little intensive to keep repeating the task, so you stop and eventually lose all improvement.

Dr Kawashima’s brain training was the main one, which was hailed as the game to prove video games can be good for mental health. So many people picked this game up, on purpose or just because it was always in the DS bundles. The game did what it advertised to do, but it seemed to lack enough content to keep going back to it. It was no surprise after a while it began to dwindle in popularity as they hardly had many games, and the second one only added a couple extra modes. The whole thing was redundant for children, as it only counted for people over 20, but it still hurt getting a brain age of 30. When you got 20 it felt as if the game was complete and if you did the test it was never going to be that good again. It’s like the sudoku, once the pinnacle of brain teasers now a thing only page fillers in newspapers.

Other games like Professor Layton handled brain teasers in a better way, although it may not be a directly ‘brain training’ game it is still making you think ergo improving your mental health. They have had several games which are great fun to play but when it’s too difficult referring to a guide kind of removes the mental exercise and so does trial and error. The games were well made but again it doesn’t appeal to the masses, especially the casual gamer that wants to do something on the train.

I would like for this sort of game to make its way back. Not just another brain training game as it only trains you on certain tasks. Unless they put several different modes with frequent updates it will not be successful. I’m all for teaching in games so these brain teaser games are the perfect way to further video games being beneficial. Besides it would at least quieten the constant supposed negative effects on mental health newspapers insist on publishing. More emphasis on thinking out of the box is needed. Portal, for example, was a great puzzler that really got you thinking and was fun. Having games like this could be extremely beneficial to our mental health but it’s not a chore to play.

Brain training games were only a fad because people got bored of them as they can only keep people interested for so long. So maybe this genre was around for as long as it could be. It’s time for the underappreciated puzzler genre to get more love, sure indie developers are starting to explore this area in depth but maybe major developers should start too.

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