Problems of Identity in brain games

During the initial tutorial stage in which Lumosity accustoms you to the interface and gameplay, the game uses statistical data to compare you against other players in your age range. Your performance is represented on a bell curve. When you performed poorly, the game’s text remains “juicy” by directly rewarding your intent and ignoring the […]

During the initial tutorial stage in which Lumosity accustoms you to the interface and gameplay, the game uses statistical data to compare you against other players in your age range. Your performance is represented on a bell curve. When you performed poorly, the game’s text remains “juicy” by directly rewarding your intent and ignoring the game score. When I see that I have performed better than the majority, it was an ego boost and bar that was raised for myself. On the other hand, when I performed under the average, I was determined to better myself and more importantly, beat them. Once the tutorial is over, the game no longer compares you to other players, but instead measures your high scores and encourages you to be better than your ‘previous’ self. The design is meant to invoke competitive game play, and creates a difference experience when the competitor is oneself. This type of priming is intentional, and feeds into what James Paul Gee defines as the “projected identity.” This identity bridges the “real-world” identity with the “virtual” identity. According to James Paul Gee, the projective identity is to:

“project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character and seeing the virtual character as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become.” (page 55)

Lumosity continues to feed and prime my “projected identity” through a variety of ways. The juiciness is always encouraging of any progress that is made. When I don’t perform as well as I hope to, it never communicates that negatively. The explanations of games and their purpose prime me into believing that the game will help me develop a certain skill. Lumosity has the illusion of unmasking the ‘black box’, although I, as a player, have no idea how tapping on train tracks or swiping on the screen makes me a better multitasker.

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In my third blog post, I will discuss more in depth the effectiveness of these brain games and the role of the “projected identity” in Lumosity’s marketing and design.

 

References:

Gee, James Paul. 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

When casual games become ‘fruitful’

Lumosity is marketed as a game that was co-designed by game designers and scientists to improve the player’s cognitive functions. This simple wording already forms the basis of their conditioning, but it definitely works. The app has a mini-game that opens explaining what cognitive function it strengthens. The games are ‘scientifically’ broken down into five […]

Lumosity is marketed as a game that was co-designed by game designers and scientists to improve the player’s cognitive functions. This simple wording already forms the basis of their conditioning, but it definitely works.

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The app has a mini-game that opens explaining what cognitive function it strengthens. The games are ‘scientifically’ broken down into five different modes: velocity, flexibility, resolution of clues, attention, and memory. I play each game with these goals in mind (sometimes not always understanding exactly how the mini-game is designed for these goals). The game mechanics are simple, which usually require just a touch to the screen. Because the game rules themselves are sometimes difficult to grasp the first time, Lumosity does a great job at scaffolding with short, easy tutorials. When I get combos or correct answers, the sounds are pleasant. When I mess up, the game makes an unpleasant, yet gentle sound and sometimes allows the player to correct their error. Failure is just as accepted as it is in Lumosity as it is in any other game. The game is so ‘juicy’ with encouraging text after each game, lots of in- and out-of-game compliments, no matter how well or bad I performed.

As a response to the exclusivity of hardcore games, Jesper Juul has defined casual games as a game for all ages that have the following five characteristics: fiction, usability, interruptibility, difficulty, and ‘juiciness.’ In the table below, I will judge Lumosity according to Juul’s characteristics for a casual game.

Doesn't he just look so much smarter?

Doesn’t he just look so much smarter?

 

References:

Jesper Juul, A Casual Revolution, chapter 2