Lumosity is a lie

In my previous blog post, I spoke to how the design of Lumosity’s game and interface was heavily influenced by the “projected identity” of the player. This is not to evaluate the effectiveness of these brain games, but highlights the dynamic a desire to become intelligent and trust in technology to satisfy this goal. Lumosity’s […]

In my previous blog post, I spoke to how the design of Lumosity’s game and interface was heavily influenced by the “projected identity” of the player. This is not to evaluate the effectiveness of these brain games, but highlights the dynamic a desire to become intelligent and trust in technology to satisfy this goal.

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Lumosity’s marketing targeted consumers who felt a need to become smarter. The “real world” identity of its consumers included people with serious medical conditions, older adults who were experiencing age-related cognitive decline, and students. The “virtual identity” was a concrete profile that Lumosity provided with age comparisons, self-evaluations, and etc. The “projected identity” of these targeted consumers drove Lumosity’s marketing, but was never backed up by scientific research. According to Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.” Lumosity not only used the “projected identity” as their key marketing aspect, but highlighted how the games were co-designed by game designers and scientists. This raises some key issues about the human behavior: what makes science and research so ‘promising’ without question? What makes a piece of technology a qualified evaluation tool? Maybe their clients got tired of “traditional” ways of training their cognitive abilities, and found the appealing brain games more trustworthy.
When I reflect on my experience with the game, I have to ask: Do I believe that they made me smarter? I had fun, which is why it’s a casual game according to Juul’s definitions. As an educator, I did not find the games effective because the content is not situated, and therefore not translatable. The game designers focused so much on the procedural style of learning skills that they failed to create content that was contextualized in real-world experiences and isolated these skills to their steps and not their application. My “projected identity” is being developed in other ways, and without the need to rely on brain games that tell me I’m smart.

 

References:
Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program
Mind the gap: What Lumosity promised vs. what it could prove

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