A lot has been written and said about why Brain Games, or Brain Training works [1] and doesn’t work. If you listen to what Jane McGonigal [2] has to say, she says that games are a panacea for many of our ills, including productivity [3]. Where does the truth lie? I would think claiming to be a panacea is a skeptical one at best. I would really like to investigate more before I make up my mind.

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that by performing a set of actions repeatedly with a game on a device, you have a close to random chance of enhancing your mental abilities.

Immersion is an intriguing quality of the mind. It is the capability of every mind to make a scenario realistic by filling in the blanks, to allow itself to wholeheartedly engage with a scenario that isn’t real.

We’ve been playing fun games with our three-year old boy. One of these games involves running a pizzeria where my son is a pizzeria owner and he’s responsible for everything from taking orders, baking the pizza to specifications and finally delivering it to observe the delight on the customer’s face. It gives my son the opportunity to practice recalling the toppings we chose and who ordered what. The game is greatly inspired by Papa’s Pizzeria [4] and the only change we’ve made is to play it in real life using building blocks for toppings and hardboard books for pizzas. Moreover, we’ve been playing it together with him; my wife, his nanny, grandparents and me. It gives us all an opportunity to interact with each other and him.

Through immersion we get an opportunity to directly engage processes that govern our response to specific scenarios. It seems reasonable to think of it in this way. Then games are simply an inert medium or a psychological mirror. Similar to games, is the framework for the pizzeria.

Immersion is pretty valuable, it encourages visualization of a future that doesn’t necessarily exist just yet; it’s the reason why Mathematicians can claim that Math is the closest we can come to the language of the Gods; it allows the writer to communicate scenarios to his readers in words; it’s the key to a meditation session; it allows this blogger to think someone will read what he has to write :-).

Immersion also allows for some strange things to happen.

Using VR, experiments have shown that pain can be communicated without directly hurting the observer [5]. The opposite is also possible, phantom limb pain in amputees can be reduced and altogether eliminated through the use of a simple mirror [6]. This shifts the very idea of what we’re intending to treat.

What else can immersion solve?

Care to hazard claim as audacious as everything? I wouldn’t do so simply on the back of the idea that we don’t understand immersion completely. But it is certainly applicable to every problem, and valuable to try where there isn’t any other effective medicine.

“The Mind Makes it Real”

Neo, Morpheus Training

[1] Brain Training 101,
[2] Jane McGonigal, author “Reality is Broken”.
[3] Jane McGonigal on Productivity, School of Life.
[4] Papa’s Pizzeria To Go! Itunes.
[5] The Magic of the Unconscious Mind.
[6] VS. Ramachandran’s Mirror Box.