Jedi Mind Tricks and the future of entertainment
Control the game with your mind
Currently, if you want to control a game with your mind, you must be a Jedi-in-training, who learns to control what happens in the game by changing the level of your relaxation and concentration. This state of affairs is perfect as far as MindGames, an Icelandic startup, is concerned.
“When you play our games, you should not only be having fun, but also learning how to relax and concentrate when you want to – because that’s what it takes to win, in our games and in life,” says Deepa Iyengar, co-founder and CEO.
“A lot of people think that controlling machines with your mind should be about the machine learning to read your mind automatically – but we think that the meaningful potential lies in the machine showing you your own mind, so that you can learn from the experience and become a better person.”
Games can change your life
Learning to observe and regulate your mental states and moods, or mindfulness, traditionally involves practicing meditation. However, meditation requires the self-discipline to make time to fail at it, over and over again, with no reward for each failure. However, with a BCI controller, a game can use the information from your brainwaves to give you visual and audio feedback which not only lets you know how you are doing, but instantly motivates you to do better through your desire to master the game.
MindGames’ games are potentially life-changing for everyone, but could see initial application in therapeutic areas: helping children with attentional disorders, or people with anxiety disorders or social phobias, among other things. Since the game receives data on what your brain is doing, it can also display statistics to show parents, teachers and therapists how the player’s ability is improving.
Learn by playing
But the company anticipates widespread adoption of what it calls “games with benefits” in the future. “With so much media competing for our attention, we will need our education to do double-duty as entertainment, since we will always choose to spend our time on what seems to be the most fun to do,” says Deepa.
At least one study shows that young students learn, understand, and retain history better when it is taught through videogames. Meanwhile, researchers in England and Germany have conducted studies which show that participants who played videogames in which the goal is to help others, were much more likely afterward to help in low- and high- risk situations.
Serious gaming companies
While most of what are called “Serious Games” are developed in academia, there are several commercial initiatives producing entertainment which has the potential to transform human behavior. For example, Alelo, a Los Angeles-based company, provides simultaneous training in language and appropriate cultural behavior via “missions” carried out in a 3D virtual environment.
And Akoha is an online-offline game in which players perform kind deeds suggested by a card, then pass the card on to someone else, meanwhile logging on to get karma points, unlock rewards, and so forth. Perhaps even more exciting is a project scheduled to be released next year by g.tec, which will enable paralyzed people to use a brain-computer interface to participate in Second Life using their mind.
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