Remember when your parents used to say that video games were bad for you and would make your brain rot? Well, it turns out that they might be wrong. While the effectiveness of “brain-training” games has been controversial, a growing number of scientists have presented evidence that cognitive-training regimens can significantly improve cognitive function. And one Boston-based company, Akili, has been exploring this themselves. With the core technology of UC San Francisco’s Neuroscape lab, they’ve developed a mobile game called “Project: EVO”, which they hope to use as a prescription-based video game to treat children with ADHD.
To validate the game in a way that other brain-training companies haven’t, Akili has gone through all of the trials and processes required by the FDA for any kind of medical device. It’s currently in phase III clinical trials. If successful, it will be the first prescription-based video game in the US, creating an entirely new category of digital medicine in the process. The thought of such an idea is truly amazing, especially as you consider that video games are a field that’s drawn plenty of criticism despite its relatively young age for everything from excessive violence to being too addictive.
Akili is well aware of the controversy surrounding video games, particularly the brain-training ones. Nonetheless, they’ve pointed out that their efforts are different by reaching beyond simple gamified exercises to create an immersive video game experience by integrating both cognitive challenges and physical movement. It’s still in its infancy, but Akili is clearly doing something both unique and exciting. I don’t know how I feel about prescription video games, but I’m eager to see where it goes.