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Games Are Good

There’s a huge upside in dumbing down.

Relaxation takes all forms. Some of us go for regular massages to ease tension in our bodies. Others trek mountains.

A friend recently told me that when she feels bogged down by work, she likes to tackle confounding questions on the Mensa Brain Test mobile phone app. Mind-boggling, right? Doesn’t that add more pressure to her already tense state of mind, I asked.

“It is very stimulating,” she said earnestly. “I completely forget about work since I need full concentration for the tough puzzles. What about you?”

I hesitated to reply, in the same way I deliberate now whether I should put it in print. After a few seconds, I hemmed and hawed my way through this confession.

I play the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood mobile phone game.

Now I am acutely aware that some may think indulging in such games is a waste of precious time that can be used on more worthy activities. In the Kardashian game, users create their own avatars who start out as E-listers and work their way to stardom through activities such as flirting and partying. You also need to remember the exact venues for cover shoots and meetings with talent agents.

Before anyone judges the frivolity of it all, video gaming is actually kind of like weight-lifting for the brain. According to an October 2013 study How Video Gaming Can Be Beneficial For The Brain by Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Human Development, playing video games, regardless of depth, “increases grey matter… involved in functions such as spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills of the hands.”

Video games could be used to help patients with mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress or neurodegenerative diseases, says senior scientist and research leader Simone Kuhn.

In Positive Association of Video Game Playing With Left Frontal Cortical Thickness In Adolescents which was published in June by US scientific journal Plos One, video gamers demonstrated better decision-making abilities.
It wrote: “(This fact) provides a mechanism to explain why video game training improves participants’ performance in such seemingly different tasks as contrast detection, visual search, multiple object tracking, letter recognition with flankers, and decision-making.”

This is why the game of mahjong is being used to help treat Alzheimer’s disease. According to Mental and Physical Activities Delay Cognitive Decline In Older Persons With Dementia by the Hong Kong Institute of Education in June 2012, those who regularly play the game do not suffer cognitive decline as quickly as those who did handicraft.

Something also has to be said of Kardashian’s inventiveness. The two-month-old app, which is made by US mobile game publisher Glu Mobile, is so popular that revenue from in-app purchases is expected to hit US$200 million (S$250 million) by the end of the year, US news site Bloomberg reported in August. The 33-year-old US reality TV star gets 45 per cent of net profits.

Since your character in the game has limited energy which is required to accomplish assignments, additional sustenance in the form of the game’s currency K-stars can be purchased. The cheapest package of 50 K-stars is US$5.98 and the priciest is US$128.98 for 1,250 K-stars. With them, you can also buy pretty outfits and change hairstyles.

Its popularity only cements the fact that no game is too low brow when it comes to alternative relaxation solutions. I have just finished an eight-hour photo shoot and my avatar is beat. In real life, the play (and distraction) lasted about 10 minutes which was all I needed to recharge.