She’s on the video game train

Published 10:48 am Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So, I don’t consider myself a “video game” person. Well, there was that period when the kids were young and I played my fair share of Pac-Man and Asteroids.

And, once in while I go for a round or two of computer Scrabble or Hearts. I can, however, easily leave it and move on to something else.

In other words, I have self-control when it comes to playing computer games. At least, I had control until I discovered a website called Lumosity. The site says it is a game-based training program that helps to keep your brain healthy.

The introduction presents research that “the brain’s abilities are in fact malleable.” A change in thinking, pardon the pun, since scientists were sure that once we reached adulthood certain cognitive abilities were set and unchangeable.

I sure do want a malleable brain so I signed in for a free trial of what Lumosity describes as “over 40 challenging, adaptive games.” It was fun and a day or so later, I got an offer for a free six-month subscription if I participated in a research project.

Turned out the project involved taking a test to measure my Brain Performance Index or BPI. Then I did crossword puzzles for a set period and at the end of the period, they tested my BPI to see if it improved. It did and I got free games that would, they said, continue to improve my BPI.

Your scores tell you where you are in areas of speed, memory, attention, flexibility and problem solving. They also tell you how your BPI in each area compares to other folks your age.

I’m doing pretty good in most of the areas. Problem solving is not where I’m strongest; probably because there is math involved in some of the games. Math, as you know, is not my friend.

This sounds so good, like I’m doing it to keep my head healthy — kind of a daily brain exercise routine.

One little problem. One little problem called “Train of Thought,” a cute game where different colored cartoon-like train engines come chugging out of something that looks like a cave and onto a screen filled with a tangle of tracks and stations that match the colors on the engines.

My job is to direct the correct train into the correct station. It is supposed to test how well I handle doing things that require divided attention. Let me say here that my attention scores are my best scores.

So why am I incessantly playing a game to improve an area that is already my best? It’s because this game is driving me nuts, and folks it ain’t about improving my BPI. It is about getting these stinking trains into the right stations, and there more than 40 of them to direct.

So far, I’m up to level 13, the next to the last level and I cannot get all those cursed trains to the right place. I am a 61-year-old woman who is spending too much time listening to the choo-choo sound of cartoon trains, hoping not to hear the “clunk” that means I put the wrong engine in the wrong station.

And, I’m starting to talk to the game.

“Slow down.”

“You cheated. I clicked that track and you still went the wrong way.”

I’m even testing myself to see if I get more right at certain times of the day. Or if I do better after a meal or a cup of coffee or after about three glasses of wine. (The wine doesn’t help with the game, but I don’t care as much when I hear that clunk sound).

My husband just shakes his head and hopes at some point before dawn I stop and come to bed.

Nope, I’m not a person addicted to a video game. I’m challenging my cognitive abilities. In fact, I need to end this here because today might be when all those freaking trains pull into the right station.