Nintendo Brain Games Go Bust

Dennis Faas's picture

While Nintendo boasts that its Wii can make you fit, the game company's popular line of DS "Brain Games" have for some time promised to make kids smarter by challenging them with word puzzles and math formulas. However, a French professor isn't buying the shtick.

University of Rennes professor Alain Lieury, a cognitive psychology specialist in Brittany, France, recently studied a group of ten year old children playing a variety of mentally-challenging games. Not all were video games, however; Lieury pit more traditional games (including sudoku, Scrabble, and regular old reading and homework) against Nintendo's popular line of DS hits, including Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, and Brain Training. All are supposedly designed to help develop young minds. Although I've yet to hear Nintendo make any promises, it's assumed that if you play enough of these games you'll be on your way to Harvard.

Not so, says Lieury. Although he credits the Nintendo DS -- the best-selling gaming system of all time -- as "a technological jewel," he finds that Nintendo's claim that it can actually help kids learn is nothing more than pure "charlatanism". (Source:

How does he know this?

Lieury split a group of 67 ten year olds into four small sections. While one section participated in puzzles with little more than pencils and paper, another two spent seven weeks playing memory games on the DS. A fourth group continued to go to school as they normally would.

Although the break must have been plenty nice for those kids in the other three groups (especially those fiddling around with a DS all day), only the pencil group showed significant achievements. Although both the pencil kids and the DS tykes improved about 19 per cent in their math skills, the former showed much more impressive leaps in their memory capabilities.

Thus, Lieury was led to find that if kids on a seven week course can't make big leaps using the DS games, it probably won't do much for adults playing in their spare time, either. (Source:

Of course, the next study is an obvious one: what types of games make you smarter? Which most improve your hand-eye coordination? Which ruin lives by addicting players to alternate realities?

Okay, we already know World of Warcraft wins that one.

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