Cut the Rope and improve the brain

Cut the Rope and improve the brain
Screenshot of iPhone game: Cut The Rope

SINGAPORE - An hour a day playing puzzle games like Cut the Rope on your mobile phone could help you concentrate better and think faster on your feet, psychologists from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) claim.

These were the findings of a recent study on mobile games carried out on 52 NTU students.

"Mobile games are getting popular these days so we wanted to study the mental effects of these games and their implications," said Assistant Professor Michael Patterson, who carried out the research with PhD student Adam Oei.

The undergraduates, all non-gamers, were asked to play one of four games - action game Modern Combat, real-time strategy StarFront Collision, arcade game Fruit Ninja and puzzle game Cut the Rope - for an hour a day five days a week over four weeks.

Before and after the gaming period, they were given a series of standard tasks which measured how fast they could switch tasks, how fast they could adapt to a new situation and how well they could focus on information while blocking out distractions.

Only the group of 15 students who played Cut the Rope showed significant improvements in all three tasks. After 20 hours of game play over four weeks, they could switch between tasks 33 per cent faster than before. They were 30 per cent faster in adapting to new situations and 60 per cent better in blocking out distractions.

Cut the Rope requires players to feed sweets to a little green creature called Om Nom while collecting stars. The treats hang by one or several ropes which players must cut. Players meet more obstacles on the way and change strategies in order to meet the goal.

Dr Patterson said: "Cut the Rope improved brain functions probably due to its unique puzzle design. Strategies which worked for earlier levels would not work in later levels. This regularly forces players to think creatively and try alternate solutions. This is unlike most other video games which keep the same general mechanics or goals and just need players to speed up or increase the number of items they keep track of."

Similar puzzle games like Plague Inc and Puzzle Agent may achieve the same effects, he added.

Student Lim Yi Hong, 24, who has played Cut the Rope for up to two hours at a stretch, said: "I do find it surprising that it is able to improve one's mental capabilities."

Dr Patterson, however, cautions against addiction, saying: "An hour a day on MRT rides would be good. Mobile games should not cut into your social and exercise time."

This article was first published on June 25, 2014.
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