What Would Happen If Your Grandma Played More Video Games?


  • Michaela Dlugošová Comenius University Bratislava


Executive functions (EF) are crucial for goal-directed activities. However, EF performance decline comes naturally with age, causing cognitive impairments. Assessing EF is important for early diagnosis and if used as a cognitive training it can help mitigate the deteriorating quality of life. 

This research focuses on assessing one of EF - working memory (WM), which stores and manipulates information for a short time. Traditional WM tasks lack ecological validity and suitability for training. However, cognitive video games seem to be a better option.

Their biggest advantages are (a) realistic environments and tasks in which using WM seems more natural (b) effectiveness for all ages [1] and (c) a positive impact on lives [2]. Existing games are limited - they are commercial, expensive, and lack the flexibility needed for academic research. Hence, we developed a new game (Restaurant Game) as a flexible, research-oriented game to measure WM performance. 

In our game, a player must remember an order from one customer and serve it correctly. If served correctly, the number of items in the order increases. The game has different modes - remembering the order in the forward/backward/random order. 

We aim to conduct a pilot study on psychometric characteristics (validity, reliability) on a smaller sample which will guide future validation of the game. To tailor the game for our study, we started with gathering feedback on the user experience of playing the game and its important variables (users’ motivation, lack of frustration, …). After that, we adjusted the game based on the feedback.

In the validation part, the game's final version will be tested against selected established WM tasks (similar or less similar in nature to the game) in random order. We will sample a homogenous group of healthy, young participants (20-35 years old) with the most varied WM span possible (based on results from the digit-span task). Performance measures will be recorded and the participants will be given a questionnaire asking about the characteristics of their user experience. To test the reliability of the game we will let the participants play it twice, with the second trial after 3 months. In both cases, we will use a within-subject design.

If this pilot study proves to be successful showing a better user experience of the game compared to the established WM tasks, the game can advance to a proper validation study. Later on, the game can be tested as a cognitive training task. Its open-source nature enables future research and insights into WM.


[1] R. Nouchi et al., “Brain training game improves executive functions and processing speed in the elderly: A randomized controlled trial,” PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 1, 2012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029676

[2] I. Granic, A. Lobel, and R. C. Engels, “The benefits of playing video games.,” American Psychologist, vol. 69, no. 1, pp. 66–78, 2014. doi:10.1037/a0034857