Body and Brain Connection

Does your body follow your brain's commands when your brain is soused with alcohol? We investigate.

I don’t think “Greater-Than and Less-Than” will ever replace “The YMCA” as a dance anthem.
I don’t think “Greater-Than and Less-Than” will ever replace “The YMCA” as a dance anthem.

There are two ways to test a game like Body and Brain Connection. I can proceed through the game’s activities and training drills, gradually improving what the game’s mastermind, Dr. Kawashima, calls my “Brain Fitness.” Or I can try to become “brain unfit.”

So I decided to get drunk. Beer impairs coordination, delays reactions and depresses reflexes. In other words, beer screws up the body and brain connection. If Dr. Kawashima’s system can really measure the link between my body and brain, then it will register beer.

Before I started drinking, I took a tour through the game’s 20 different activities. I got a dismal grade of “E” playing “Touch ‘n’ Go,” an activity in which I must guide Pac-Man and Pooka (a fellow retro arcade star) with separate hands. I did better with “Strike a Pose,” where I earned an A by answering each question correctly in an average of 1.27 seconds. Dr. Kawashima said, “I’ve never seen such a score in all my years of research!” Good to know the Kinect is furthering scientific discovery.

Then I took the game’s brain age test. BEER AGE: 0; BRAIN AGE: 53

By the time I had started my second beer, I wondered whether it was really a good idea to earn a low “Brain Age.” Is it really desirable to have the brain of an 18-year-old? Wouldn’t an experienced 56-year-old mind be more astute and worthwhile? This is deep. BEER AGE: 2; BRAIN AGE: 37

As I got drunk, I was increasingly annoyed by the Kinect’s hit-andmiss motion detection. When I’m sober, I’m willing to forgive the machine for not quite understanding that I’m kicking my leg. After all, it’s a Kinect — it’s cool. But intoxicated, I think that the Kinect, with its three infrared cameras or whatever, should be able to see at least as well as me. BEER AGE: 3; BRAIN AGE: 43

I played “Touch ‘n’ Go” again, but this time, I was supposed to maintain contact with a piece of fruit with my left hand while guiding Pac-Man with my right hand. Same game, but the switch made it more challenging. (Or maybe it was the beer.) I also managed to improve on my “Strike a Pose” score, with a new average time of 1.14 seconds per correct answer. Beer good! BEER AGE: 4; BRAIN AGE: 40

On my final play-through of “Touch ‘n’ Go,” I improved my grade to a respectable B. These games don’t really measure the body and brain connection. What they measure is the skill I’ve acquired with the game’s rules and the Kinect’s operating quirks. That’s why I got better at “Touch ‘n’ Go” even as my blood alcohol level increased. Or maybe playing Body and Brain Connection all night made me a little smarter than I was when I started, sober and unpracticed. BEER AGE: 6; BRAIN AGE: 51

THE GOOD: Sure, the activities are simple. (Think flashcards and “Simon Says.”) But they wring as much variety as possible out of their gameplay.

THE BAD: Did I mention the activities are simple? (Think flashcards and “Simon Says.”)

THE BOTTOM LINE: As a self-improvement game, Body and Brain Connection reaches further than most, but it doesn’t quite make contact.

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