The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1.2 million grant to North Carolina State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology to study gaming's effects on cognitive skills in older adults.
As part of the planned study, both universities will examine the thinking skills of a group of men and women aged 65 years and older. Researchers will then perform another cognitive test after participants briefly play Electronic Arts' Nintendo Wii titles Boom Blox and Boom Blox Bash Party.
EA's Boom Blox games allow players to interact with collapsible block structures that react realistically to thrown objects, nudges, and removed pieces. Researchers at both universities find that gameplay in Boom Blox and its sequel can easily be modified to adjust novelty, attentional demand, and social interaction.
Using the results from the study, researchers hope to narrow down the qualities in video games that boost memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills in the elderly.
At the study's conclusion, the university researchers will create a set of guidelines that can be used to design "a new class of video game for older adults," and will use these rules to create an example prototype game.
The National Science Foundation's grant spans four years. Research at both universities is planned to begin in September 2009 and conclude in August 2013.