MyCognition: Monster Valley (improve cognition with applied gaming)

monster valley
Read this article in Dutch

About a year ago the CEO of the school (Stad & Esch, Meppel, The Netherlands) asked me if I was interested in joining him at a meeting about serious gaming. Of course! How many times do you get the opportunity to combine something that’s fun with some to help you learn? So, a couple of days later we went to Utrecht and had the first meeting with the people from MyCognition. A bit weird, a mix of British and Dutch around the table. There they explained their plans. According to the latest studies on the human brain, the brain isn’t a static organ, but an organic one. Which mean the brain can regain functions presumably lost. Through cognitive exercises a lot can be improved. But how the get youngster interested in cognitive exercises? The answer is simple: wrap the exercise up in a game. Gaming is something kids (and a lot of other people) do, I doesn’t require a certain degree. You just hop on in. The ultimate purpose of the game maybe even treating patients with Alzheimer’s! Can you imagine how great it would be if a patient can regain some function by gaming? So, no lack of ambitions.
But you have to start somewhere and the teenage mind is as good a place as any. We’re talking about children in the age of 11 – 18 years. As illustrated in this slide:
MyCognition schools preso 13th March 2013 dia 25

The approach thus is:
– all data from the game comes directly from official (and widely used) test to measure brain activity.
– the most look and feel like a true computer game, a boring and unplayable game is not acceptable.
– the are looking for schools who like top participate in the pilot and the further development of the game.

And that’s were my school enters the story. From the first meeting the people of MyCognition (Duncan Knight, Keiron Sparrowhawk) have been really open and took are suggestions very seriously. In that first meeting the targets were set. The already assembled a great team. For the testing and cognition part dr. John Harisson, a worldwide authority on cognition, joined in. He translated the cognitive functions we would like to measure towards a game. But what about the game itself? Who do you ask? Well, you bring in the best you can get. Jurriaan van Rijswijk describes himself as an expert in behavioral change. His preferred instrument? Games. The presentation given by Van Rijswijk is a true eye-opener. A conclusion given by John Harisson was the fact that gaming and psychology use a lot of the same principles. Another thing I learned was the term used for these sort of games. Most people refer to them as ‘serious gaming’, which in fact, every game is. At least, a player takes every game he plays seriously. So the term you need to use is ‘applied gaming’.

So, now you know the team behing MyCognition. But despite all the great people onboard, they still needed programmers to actually create the game. The company ‘building’ the game is Little Chicken Game Company. And they created an amazing product!

The game

The monsters from Monster Valley
The monsters from Monster Valley

The game is called Monster Valley. You can find the logo at the top of this article.
In Monster Valley you become a monster catcher. You can choose between a male and female character. You’ll need to fulfill tasks given by John Boss. During these tasks you’ll practice your cognitive skills, such as:
MyCognition schools preso 13th March 2013 dia 8
When you’ve completed the tasks (it doesn’t matter how you’ve faired), you’ll be given a test. It’s what the game uses to measure the cognitive development. Of course we are hoping for an improvement, but it’s possible the score ends up lower. Maybe you’ve had a bad nights sleep. Anyway, the test results are implied in the game, so the game will present an unique and personal experience. The game learns from its user.

What’s the benefit for schools?
– Pupils will study more effective.
– Pupils will be more active during classes.
– By improving their cognitive capabilities the will perform better in general.

Here is a sneak preview of the game:

To wrap things up, here’s the presentation given to schools:

MyCognition Netherlands Schools presentation 13th March 2013 from Duncan Knight

Want to join?
Then please visit the MyCognition website and give gaming a place in your school.
MyCognition logo


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