Despite the fact that it contains the word “games,” video games aren’t just fun and games. Science has been using games more and more to improve learning abilities and problem solving. Now, researchers from the University College London and Alzheimers Research UK have created a free to play game that collects data about players’ cognitive abilities with the hope that the data collected will lead to a better understanding of how our brains age and the cognitive decline that typically occurs over time.
Sea Hero Quest, a free to play game available on Apple and Android, was developed by Glitchers and tests players’ ability to navigate, make decisions and estimate orientation. All of these components are measures of cognitive abilities and researchers hope that by studying variations of these abilities across different demographics, they might better understand dementia and Alzheimer’s, for which–obviously–there is no cure.
The team estimates that every two minutes of gameplay in this free to play game is equivalent to approximately five hours of cognitive test in a lab. With 100,000 players logging at least two minutes, they could generate five years of research.
The game’s plot also reflects the researcher’s goal. Years ago, a man and his son explored the sea and documented all of the creatures they found in a sketchbook. In the game, the son has become an adult and his elderly father no longer remembers their adventures. Players help the son navigate the same ship to bring the memories of monsters back to his father.
Watch Sea Hero Quest’s trailer below.
“We’re hoping to learn from the data how well people do at different ages, across men and women, and different places in the world and that will give us this really wonderful database,” Hugo Spiers, a neuroscientist at the University College London and one of the project’s creators, told Gizmodo.
Worldwide, nearly 44 million people have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. The global cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia is estimated to be $605 billion in 2016, which is equivalent to 1% of the entire world’s gross domestic product. It is a massive problem so, please, consider downloading this free to play game to help find a cure and have fun while doing it.