During the initial tutorial stage in which Lumosity accustoms you to the interface and gameplay, the game uses statistical data to compare you against other players in your age range. Your performance is represented on a bell curve. When you performed poorly, the game’s text remains “juicy” by directly rewarding your intent and ignoring the game score. When I see that I have performed better than the majority, it was an ego boost and bar that was raised for myself. On the other hand, when I performed under the average, I was determined to better myself and more importantly, beat them. Once the tutorial is over, the game no longer compares you to other players, but instead measures your high scores and encourages you to be better than your ‘previous’ self. The design is meant to invoke competitive game play, and creates a difference experience when the competitor is oneself. This type of priming is intentional, and feeds into what James Paul Gee defines as the “projected identity.” This identity bridges the “real-world” identity with the “virtual” identity. According to James Paul Gee, the projective identity is to:
“project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character and seeing the virtual character as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become.” (page 55)
Lumosity continues to feed and prime my “projected identity” through a variety of ways. The juiciness is always encouraging of any progress that is made. When I don’t perform as well as I hope to, it never communicates that negatively. The explanations of games and their purpose prime me into believing that the game will help me develop a certain skill. Lumosity has the illusion of unmasking the ‘black box’, although I, as a player, have no idea how tapping on train tracks or swiping on the screen makes me a better multitasker.
In my third blog post, I will discuss more in depth the effectiveness of these brain games and the role of the “projected identity” in Lumosity’s marketing and design.