BrainRush is out to turn you into IBM’s Watson. Like other companies grabbing for the big brass ring that is tech-based education tools, BrainRush wants to “revolutionize learning.” But unlike many of its competitors, Brainrush is determined to make it fun. They’ll tuck the knowledge you need inside a thousand interactive playthings like so many Greeks inside a wooden horse. You won’t even see the learning comin’! Sure, the first line of its intriguing White Paper on Adaptive Practice (the company’s term for “high-efficiency game-based learning”) sounds like the beginning of a Twilight Zone episode–try this in a Rod Serling voice: “Imagine that you could learn anything you want by playing a computer game.” But it’s not futuristic anymore. It’s now–and perhaps you can learn anything through a computer game, though theology, say, might be hard. Morality? But it’s hard to think of very many subjects a properly programmed machine can’t teach.
BrainRush makes one promise that seems an unnecessary reach. The games are “always challenging,” it states, “but never frustrating or difficult.” That goes against a long history of successful video games, where increased levels of difficulty are a core component. But we’ll concede that technology legend and Atari creator Nolan Bushnell knows more about games and their difficulty than we know about anything–and it’s Bushnell’s thing. Along with other smart, playful people like Adam Berns and Tina Hoover. They all take inspiration from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psych prof who minted the importance of Flow in learning–because the state of flow (that thing Michael Jordan was always in) is where you learn best. And that’s just where your prime interaction with a BrainRush game happens. You’re not so much thinking it as you’re feelin’ it. Then all of a sudden, you come out of the flow and you know.