02/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Playing Wii is Good For Older Brains

Playing Wii & Brain Power

My 13-year old invited me to play a Star Wars Wii Game with him. Have you ever tried to do this? Here's the deal for those of you who aren't used to using a Wii nunchuck in one hand and a controller in the other.

Each of these hand held devices have at least 8 buttons and 45 options for each button! Got that? Now, you can move each device in a specific way to affect an array of different options for slicing someone with The Force, using Lightning, then blocking said Lightning, picking up space ships and hurling them and making Tae Kwon Do moves with Light Sabers. Got that? Well I didn't. So, nice guy that he is, he had me walk through the Padawan Tutorial, the first stage before becoming a Jedi.

Look, I always wanted to be a Jedi and even once or twice have been known to say, "Let the force be with you." Ok, so I did the tutorial. One baby step at a time, repeating the more difficult moves until I felt comfortable blocking the force from Darth Maul, and using lightning to shock the Emperor. I never liked the Emperor, too pale and way too over-confident.

Ok, I'm ready for real battle.....Or so I thought. Guess what? There is a multiplicity of different things going on at freakin Light Speed. My brain was screaming, too fast, too fast, I can't keep up. This is definitely not the Show Down at the OK Corral, with the old one on one, Mano a Mano. No, no, no.

This is five different attackers using 85 different moves and weapons converging on one hapless R2D2, who can't remember which button to push and which way to move her left arm while pushing every button with the right hand in the futile hope that one will magically work and fend off the barbarian hordes of Imperial Storm Troopers.

Dang it! There goes the hopes of Luke, Leia and Han. My brain just doesn't work that fast. I can handle one thing at a time. And, here I thought I was a multi-tasker... phhhhffff. My brain's electronic pathways and circuits were the proverbial Deer in the Headlights.

Guess what I forgot in my fight or flight reaction watching Obi Wan battle Jabba the Hut.

I'd never done this before.

I had never practiced it. Duh!

My son, could process all the variables without thinking because of all the practice. Aha. The low-watt light bulb went off.

This explains why some video games are good for the elderly. They help them lay down new circuits and new neural pathways. Can they help improve memory and avoid dementia with video games? The way crossword puzzles tax the memory banks and rev up the internal thesaurus and dictionary, these video games tax and push the eye -- hand coordination.

Ah, so the research might be valid after all... playing video games (up to a certain point) can help your brain work better. This makes sense. Maybe the Padawan tutorial helped after all.

I have put aside the Star Wars game for now and picked up the driving wheel. I'm learning how to drive the race cars through impossibly dangerous tracks with the cops hot in pursuit. Now this is fun, and after about 150 races, I finally won a race, well, I kind of won it, if you ignore the 3 second head start. In case you're wondering, this is a vast improvement over the previous 149 attempts when I was lapped, laughed at and barely limped to the 1/2 way mark before the rest of the field sped through the finish line with a green smoky flourish.

Maybe it's not my destiny to save the galaxy from The Dark Side, but a few more hours with the bowling game can't hurt, can it?