Share this article

print logo

Brain science and video gaming converge in neurogaming

SAN FRANCISCO – Lat Ware pauses to straighten his jacket and organize his chaotic mind. For Ware, who has attention deficit disorder, standing in the halls of a gaming conference as people rush by can feel like being in a hurricane of humanity.

He takes a deep breath before he steps up to a passer-by to pose the question he has already asked at least 100 times today.

“Excuse me,” Ware says. “Would you like to throw trucks with your mind?”

The target’s face goes through a range of expressions, trying to formulate the appropriate response to the fantastical offer before settling on an uncertain reply.

“Um, suuuuuure...” says Natalia Veselova, who had come from Russia to attend the Game Developers Conference in March.

Ware, 29, is recruiting people to try to the new video game he has developed. He leads Veselova to a table where he sits her down in front of a laptop next to other players and explains his game, “Throw Trucks With Your Mind.”

He slides a headset onto her that reads brain waves that indicate levels of calm and focus. Players must maximize both states of mind by concentrating on a single thought, which then allows them to pick up and hurl objects at opponents.

“It’s an ultra-violent meditative competitive game,” Ware deadpans.

For several minutes Veselova struggles to block out distractions and relax. Just when she seems ready to give up, pink and blue bars on the screen begin to spike. A swirling beam of light shoots from the hand of her avatar toward a rock in the middle of the screen that wiggles, rises and then goes flying toward an opponent, narrowly missing.

Her eyes go wide, and then a smile spreads across her face. Ware steps back with his own look of satisfaction.

The development of “Throw Trucks” places Ware on a frontier where brain science and video game developers have just begun to cross paths. The emerging field has been dubbed “neurogaming.”

“If my brain waves can be fed into a computer so I can learn to manipulate them, what else could I do with them?”

Johnny Liu, director of NeuroSky’s developer program, was attending his first gaming conference three years ago when he was approached by Ware, who wanted to discuss his “Throw Trucks” idea.

Liu suggested that Ware raise the money through the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter.

Ware launched a campaign Feb. 13, 2013. “I have wired an EEG headset that reads your brain into a video game to give you telekinetic super-powers controlled with your thoughts,” he wrote on his Kickstarter page.

On March 14, 2013, the Kickstarter campaign closed. A total of 584 backers contributed $47,287.