IF there’s one takeaway from the Scottish Games Week Industry Conference, it’s that gaming is everywhere.

There’s plenty of traditional video games around from a variety of Scottish companies but, for one Edinburgh-based team, the idea of gaming goes beyond traditional entertainment.

Glitchers, which operates on the tagline “gaming for good” previously developed the world’s first mobile game where anyone can help scientists fight dementia.

According to the Scottish Government, the disease affects 90,000 people in Scotland, an estimated 3000 of whom are under 65.

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“We partner up with anyone who has a problem they might want to solve,” explains Maxwell Scott-Slade, the company’s founder and director of games.

But how exactly can a mobile-phone game where people are tasked with taking images of sea creatures help tackle the illness?

“I think people need to recognise that just because our aim is to help dementia doesn’t mean these games are not fun,” Scott-Slade explains.

“It just means that instead of saying to yourself we’re going to make a first-person game about this or that, you ask what if I use my design skills to challenge this problem.”

A personal touch

For Scott-Slade, his interest in this area stems from personal experience after his brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

His company Glitchers has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary with leading charity Alzheimer’s Research UK saying the company’s Sea Hero Quest game is unlike anything ever undertaken in dementia research.

On how the game came to be, the director explained: “We partnered up with a group of scientists and a telecoms company.

“We understood there was a problem in dementia in terms of how many people were suffering from it. At this stage, drug discovery was not making any valid progress and scientist could see they were getting to the point of intervention way too late.”

The game itself asks players to make their way through mazes of islands and icebergs, navigating a boat as they look for fictional creatures to capture images of.

This in turn operates as a research experiment into people’s spatial awareness which is translated into research for scientists to study.

Spatial awareness deficits are common in the early stages of dementia. 

“Initially, the scientists said that if we can get to 10,000 people then that would be amazing but we had 100,000 people playing within ten hours of the game launching,” Scott-Slade explains.

“We have now had 4.5 million participants which has helped to create a ‘healthy benchmark’ for scientists.”

More than a game

Health research is not the only area which Glitchers looks to educate people in, it has also developed a game to teach people about banking.

Nestlings is a free saving app in which small creatures endeavour to save and maintain a fortune for you.

It goes back to the company’s ethos – “games for good” – in terms of combining entertainment with real-world applications.

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Scott-Slade explained: “Nestlings uses live data and you basically find these creatures that represent your spending habits.

“It’s a non-number focused visual of your bank health and you get to decide whether or not you spend the money.

“It’s basically a means of having insight into the numbers without actually seeing the numbers.”

The future

Looking to the future, a focus on the environment is something Glitchers is keen to focus on with a game titled Forest Guardians listed on the “upcoming” section of the company’s website.

As for dementia research, “the more we can do the better,” according to Scott-Slade.

“We’re at the point now of working out how to take things to the next level and perhaps pursue a diagnostic tool.

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“If we have this data that gives us a ‘healthy benchmark’ then why can’t we pursue that.

“Either we’ll do that or perhaps one or two steps away from that, we can get people to intervene themselves.

“If you have the power to see all this, if we can give people insight into their own spatial ability, then we can probably change the course of a lot of lives.”