The prospect of learning while you sleep may be fruitless, but there’s still hope for learning while you waste time. Video game apologists cite research that gaming improves visual skills and motor skills . I prefer a little game that painlessly imparts the laws of physics.
It’s called Red Remover , and it lives on the Game Homepage , a clearinghouse for simple Flash games. On each level, you’re presented with an arrangement of red, green, and blue objects—mostly squares, rectangles, and circles—that are stacked against one another, sitting on platforms, rolling along ramps, and so forth. The objective is straightforward: Get rid of all the red objects while saving the green ones. The blue can stay or go.
The game’s authors have rendered a beautiful simulation of real-world physics. Circles gain speed as they roll downhill, blocks fall away when you remove the platform beneath them, and objects rest on inclined planes until the decline is sharp enough to overcome friction. Towers of blocks teeter precariously. Playing even a few levels of the game gives one an intuitive sense for basic mechanics. Like George Costanza’s real-life Frogger experience , this game will make you better at real-world puzzles like skyscraper construction and Jenga. Or, at least, believing that it will assuages the guilt of goofing off on the company’s dime.