Had it not been for the March 3, 2013 article written by Lisa Liddane of the Orange County Register, I may not have known about the store. I’m not sure when I last visited the mall where the store is located, but 20+ years would be a fairly safe estimate. When I first noticed the article, I set it aside as something I wanted to read when I had time. More than two months passed while I dealt with a variety of challenges related to web hosts, email, video interviews, video editing, social media, web analytics, and a variety of additional activities.

quarto_board_500x500Last month, I had a little free time and decided to look at the store’s product offering online. The website is well organized, easy to use, and a delightful change from the cluttered, slow-loading, non-functional websites I often see. The online visit piqued my curiosity so I planned a visit to the Fashion Island location of Marbles: The Brain Store. I invited Esther to join me so I could get her feedback as abalone_board_500x500well. From the moment we entered the store, we were amazed. Not only were there packaged brain games throughout the store, but there were opened games and knowledgeable employees to assist with the “how to” of every game in the store. The two employees who were working while Esther and I visited the store were friendly, helpful, and outgoing without being overbearing. I felt like I was talking with friends who were passionate about a product rather than salespeople who were highly trained to sell something to everyone who entered the store or glanced in the direction of a store window. I did not tell anyone I was planning to write this post, so I am sure the employees are just as helpful to other customers.

The shelves were well organized. Products on shelves wereDSCF0408 grouped by subject of the game, book, or video. Groups such as critical thinking, word skills, memory, coordination, and visual perception made it easy to find games, books, and DVDs about a specific subject. Shelves were neither overstocked nor under stocked. Our problem was not how to find something or how to use something, but how to walk out of the store without buying one or two of everything. By the way, everything in the store is reasonably priced.

When I asked Esther if she found something that she could not live without, she responded that picking a favorite would be “impossible.” Even though she did not pick a favorite game, I can say that she laughed when we received a demonstration of the game titled “Snake Oil.” According to the store website, “One player picks a customer card to determine his or her persona. Then, the other players combine two word cards to create a product to pitch to the customer.” For example, depending on the cards that are selected a player “might have to sell a pocket worm to a caveman or burp cannon to a cheerleader. If your product sells, you get the customer card. The player with the most customer cards wins.” Snake Oil helps players develop decision making, planning, time management, negotiation, and communication skills.

After we left the store, Esther commented that Snake Oil could let her imagination run wild — inventing what her strangely named product could do, and inspiring another player to find the product irresistible, or at least more desirably useful than the strangely named products of her opponents.

A variety of people have suggested there is no proof playing games leads to recovery or any real-world benefit. Others have stated measuring success is impossible. I disagree with both views. Unless you play games at the expense of higher-priority activities, gaming is a great way to enjoy cognitive therapy. Gaming stimulates many cognitive processes such as communication, resource allocation, decision making, memory, time management, organization, visual perception, and coordination. A specific game is not a perfect solution to every cognitive hurdle, just as a specific car or outfit is not a perfect solution to every situation. Even if progress cannot be measured in terms of a percentage (such as my memory is 12% better since I played the game), progress can be measured in terms of true or false, yes or no, and better or worse.


What product, information, or service would most benefit your recovery? Have you looked for the product, information, or service online, in newspapers, or in magazines? Have you asked family, friends, co-workers, therapists, caregivers, social workers, or other experts for help finding what you need?

Thanks to Lisa Liddane and the O.C. Register for sharing information about the store. Thanks to Esther, the coauthor of this post, for sharing her experiences.  Thanks to Marbles: The Brain Store and the store employees who turned an ordinary visit to a store into a fun, memorable, and worthwhile experience.

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