Ode to Elevate

Guadalajara, Mexico
fri23sep2016—38w267d73%— 19h21m03s—-5utc
Elevate Games

Brain-training is one of those fishy new concepts born burdened with an overpromising name. So is gamification. But behind the hype there is clear promise and Elevate is an iOS/Android app that surprised me by truly delivering a fun, gameful way to get a bit smarter & sharper every day.

It’s now been 43 days that I’ve used the app EVERY single day, almost since the very first day I found it. It’s the best 🌅 morning routine I’ve ever had —far surpassing snoozing, coffee, porn, checking up on news, messages or social networks… even exercise, which works better for me at nights. After a few minutes of my daily session at Elevate I just have to start my day and can’t get back to sleep —grogginess magically dispelled by focusing on the set of 3 different games it presents me based on my training program.

It’s a free app but the PRO version with more games & features goes for $5 a month or $45 a year. I was so impressed that I went for the $80 lifetime plan in a sale they had a while ago 😱. I had never done something like that and it marks the most I’ve ever paid for an app 💸. I don’t know how long this will be a daily habit, it seems that within a couple more months I should rise to the top level (Master, level 6) in all 6 areas (in everything but Listening I’m currently at Expert, level 4). But like a favorite 🎞 movie you buy instead of renting, Elevate is so beautiful that I know I’ll want to replay it once in a while just to be inspired again.

No, I’m not getting paid to write this nor am I affiliated to Elevate in any way. 😜 It’s just that good. Even Apple named it its Best App Of The Year in 2014. (I’m very late to the party as you can see.)

And besides being an inspiring & energizing routine, it does work as brain-training. I feel much better already at doing mental-math, listening or remembering names, my short-term memory seems bigger, my vocabulary, use & processing of words feels sharper.

There’s 2 things that most impressed me about it and I take them as object lessons on the importance of how you do things:


On every detail Elevate oozes quality, professionalism, attention & thought 😎. If you have to read or listen to something as part of a test it is always intringuing and well-written, like you might find in a particularly good general-interest magazine. Even single words or numbers are carefully selected not to just be hard for a particular test but to be useful & interesting. Its audio recordings are superb, the voices pleasant, the diction professional (and before every game that requires audio you always get a helpful warning).

Every visual —button, icon, color, graph, image— is polished and aesthetic. The names, instructions, tips when you fail, and study-material are well-written & actually helpful. In sum, you can tell that at the other end there’s bright people who work hard and care.


I don’t know how else to describe it but Elevate demonstrates clearly that the ultimate gamification technique, the one still sadly underused, is to add charm to interaction ✨. Even innovative tests with quality content could fall flat without this charm. A brilliant game-dynamic is neither necessary nor sufficient for fun. The gameplay of several Elevate games is often extremely simple, not unlike what you might get at any dreadful exam for school: the Substraction game is literally just substracting 2 numbers. But the charm makes all the difference. By charm I mean how every interaction detail —sounds, timing, animations, metaphors, styles, flourishes, responsiveness, input methods, reactions, intros, outros, transitions, celebrations, misses— is fine-tuned to be appealing & engaging (without being cloying or distracting, though it can be a fine, subjective line).

Consider stone skipping. Yes, quantification is part of this game (and certainly of Elevate too): counting your bounces introduces challenge, a clear sense of progress, the basic feedback loop towards mastery & flow. But even more importantly is simply that stones make beautiful ripples when hitting water, and the way a stone can skip on the surface of water is unexpected and graceful: it’s charming. You can call it the Flower & Journey approach to games.

A stone skipping on calm water

What makes Elevate unique is that it offers quality, quantification & charm.

Follow me on Twitter!  |  Back to ELZR.com