## Monopoly helped POWs escape

During World War II, the Nazis did something un-Nazi-like: they let Allied prisoners of war play board games. The British government was even allowed to send its incarcerated soldiers a game or two. One of the games it sent? Monopoly. Inside the box? Tools for escape. Specifically, the British government, with the cooperation of the game’s publisher, hid real bank notes among the Monopoly money. Compasses, metal files, and a folded silk map – which was less likely to disintegrate than a paper one – were also concealed inside the box to help the POWs flee their captors. It worked; the soldiers escaped.

## Words With Friends saved a man’s life

Had Georgie Fletcher never signed on to play the mobile game Words With Friends, her husband, Simon, might be dead. Georgie, who lives in Australia, struck up a friendship via the game’s chat feature with frequent opponent Beth Legler from Missouri. One day, Georgie told Beth that Simon hadn’t been feeling well. Beth relayed his symptoms to her husband, Larry – who is a doctor. Larry insisted that the Fletchers go to the hospital immediately. It was good advice: Simon’s doctors discovered a 99 per cent blockage near his heart, which, left untreated, would have certainly been fatal.

## It took Rubik a month to solve his cube

You’ve probably heard of Erno Rubik. But most people don’t know that he created the Rubik’s Cube by accident. A professor of architecture, Rubik built a twistable box with colourful rows of labels on each side to see if it was possible to design blocks that could move without causing the entire structure to collapse. After Rubik rotated a few rows and mixed up the colours, his challenge began: realign the hues. It took him about a month to restore the cube to its pristine condition.

Can you solve the puzzle dubbed the hardest ever by a university professor? Find out here.

## Tetris reduces trauma

Tetris, the Nintendo Game Boy classic, might cure insomnia! In 2009, researchers determined that Tetris inhibited painful flashbacks when they exposed three groups of people to a 21-minute video showing traumatic events. Members of the group that played Tetris for ten minutes post-viewing had fewer flashbacks about the events in the video than those in the other groups who were asked to either do nothing or take a quiz. Why? Because playing the game engages a part of the brain responsible for storing memories. Try your hand at Tetris up to six hours after a traumatic event for fewer nightmares.

Here are some weird tricks that really do help you go to sleep.

## Rock stars may make more money with Guitar Hero than through album sales

Aerosmith is a world-famous rock band and, apparently, a gamer’s guilty pleasure. In 2008, the video-game publisher Activision created Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which featured the band’s songs. By April 2010, the game had sold well over three million copies worldwide. Following the game’s release, sales of the band’s music rose as much as 40 per cent, per Billboard. Activision’s CEO went one step further when he purportedly said that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith brought in more revenue than any of the band’s albums – ever.

Test your musical knowledge with this classic hits super quiz.

## World of Warcraft helped scientists predict plagues

The next time a scourge sweeps the nation, look no further than your Xbox. In 2005, the makers of World of Warcraft released a new character for their top-selling online role-playing game – a bad guy named Hakkar. He controlled a dungeon and cast a spell that created a highly contagious disease in anyone who dared challenge him. Suddenly, the disease began to spread among players. Many died (may they rest in peace). The plus side? Real-world epidemiologists heard about this phenomenon and now have a set of observations that show exactly how people helped or inhibited the spread of the disease. Researchers are using that data to try to create models to limit the spread of actual diseases.

## Angry Birds poked fun at our fears of swine flu

When Rovio launched the Angry Birds app, consumers were empowered to take action (albeit subconsciously) against some scary news of the time. According to Ville Heijari, former SVP of brand marketing, the game’s villainous, snivelling pigs were inspired by the then-rampant swine flu epidemic, a health crisis that was causing great alarm in the United States.

Read on to find out how coronavirus is different from all epidemics throughout history.

## Nintendo made Mario by accident

Unable to get licensing rights to a Popeye game, Nintendo created a Bluto-like character named Donkey Kong, and Popeye turned into Jumpman. When the game hit America, the Nintendo team changed Jumpman’s name to Mario (as in Super Mario) after the company’s warehouse landlord at the time.

Check out these reasons video games might just be better for you than books.

## A deck of cards can outdo outer space

The number of permutations within a deck of cards is mind-bogglingly large: 8 x 1067 (or an 8 with 67 zeroes after it). That means there are more card combinations than stars in the Milky Way, which amount to as many as 400 billion. If that’s blowing your mind a bit, you might want to try out Uno instead.

## Video games sharpen doctors’ skills

Doctors who perform laparoscopic surgery – which involves inserting a tiny camera into a patient’s body through a small incision – have better coordination if they play video games at least three hours per week. According to a 2003 study, gamer surgeons made 37 per cent fewer errors and worked 27 per cent faster than those whose only ‘video game’ experience was the surgery itself.

Check out the pros and cons of playing computer video games here.