Eurogamer's Chris Bratt received an email a little while ago from Boss Level Labs. They were selling what they claimed was the "world's first brain booster supplement for gamers" called GodMode.
Curious about the dubious looking claims on the company website, Bratt took an in-depth look at the supplement.
A video detailing Chris Bratt's investigation into GodMode was posted to Eurogamer's Youtube channel earlier today. I recommend you watch it.
GodMode is a nootropic supplement sold by Boss Level Labs. Nootropics are any substance that improves cognitive function. Caffeine is a nootropic. Caffeine is in GodMode.
There's a lot of buzz around nootropics at the moment, with many supplements salespeople pushing them as the next big thing to help unlock your brain's potential and what have you. Scott Miller, CEO of Boss Level Labs and co-founder of Apogee Games, is one of those salespeople.
During a phone interview with Bratt, Miller said, "Doctors are brainwashed from day one when they enter medical school that, you know, drugs work and anything outside of drugs isn't going to work." He suggested a conspiracy from big pharma to discourage doctors from recommending supplements.
My wife is a doctor. My wife takes supplements. When I've asked her about supplements in the past, she told me that she doesn't care if patients take them as long as it doesn't interfere with their treatment. Don't construe this as medical advice, consult your doctor if you have any concerns about supplements.
And, if you want to be pendantic, nootropics are drugs.
Skeptical about the dubious claims made in bold red text that GodMode boosts cognition, amps up alertness, reduces depression and improves memory, Bratt started to poke around.
He spoke with Dr Kimberley Urban, a neuroscientist based in Philadelphia, who said, "It's going to provide a sensation of enhanced alertness and focus but that's just from the caffeine. You get the same thing from drinking a couple cups of coffee."
The rest of the claims held less weight. While the website boasted of 847 studies showing the positive effects of the nootropics in GodMode, a careful look at those studies showed little, if any, relationship between the claims made and the findings of researchers.
Supplements exist in a murky middle-ground ripe for exploitation. In America, supplements do not need approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the body that controls and supervises medicines.
One of the claims on the site - now removed - is that yamabushitake (a mushroom also known as Lion's Mane) reduces depression and anxiety. The studies linked showed it had limited effects for treating gastroenteritis, a common virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. The only mention of depression and anxiety in the literature surrounding yamabushitake was a study involving cookies containing the fungus to overweight women. It was not definitive.
Not knowing what the supplement did, Bratt decided to try it for himself. Dr Urban said it was unlikely to be dangerous so Bratt took two a day for about two weeks.
The trial was incredibly unscientific and Bratt is the first to admit that. With no control for the placebo effect and using only an online brain test to chart his progress, the results should be taken with a giant grain of salt.
Unsurprisingly, the results were that it was a bit like having some caffeine with negligible changes to his results on the online brain test.
Next Bratt looked at the testimonial section of the Boss Level Labs website and was found wanting. Contacting the eighteen listed "pro-users", only one was able to report positive results while the others declined interviews, stopped responding after GodMode was mentioned or said they never took the supplement. A number of these "pro-users" have since been removed from the site.
Bratt took all of these concerns to Scott Miller in a phone interview. Miller was unable to defend the claims made about GodMode and said that a number of changes would be made to the website. Many changes have apparently been made to the website since that phone interview, dialing back some of the more outrageous claims yet the overall tone of the site remains the same.
Chris Bratt investigated GodMode for a month and still doesn't know what it does.