Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Combatting mental disorders with Video Games?

Video games can take a lot of bad press especially in an age where they are becoming ever more popular among young people. It is easy to see why many people are concerned with video games. They can be ‘addictive’ for many people and the violent and gory nature of some games may de-sensitize younger players, perhaps even make them more aggressive, violent teens and adults. As a long time gamer this has been a subject that is typically on my mind and perhaps on the minds of many fellow gamers. How can I show the greatness of video games to people who don’t play? Are the games I play doing harm to me beyond the minor frustration of losing? Are video games good or bad? As interesting as this debate is for many, this isn’t going to be about whether or not video games are good; rather this is going to talk about how some clever people have made video games help people in need.
            An article recently looked at several studies that were published in the past few years that looked at how video games being used to combat certain disorders and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and even stroke recovery. The studies begin to show greater success for patients when the video game is paired with normal intervention as opposed to only receiving normal intervention. One of the things about these games is their challenge level. If the game was too easy it would fail to engage the patient. On the other hand, if it was too difficult the patient would only feel frustration and wouldn’t wish to bother with playing. A degree of tuning is needed when figuring out where to place the difficulty. Video games were even shown to be effective in dealing with pain felt during certain painful treatments. The distraction of gaming was able to preoccupy the patient from feeling some of the pain of treatment.
            The games used in these studies weren’t your typical video games. They were made by researchers and designed to help patients with specific problems. The games this study discusses are meant to assist and improve the effectiveness of the normal treatment for mental disorders. No one is suggesting that Call of Duty is going to be used to combat mental disorders (at least not to my knowledge), but the idea of video games being used to help people, in a way which hasn’t been used before, is holding merit. As people learn more and more about depression, anxiety, and the like many more ways to combat these sometimes complicated disorders are going to come out of the woodwork. Video games are a big way to easily engage people in interventions to combat many disorders. It’s easier to engage someone in a game when compared to a regular intervention especially with their popularity among many younger people today. Engagement in mental health can be a very serious issue especially with the many social stigmas and negative views held towards mental disorders. Mental Health can be a very serious issue for many people and causes a great deal of suffering for those whom don’t receive treatment. Video games being used as interventions may be a way to have people less hesitant to seek treatment of conditions that may even be fatal in the worst case scenarios. Having interventions which more actively engage patients in treatment may prove to combat the stigmas and perhaps even the stress that can occur when going though treatments. In a few years, hospitals may just have an arcade on one of their floors and I for one hope that’s its open to the public some days.

Pater, P., Shattell, M., & Kagan, P. (2015). Video games as nursing interventions. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 36(2), 156-160. doi:10.3109/01612840.2014.978961

Unnamed Image. http://addictionblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/why-do-people-play-video-games-2.jpg

Leo Bigras

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