Many people, looking for something to blame for all the world’s problems, like to point the finger at video games. These “murder training devices” and “violence desensitization machines” that we love are viewed by many like heavy metal and comic books were viewed in the past. Fortunately, not everyone has dismissed video game’s tremendous potential.
Jason Kahn and Peter Ducharme, a researcher and clinical social worker for Children’s Hospital Boston, have developed a video game based therapy which can help adolescent patients with anger issues. The game sounds like it has simple Space Invaders type gameplay, shoot enemy ships and avoid friendly ships, and has a heart monitor attached to it. Patients put on the heart monitor and play. The twist is, when the patient’s heart rate increases the game becomes harder to control. The patients must then try to calm themselves down so that the game becomes easier to control again. The developers hope that the patients will learn to control their heart rate and calm themselves down while playing the game in therapy. Then, when they get into stressful situations in real life, the patients will know how to calm themselves.
The vast majority of video games have been, and will be, purely for entertainment. I know that won’t change, but I hope that the great potential of video games continues to be tapped. Folding@home was an amazing way to harness the power of modern game consoles, but wasn’t using the power of actual video games. This therapy game is a great way to both engage teens and help them with their problems. I hope that people, both in the gaming industry and outside of it, continue pushing the limit of what a video game is and what they can do.