Friday, September 28, 2012

Gaming is the Best Medicine

Fall is upon us, and while that means the release of highly awaited titles it also means half the population will be sick. Already at my place of work, runny noses and a chorus of coughing are lighting up the hallways. Though I do my best to avoid it, I have already been battling an internal struggle since July (not sinus related, but annoying nonetheless). Yet through the years of my life there has been one treatment I seek in addition to the piles of prescription medications...gaming.

I still remember the uncomfortable feeling as a child of waking up in agony. My throat would feel tight, my nasal passages completely blocked off, and the uncontrollable coughing fits that followed led me to believe I had finally contracted FoxDie and could sympathize with Solid Snake. It became an annual event for me to skip the day of school, stay home, and rest. I was far too uneasy to sleep with the consistent cough, and I needed a good distraction.

That is where my latest gaming system came into play.
I can't go to school today, Mom. I have the Titan Virus

Video games were a great way to take my mind off of the pain. Being absorbed into such games as Secret of Mana or Perfect Dark took most of my attention, easing the discomfort considerably. I even found that I was coughing less and much more relaxed. It was the one time I could forget all other responsibilities, and spend hours running through a game to explore every nook and cranny. For the small window of time, it helped me forget I was sick.

To most, video games and health have hardly been topics that meld together well. In fact, most studies show it linked to violent behavior, bad posture, and obesity. Some articles even state that every hour spent in front of the television actually doubles the likelihood of childhood obesity. While there may be some evidence for these accusations, there is still potential for the positive side of gaming.

Lately video games have been used in therapy, both physical and mental.

Motion gaming may make you roll your eyes at its mere mention, but the potential is not lost in its use for physical therapy. In the video above (if you can stomach the cheesy introductions), Fruit Ninja is used to assist in rehabilitation by getting patients to stretch their arms and react quickly. The greatest part is that Halfbrick Studios, the developer of Fruit Ninja, assisted in modifying the game to accommodate the necessary speeds for patients that could not react fast enough. A number of developers and organizations are creating their own games specifically calibrated to work in assisting the patient regardless of their ailment.

The number of patients that can benefit from this form of therapy seems to be growing. According to a Tech2 article, paralytic patients play certain games which will help improve flexibility, reach, and self confidence. It also helps those who suffered from paralysis and stroke, children suffering from autism, dyslexia, and serves as a distraction for recovering burn victims.

USC crafted game called Jewel Cave, stressing the necessity to reach

I have always seen the potential and experienced the benefit gaming can bring while sick. Borderlands 2 and Darksiders II have assisted me in coping with the latest round of physical discomfort. I have no doubt it will be prescription medications and doctor visits that prevail in the end of any major illness, but to cope with the stress and anxiety of it all gaming has been more than helpful.With future console generations coming, I remain hopeful that their uses in health and therapy will continue.

Now I wonder if Dark Souls has a future in anger management...

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