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Games as Therapy

Recently, I was reading through a thread in the GameSpot forums in which gamers were talking about the lack of respect they get when they talk about gaming to people who are not interested in the gaming world. This lack of respect got me thinking about other aspects of gaming besides the entertainment values that are often over looked, games as therapy. If the late Rodney Dangerfield might have been talking about video games, (often criticized as "toys" that are a waste of time or too violent) he would have said that they "can't get no respect."

Today, nationwide, researchers are studying gaming, and its potential for health benefits, from helping stroke and trauma patients regain their physical abilities to enhancing their lifestyle. There are games under development for role-playing for individuals diagnosed with alcohol abuse or dependence that allows them to use skills in a virtual setting that might help prevent real-time relapses. Today they are testing of games in rehabilitation programs for a wide range of problems brought on by stroke or accidents and for the strengthening muscles after sports injuries. Some hospitals already use Nintendo's game console, the Wii, for "Wii-hab" and "Wii-fit."

Respect, it seems, may be around the corner.

Video games are all over Walter Reed Army Medical Center. They're used for therapy or entertainment, and to encourage recovering soldiers to socialize. For soldiers who have just been hit with life-changing injuries, playing games helps them have the entertainment they enjoyed before they arrived at the military hospital; playing games again gives them back a sense of normality. If there's been a strain on the brain, it helps them recover quicker.

There are games being created that are focused on improving and maintaining the physical and mental health of the elderly. They use games that encourage the slow yet full range of motions, helping the elderly stay somewhat active, flexible, and mobile.

The Sarah Neuman Center for Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Mamaroneck, New York is using video games as a form of therapy, and has incorporated the Nintendo Wii into their senior programming. The Wii requires players to use physical gestures to control movement on a video screen. Now the nursing home residents have a chance to relive such activities of their youth as bowling, tennis, golf, and even boxing, receiving a small dose of exercise as well as an emotional boost.

The games improve balance and endurance, and it even helps with cognitive skills. They are considered to be a new tool that will give the opportunity for people who are disabled to participate in activities that involve motor skills and eye/hand coordination that would otherwise be virtually impossible for them to achieve. Video games used as therapy are a fun way to get patients more involved with recovery. It exercises the mind, helps with memory tasks, allows routine change, and exercise.

Since being introduced in various nursing home and senior centers, the use of interactive games as a form of therapy has grown in popularity. Elderly people have seized on the fun and easy-to-use consoles to enjoy life without the fears of aging, and spending their remaining years miserable and lonely. The idea of training the brain gives hope, many people are overly frightened of getting old, or even refuse to admit it. In the future, those with Alzheimer's disease may not have to take drugs to delay the symptoms if they keep up with the learning therapy gained from game therapy.

Even working class people who are gamers, use games as therapy to relieve stress and vent their frustrations. So are games just toys? I think not! Gaming is whole lot more.

Who will be the next Lady Lara Croft?

For years Eidos has used a flesh 'n' blood face to represent the Tomb Raider action/adventure franchise. Over the course of the many Tomb Raider releases, Eidos has hired several real life models to portray the iconic Lara Croft. There has also been two feature films starring Angelina Jolie added to the mix, making the epic Lara Croft even more popular than ever. Traditionally, the reign of the representatives has been short term, leaving to speculation who the next Lara Croft will be for the upcoming game Tomb Raider Underworld.

Here's a brief look at current and past official Eidos representatives:

Karima Adebibe (2006-present) hails from Bethnal Green, London and is a self confessed tomboy; of all of the Lara Crofts, she has probably been the most physically qualified. After being selected for the role, she went through a rigorous training program which included SAS survival, combat and semi automatic weapon firing and courses in world archaeology and etiquette in order to portray Lady Lara Croft. Karima is 5'8" tall, with brown hair and was born February 14, 1985.

The blond haired Dutch model Jill De Jong (2002-2004) is 6ft tall and measures 34-26-38, and was born February 2,1982 in Hoogeveen, Netherlands. She was considered the perfect incarnation of Lara Croft at first sight. According to a Core Design representative, "When Jill first entered the room we were all enamored with her personality and her looks". She was selected by Eidos for the next generation Tomb Raider game, The Angel of Darkness.

Lucy Clarkson (2000-2002) was born on July 6, 1982 in Rotherham, England. At 5'11" tall, brown hair, and measurements of 32dd-25-36, she was considered by many as being the most "curvy" Lara Croft. She was quoted as saying. "It's such a high profile job - and one of the few that lets you keep your boobs and bum."

From Holland, Dutch model Lara Weller (1999-2000) was born April 6, 1975. At 5'8" tall, dark brown hair and measurements of 34c-24-34, she made her first appearance as Lara Croft at the Electronic Entertainment Exhibition (E3) in Los Angeles representing the Tomb Raider game, The Last Revelation.

Nell McAndrew, (1998-1999) Promoted Tomb Raider 3: Adventures of Lara Croft and is still considered by many as the most successful and popular Lara Croft model. Born on November 6, 1975, with brown hair and vital statistics of 32d-25-36 was fired in 1999 after posing for the cover of Playboy Magazine.

Rhona Mitra (1997-1998) was the first official real-life Lara Croft. She was born August 9, 1976 in London, England. In order to help portray Lara Croft, Rhona had her breasts enlarged from a size 34A to a 34dd. Her vital statistics are 34dd-24-35, brown hair, brown eyes, 5'8 in height. She took special media courses in order to show confidence when doing interviews with the press. Rhona was fired by Eidos Interactive, which shocked many Tomb Raider fans; since then, she has appeared in Playboy Magazine.

The Lara Croft figure in Underwrold will find a redesigned costume consisting of a dark brown halter top and black shorts that replaces the blue sleeveless top and khaki shorts seen in past games; also, her hair will no longer be braided, but worn in a ponytail. Will the current Lara Croft, Karima Adebibe continue to represent Eidos or will she be replaced by another? Only time will tell; for now we can only speculate.

Shaken Faith in Microsoft Products

I have long been a fan of Microsoft products. Years back, I started with the first MS-DOS systems and anxiously waited to update my system to the newest versions. Of course when Windows first came out, I was on the bandwagon, even though the first versions were little more than a crude graphical display of DOS which basically served as a application launching method. Recently though, my faith is being shaken by the quality of their software and hardware products.

Other than the Microsoft mouse, my first piece of gaming hardware that I purchased was a Sidewinder Pro joystick that served its purpose well and was so much better than the cheap joysticks of the day that couldn't stay put on your desk. It worked well with games of the day but really became outdated with the advent of the gamepad. My first gamepad, which incidentally, I still use, was a Logitech Rumblepad. I think the game profiler that came with it is still one of the best bits of programming ever introduced for its purpose. When Microsoft came out with the Xbox 360 controller for Windows, I once again jumped right on the bandwagon. My faith was immediately shaken by the fact that it really has no software support other than what may be built into the Games for Windows products, and there isn't any way of using the controller on older games or games not endorsed by Microsoft without using a third party game profiler. In my case, I used a shareware type program that I purchased called Pinnacle, but even it has its pros and cons.

Another software issue I've recently had is with Windows Media Player. I've always kept my computers up to date but I have newer Dell that when I updated the media player from version 10 to 11, I immediately experienced the blue "death' screen crashes whenever the program tried to initialize. After contacting Microsoft support, which only produced negative results, I finally had to revert back to the version 10 media player. Now, even with the old version back on the computer, I get unpredictable crashes when using the media player. I finally bought and installed CyberLink PowerDVD and use it as my default player for all applications requiring it.

The Xbox 360 console is a whole different matter all together. I actually wish I would have bought the Playstation 2 instead, and even now I still have full intentions of buying a PS3 80gb. Putting the hardware issues, advertising banners on Xbox Live, and poor support aside, there are other issues that shakes one's faith in Microsoft. The lack of backward compatibility is a joke; once in about every 4 to 5 months they add a few more games to their compatibility list, but yet they tell you to check back often for new updates. At first, the compatibility games worked with no problems, but as the list has slowly grown, I've experienced more and more severe bugs and crashes with the newly listed games. Is it my console? is it my disks? does it matter? That's one of the reasons I'm going with the PS3. Another reason is Microsoft's announcement to discontinue the HD DVD drive. It seems game makers are starting to follow suit too.

It strikes me that Microsoft is becoming more concerned about advertising than they are about the quality of their software and hardware products. On a recent visit to msn.com to visit their shopping feature, I searched for a PS3, it produced a total of one result for me, but that same visit did produce 36 tracking spies on my computer. Go figure.

Microsoft and Xbox Advertising

With all of the news going on recently about Microsoft's unsolicited bid to take over Yahoo and become the advertising king of the internet thereby passing its rival Google, I felt compelled to put my two cents worth in. I of course understand that this means that Microsoft wants other people to pay them for advertising, but in the same token, it also means that Microsoft can further promote its self. I wonder what this means to the gaming world. Possibly a further bombardment of Microsoft and paid advertising?

As an Xbox 360 console owner, I am often frustrated by all of the advertising Microsoft does on their Xbox website as well as on Xbox Live, either by promoting Microsoft products or third party vendors that have paid heavy prices to have their products advertised. I'm sure that more times than not this works well for the vendor, but what about the gamer? I've bought games that were well advertised that were really good, but I've also bought games with the same amount advertising that were so bad that a person has a hard time trying to get rid of them on eBay. Personally, I think that a good game play sells itself.

If you've been on the Xbox website you know what I mean, dense advertising for games, consoles, movies, music, downloads, Microsoft products and much more. What does this mean to you? Advertising is a powerful tool used to create desire for only one reason, they want your money. I know that when I was shopping for a console, I was perplexed on whether to buy an Xbox 360 or wait a while and get the PlayStation 3 (it wasn't yet available at that time). Truthfully, now with Microsoft no longer selling HD DVD drives and the world turning to BlueRay, I wish that I would waited and got the PS3. Anyway, I went to the Xbox site often and ended choosing the 360. One of the reasons was because of the nice clean Xbox Live screens they showed on the website and how they could be customized with themes to suit your own personal tastes.

I received a free limited trial gold membership with the Xbox that automatically turned into a silver membership when it expired. I've never bothered with going back to the gold membership. The one selling point for me was the clean Xbox Live screens that I saw on the website, much to my surprise it turns out they were covered with advertising banners that were constantly changing. These same ads are what also contributes to Xbox Live's slow loading times, even with a high speed internet connection. I went ahead and paid for and downloaded several themes, which incidentally, turned out to be a waste of money, only to find my themes still covered by these advertisements. I keep asking myself why I even bothered with the themes if you can't see them?

I've heard some gamers say they like them because they can learn about tournaments and new games. See how well it works? I wonder if these same gamers bought Old Spice (the current bombardment), Halo 3 and Vampire Rain? As for me, I can live without them, after all, during the course of a day, the average individual is subjected to thousands and thousands of advertisements a day; I find gaming a place to get away from it all. Even now though, in game advertising is on the increase. As an example, I recently played a game that every computer monitor in the game was situated on a desk so that when you looked at it, there was an Xbox console beside the monitor, an Xbox controller on the desk and the monitor screen had the Xbox logo on it. The first time I saw this, I thought it was cute, but as the game progressed, I realized that I could no longer use them as a reference point because they were all the same. After all, what it you were in a city scene and every billboard in the city had the same advertisement on them? There goes all your landmarks.

I hope you enjoyed this blog; it's just one gamers opinion.