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.