I want to argue that video games have the potential to do good things in our society. Our readership at Geeks Under Grace may think that this idea is obvious; video games are fun after all, and are a great way to bond with friends and family members. I want to take this idea a little deeper, however…what good things can video games do that we should take notice of? With today’s technology, I’m encouraged and ecstatic to see what milestones we’re making with how video games can help with treatments. They can help create invaluable support for people who have ADHD, those who struggle with social and emotional problems, or are battling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I recently found several videos from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s YouTube channel that explains how they’ve found that playing video games is beneficial for patients of various needs and ages. For example, stroke survivors at OSUWMC play Kinect games to help regain mobility lost in their limbs. Athletes have recovered their balance and coordination after a concussion using Wii Yoga. Using non-commercial games created with wire attachments to help promote neural feedback, children with ADHD can help improve their concentration by using their brain waves to direct an on-screen projectile to whatever direction they choose. Most of these patients state that they enjoy these activities as they lose themselves in the moment, and forget that video games are helping them heal as they are being entertained.
It’s been well-documented that video games also provide military veterans an escape from the horrors their minds may recall, and are healthier alternatives to escapism than alcohol and drugs. Games can also help create time for casual and meaningful discussions with others, such as with friends and family members. Further experimentation with rehabilitation demonstrates the potential for video games in healing for those who suffer from other forms of PTSD, such as from sexual abuse, depression, or domestic violence.
Supplementary studies have revealed that games can help aid in teaching and help promote empathy towards others. In 2016’s That Dragon, Cancer players could experience first-hand how cancer impacts a family. Flower, developed by thatgamecompany, was created to keep the player in an emotionally peaceful state while exploring the fields around them as the wind. Sea of Solitude, developed by Jo-Mei Games, tackles feelings of loneliness that players, through the main protagonist, may experience, helping to create catharsis in the face of difficult circumstances caused by bullying or depression.
These games, and many others, are allowing players the opportunity to think about topics that many in society have found it difficult to talk about. This helps create dialogue with others, and can help create a suitable safe environment for players to process their thoughts and emotions as they play through the games. It also helps create a catalyst that inspires other creators to share their own stories with others through games with the intent of helping them with their own internal struggles.
As a passionate gamer, I am excited for the different routes video games are taking to address difficult subjects that affect people every day, and new ways of building experiences with the goal of forming connections as well as mending lives. It is inspiring to see how doctors and scientists are also taking to a medium that so many of us take for granted, and use it to help populations that tend to fall through the cracks in our society. People who love games and are interested in helping others are paving the way to create healing through games, whether that is in the physical sense or the emotional. I don’t believe that’s by accident.
God is the ultimate creator of everything, including ourselves. We are made in His image, and as His children, we’re creators too. As God continues to write and guide our stories, we can create stories to share with others as well—hardships, tragic losses, the joy of discovery…all of these can be found in video games. This knowledge of creating good for the sake of doing good can help developers and publishers think about ways they can continue to reach out to those who need their gifts as technology continues to advance.
Whether they help athletes restore more of their physical strength, stroke victims in their journey of recovery, or help bring closure for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or bullying, video games can bring so much good to them, and to all of us. They are, after all, a medium. And like any medium, we as Christians can and should use it as a platform to help heal those who are lost or in pain, and reach out in love to them. If more of these achievements are shared with others, then perhaps the stigma that video games promote only chaos and violence will finally perish.