The Role Gaming Plays In Therapy
One of the major changes in the way we view the role games play in our lives was the study done on those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It found that visuospatial video games interfere with flashbacks. The study divided the test group into two, with one playing visuospatial games such as Tetris after watching a traumatic film, while others had a no-task approach. Over a week, the Tetris group recorded a significant reduction in flashbacks. While gaming might be considered just another pastime, there are cognitive responses to gaming worth looking into.
The Relief From Everyday Pressure
Video games have proven to be an effective way to reach people as our reliance on technology rises. Gaming allows players to feel less encumbered, which allows them greater freedom to express themselves. That brief respite from the outside world can give a therapist a bit of insight into the struggles their patients are dealing with. Researchers are currently delving into the use of immersive DEEP VR (virtual reality) technology. This kind of VR allows users to immerse themselves fully in a virtual scenario, where they can choose a calming walk through a forest or a scuba diving session, looking for hidden treasures. It is already known that many use video games as a means to wind down and de-stress.
Defeating The Unknown
Gamers are able to communicate with fellow players to reach certain goals or defeat a common enemy. This allows them some reprieve from their actual, everyday lives. Role-playing games are particularly helpful for those who still need to cope with the psychosocial aspect of their trauma, and immersing themselves in the backstory of characters in games like Dungeons and Dragons can help. For instance, exploring trust, requesting help, and providing support for others in need may be easier done through a game than through conversation about personal issues. Those who opt for online gaming are exposed to different social scenarios while being in the safety of their own home. If they don’t divulge personal information, they remain safely cocooned within a community without the associated risk they may associate with in-person relationships. Not only does the defeat of the unknown enemy boost confidence, but it also inadvertently boosts social skills.
Targeted Therapeutic Design
While current gaming might be targeted for maximum entertainment, some developers have seen the link between cognitive stimulation and the effects gaming has on the psyche. This combination has seen some interesting additions to the gaming market that explore themes such as depression, schizophrenia, grief and loss, and dealing with feelings such as hopelessness and worthlessness. For therapy, these can be a way to tap into the mind when it’s receptive and open. Not only do they explore themes that may be avoided by other developers, but they also create beautiful scenarios and use good graphics to encourage gameplay. For players, this can promote the learning of new coping skills.
While gaming isn’t an answer to every psychological issue that may pop up due to trauma, it certainly paves the way to create a better understanding of the underlying trauma. Gaming may also be a more effective tool to teach coping mechanisms than traditional therapy, especially to those who may not want the social interaction associated with therapy sessions.