Video games spark our imagination and let us blow off steam. They help us relax at the end of a long day and escape from the stresses of life. But there is something else that video games are good for, which may come as a surprise — they’re changing the way we do medicine. From helping patients recover from strokes and even traumatic brain injuries to improving mental health, video game therapy is quickly making its way into mainstream health care.
So, what exactly is video game therapy? And how can it help you?
What is video game therapy?
The term “video game therapy” applies to the use of video games in a wide range of healthcare practices, including occupational therapy and mental health counseling.
It’s a prime example of how health care is becoming more digital. Innovations like telehealth, virtual reality, and robotic surgery are all helping professionals improve patient care and lessen overall workload.
Technology is opening doors for health care, enhancing the lives of patients and providers alike.
Benefits of video game therapy
Video games are unlikely to replace conventional therapy, but they can complement current treatments.
The benefits of video game therapy are:
- Accessible and affordable healthcare
- De-stigmatized mental health treatment
- Entertaining and engaging sessions
- Temporary pain distraction
- Increased patient cooperation and motivation
Uses for video game therapy
Video games and regular telemedicine appointments can help patients go through therapy from the comfort of their own homes. Video games can help treat a wide variety of conditions, ranging from physical impairments to mental disorders.
Accelerating stroke recovery
Because stroke survivors struggle to move weakened parts of the body, their coordination and balance is at risk. Regular tasks, like making a cup of coffee or cooking a meal, become difficult or even impossible. How can stroke victims regain these lost abilities?
The answer may lie in video games.
Researchers at the University of Missouri developed Recovery Rapids, a motion-sensor video game that mends motor skills. Patients use their arms to paddle, row, and steer as they virtually kayak down a river. Without realizing it, they exercise their arms and regain strength in an entertaining way.
If you don’t like kayaking down a stream, perhaps you’ll enjoy swimming with dolphins. MindPod is another game that is making waves. Stroke patients use a robotic suit around their arm to control a dolphin called Bandit. Players make Bandit dive down, shoot up, and twirl around. This builds strength, stability, and coordination in patients’ arms.
Treating traumatic brain injury
Video games can also restore cognitive ability after a traumatic brain injury. This is because video games stimulate many different parts of the brain and improve neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change and re-organize itself. An Australian study looked at the effects of a shooting game on patients with a brain injury. The participants who played the action video game showed better attention and information-processing than control groups.
Brain HQ can also help people improve their cognition after a brain injury. The online game features different brain exercises designed to develop attention, memory, and overall cognitive function. For people recovering from a brain injury, the interactive game reduces brain fog and improves connectivity between different brain regions. As a result, Brain HQ is now being provided as a benefit by many clinics and communities.
Improving mental health
Mental health is key to the conversation about video games and brain function. According to the CDC, one in five Americans experience mental illness. But talking to a counselor can be uncomfortable for many people. Video games help some patients relax and engage more fully in psychotherapy sessions.
Playing games with others can create social connections and reduce feelings of loneliness. Popular video games like Nintendo’s Animal Crossing and Electronic Art’s Plants vs Zombies can improve mental health and create happy feelings. Even the classic puzzle game Tetris can reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. There are many opportunities to find beneficial games and connect with the wider gaming community.
Gaming and fiber internet
So how can you maximize your video game experience? You just need a solid internet connection. Our powerful fiber-optic network makes video game therapy possible by providing high bandwidth and low latency, which means you won’t suffer from buffering or long loading times when gaming at home.
While video games can improve your mental wellbeing, it is important to foster a healthy relationship with technology. Digital mindfulness allows you to make the most out of video games and prevents fatigue from too much screen time.
Follow our tips and learn how to use technology in the best way possible. Innovations like video game therapy open opportunities for people and enable them to reach their full potential. How has technology improved your life?