People view and consume video games in a variety of ways. Some may play video games purely for their entertainment aspect and spend a few hours a week on Skyrim or Call of Duty. Some gamers appreciate the storytelling aspect of popular game plots and gravitate toward games with rich plots such as titles in the Legend of Zelda series or Final Fantasy. Others incorporate socialization and role-play into their gaming, using the games as a way to connect with people from around the world by taking on a virtual identity (Here is a beginner’s guide to role-play in the context of Star Wars). Still, others spend countless hours developing skills needed to become professional gamers in the field of eSports for titles such as Starcraft II, League of Legends, and Overwatch. eSports is a growing industry complete with global competitions, generous sponsorships for top-tier gamers, and even ESPN coverage.
Besides the more popular methods of gaming listed above, I want to discuss a method of playing games that may not be as readily apparent. Many agree that playing games can be fun, but what many may not know is that playing games can be therapeutic. Recently, mental health and rehabilitation professionals started incorporating games into treatment plans for their clients. For patients with cerebral palsy, specialized games can facilitate neuroplasticity, or the brain’s tendency to reorganize neural pathways to accommodate for underlying lesions and damage. New gaming technology emerges constantly, and future innovations will help patients access specialized therapeutic games outside of a clinical setting. Video games can also help clients create conquering metaphors for challenges they face in real life. Even Dark Souls, a game notorious for its impossible difficulty and grim aesthetic, has been reframed by players as a game that helps them persevere in real life and cope more efficiently with depressive and suicidal symptoms.
Game developers can now use Virtual Reality (VR) technology including the Oculus Rift headset to create immersive experiences for gamers. Games like Deep can lead a person through deep breathing exercises, and for the especially courageous individuals out there, games are also being developed that can aid you in overcoming specific phobias.
This has been a glimpse into a perhaps unfamiliar avenue of game consumption. In a future blog post, I’ll speak more about how games can help people learn social and emotional skills and even how games can help humanity solve its biggest problems.