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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Video Games For Sickness And Health

The project is one example of an emerging trend: health-related applications of video-game technologies, mostly aimed at children. Ben's Game, launched in 2004, was probably the first developed specifically for sick kids (see, 5/13/04, "Game for a Little Therapy?"). What sets the new crop of health-related games apart from earlier examples is their increasingly sophisticated graphics and game-play, and the fact that they are catching the attention of commercial publishers.

The first big focus of health-related games was pain relief. "We knew that kids are engrossed by video games. So we offered games as a distraction alongside music, books, cartoons, and other options like hypnosis or guided visualization," says Dr. Madhumita Sinha, an emergency-room physician at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz. Sinha co-authored a study on nondrug distraction methods for children being treated in the ER at Children's Hospital in Akron, Ohio. "Music was the favorite distraction among the kids (52.5%), video games (23.4%) came in second, and cartoon videos (27%) third," says Sinha of the findings, which were published in the April, 2006, issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The designers of Free Dive, which is still in development, believe games can become a greater distraction than music. "Our goal is to provide a visual and auditory shield that will deflect the experience of scary and painful routine procedures—like shots or IV insertions," says Brian Morisson of Believe in Tomorrow.
-- Harnessing the Power of Video Games

No need to overanalyze here ... it's just good to know that while a certain portion of American culture still thinks of video games as the hobby of the damned, people still can see it for what it is and invent some benefit out of the medium.

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