Thursday, August 10, 2006

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy treating post-traumatic stress disorders

Exposure therapy has long been a successful method of treating post-traumatic stress disorders. It involves having a therapist guide the patient as he confronts memories of traumatic events. The article at Serious Games Source describes how the use of virtual reality environments can dramatically improve the process.

Traditional exposure therapy depends on talk and storytelling. What if the patient is so traumatized that he can't even talk about it? This is one of the problems virtual reality environments can really help.

Exposure therapy depends on the patient emotionally engaging in the treatment. Video game design has shown how immersive environments can help in that process, and that's exactly what the use of virtual reality environments is trying to achieve: making the patient feel more like they're really there. The goal is to make the environment to resemble the real environment of the traumatic event as closely as possible.

The use of virtual reality in exposure therapy appears to be particularly applicable when the traumatic event causing stress disorders has been experienced by a large number of people, for example 9/11 attack or war battles. Creating virtual reality environments to treat a single patient is prohibitively expensive.

This is an encouraging application of video game design learnings.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

World of Warcraft players care

In December 2005 Randy Patterson found out he had Burkitt's Lymphoma. It's a very rare and very lethal form of cancer. Randy had a tumor the size of a softball in his neck. It had to be removed and he had to go through rigorous chemotherapy treatment for the next three months after the surgery.

The chemotherapy and recovery from the surgery made Randy very ill. So ill he couldn't walk, let alone work. Losing his income he had trouble paying his bills. The utility company was threatening to shut down the power to his house, if $1,500 of unpaid bills weren't paid, and he was in danger of losing his house altogether.

He plead his State, charities, the Governor, the media, his Senators and even the US President. Nobody helped. Then his World of Warcraft guild heard about his trouble. And they helped.

One of the guild members started a PayPal fund and the money from the guild members started flowing in. The guild raised $4,000 for Randy and his family. He got to keep his house.

The best news of all, Randy beat his cancer and is now recovering quickly.

Youth violence at an all time low despite video games

Duke Ferris' article from 2005 shows how youth violence hit a new 40 year low in 2004.

The statistics quoted on Duke's article show that the number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes declined 30.9% from 1995 to 2004. This at the same time when video gaming exploded in the United States.

This is in direct contradiction with the popular, and wrong, anti-gaming argument saying violent video games breed violence. The crime statistics kept by the FBI and US DOJ, among others, just do not show that to be true. In fact, if anything, they show the argument to be completely false.