Stefano Paltera/AP
Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto introduces the new pressure-sensitive Wii Fit
during the E3 media briefing held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica,
Calif., Wed, July 11, 2007. (AP)

The Road to Health Is Paved with Good Nintendos

July 17, 2008 12:25 PM
by Josh Katz
Video games, often charged with encouraging violence and cultivating idleness, are now being studied for their potential ability to heal.

30-Second Summary

This fall, East Carolina researcher Carmen Russoniello “will hand sickle cell anemia patients video game controllers and see whether playing the games helps them control stress and reduce pain caused by their disease,” the Associated Press reports.

Much of the previous research into advantages of playing video games has been inconclusive. But Russoniello asserts that the times are changing and more federal and private money is going into examining the effects of the games on health.

Nintendo’s “Wii Fit” is already demonstrating that video games do not have to be an idle experience anymore, following in the footsteps of the highly successful game “Dance Dance Revolution.”

Researchers are also now using the game “Virtual Iraq” to treat soldiers returning from the war who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The game, meant to simulate the sights and senses of being a soldier in Iraq, is meant to be a safe way for soldiers to open up to therapists about their feelings.

Another study traced 14 New Yorkers with PTSD stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks. In the “most persuasive study so far” on the benefits of video games, the patients “improved significantly after virtual therapy,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Department of Defense has now dedicated $5 million to virtual therapy.

In a BBC piece, game consultant Margaret Robertson said, “it likely won’t be long before you find yourself coming home from the doctor’s with a prescription for a game rather than a course of pills.”

Headline Link: ‘Medicinal use of video games growing’

Background: Virtual Iraq and video game therapy

Related Topic: Video games and violence

Opinion & Analysis: Video games: friend or foe?


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