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Final Paper Gaming and Healthcare

William Casey
ENG 380 New Media
Professor Alex Reid
June 14, 2013
Gaming and the Healthcare Profession

Gaming has many different effects on people in many different ways. From the beginning of video games there have been beneficial and adverse consequences of their influence on the entire world. People use games for many different reasons and games are created for many different reasons. There are medical studies showing how games are produced for the sole benefit of healing a person physically and or mentally. There are studies on how gaming has become an addiction that destroys people’s lives. There are also studies on how a game can be used for the healing of people. We can all agree that gaming has become a huge part of our world for the good or bad. Video games have an ever growing set of applications for how they impact so many. From our youth to our elders, games are playing a larger role in a person’s everyday existence, the length of their lives, and the quality of their lives. To be able to further understand how games can be used for good you must take a look at what some of the healthcare related applications are for them.
Much of the medical research associated with the benefits of gaming on patients is revolved around child patient care. This does not mean that all the treatments are geared toward a younger age group but most of it has begun there. This may be because the idea of gaming is a concept that traditionally is present in a younger crowd and that they can more easily bond with the concept. Treatments that have been used are focused on so many different things such as nausea in pediatric cancer, anxiety management, physical therapy and physical fitness, burn pain, diabetes, asthma, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and pediatric cancer. These are just some of the area’s that are discussed in a study done by Pamela M. Kato at the University Medical Center Utrecht. (Kato, 113-121)
The practices that are associated with these treatments are delivered in different ways and for different aspects of the ailments. Games are described in being used to do everything from help progress the healing of a patient to educating a person on how to perform daily jobs associated with a disease. In some instances the games that are being used are gotten from off the shelves at any ordinary store that sells them. Other games are designed specifically for the treatment of a certain disease.
Let’s start with a patient that may have nausea due to the treatment associated with pediatric cancer. Like I have previously stated most studies have begun with children as patients. When a person is on chemotherapy they experience extreme nausea associated with the radiation that they are be subjected to. Children are obviously going to react more adversely to the pain from this so why not first try to help a child who is suffering more. With that said, the results were positive. The game distracted the children to the point of helping them feel better. “Commercially available video games have been shown to have therapeutic effects on side effects associated with the treatment of cancer. These side effects include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and pain associated with chemotherapy or radiation treatments. The therapeutic effects of games are attributed to the distraction that games provide that focus attention away from these aversive side effects”. (Kato, 114) In two studies that were discussed the result was the same, the patients were less affected by the drug do to the mental distraction that it created. The same type of result occurred for children that would get anxious in the hospital before the induction of anesthesia. The anxiety levels were not as high with the patients that were given a Gameboy. Both these scenarios did not require a specific game, just a game to distract them from what was going on in the real world.
When you get into the world of physical therapy and physical fitness then a person must choose a game that is meant for what they want to accomplish. In the everyday world of a person that simply wants to be more physically fit then they can run to the store and pick out a game that suits the goals they want to accomplish. Say I wanted to loose ten pounds and I simply wanted to increase my activity level, I could purchase a game like WII Fit and select specific workout programs to fit my needs. “Control on-screen action with your movements on the balance board as you work your way through a variety of challenges aimed at getting you off the couch and into the action. Check your Body Mass Index (BMI), see your Wii Fit Age and keep tabs on your daily progress towards a more fit for you”. (Nintendo Webpage)I will get a great workout that focuses on what I want. Although these are wonderful tools for people they are not the only way games can be used in the world of physical fitness.
A person with an injury can be rehabilitated by choosing different options of how they wish to regain their mobility and put them back into a normal life. This is not simply geared towards the younger generations that have received injuries. Some of the patients that undergo this treatment have become older and slowly lost the ability to exercise because of a spill or a fall. People’s body’s become frailer with age but rehabilitation can still be effective. With the technology of medical Virtual Reality games lives can be improved. “Virtual reality (VR) environments have attracted considerable interest as assistive technologies for rehabilitation. With VR, a player can interact with the computer via a user-friendly interface. The movements made in the virtual environment mimic those made in the physical environment. Compared with classical rehabilitation, the benefits of virtual rehabilitation include economy of scale, stored patient data, remote data access, low health care costs, interactivity, and patient motivation”. (Chang) This is a therapeutic way of healing people that is primarily based in medical facilities but the technology is slowly becoming more accessible in the home.
There are games that can be used with special made equipment that is meant to be used by specific patients with particular physical handicaps. “…a commercially available video game Need for Speed was used in conjunction with an add-on exercise hand crank device (ergometer) called the Game Cycle to control movements in the games (Widman, McDonald, & Abresch, 2006). Patients were adolescents with spina bifida, a congenital malformation of the spinal cord. These patients had mobility impairments associated with their disease that did not allow them to participate in most mainstream sports. The game intervention focused on an area of physical activity for the patient population that they could engage in and combined it with the video game play to improve their motivation to engage in physical activity”. (Kato, 115) In this way the medical profession has linked equipment that is used in therapy to a game so that activity levels can go up in people that need it. The motivation is increased because there is a competitive drive to keep playing. It is a truly ingenious way to get patients to take care of themselves.
There is another style of game that is used in patient care and those are the ones that are made for the sole purpose of a patient’s pain management. One example is the game Snow World. It was made to help the pain that is associated with burn victims. “In this game, players are immersed in a virtual reality world where they fly through an icy landscape of a canyon, cold river, and waterfall through gently falling snow… Although it is not clear from the design of the evaluative studies of the game if the ‘cool’ (temperature-wise) imagery of the game induced an extra level of pain tolerance, it does seem clear patients who felt themselves “present” in the cool world of the game reported feeling less pain. Furthermore, it was surmised that the increased reports of the virtual reality intervention as being ‘fun’ also contributed to greater compliance with the painful procedures involved with treating burns such as burn debridement”. (Kato, 116) This is very similar to the way the Game Boy was used to distract children that are undergoing medical treatment with one difference. SnowWorld was created with the intent to reduce pain through soothing and cooling adventures. It was not any old game that helped in the pain management like previously mentioned. This game was actually used on soldiers that have been burned in combat and the results were amazing. “…soldiers reported significant drops in pain while immersed in SnowWorld. Time spent thinking about pain, which is an inextricable contributor to actual pain, dropped from 76 percent without SnowWorld to 22 percent with SnowWorld”. (Bosch, 1) It is great that type of gaming can give back to the people that are fighting in the name of America; if you agree with the war or not.
The games that are used to educate are just as important as the ones that directly treat people. The ones that educate the patient how to treat and manage their disease are probably even more abundant than any other health related game within the medical field. Asthma and diabetes are just a few of the daily management diseases people have to deal with. There are educational based games that provide the needed information to make living easier. If a young adult is diagnosed with diabetes he/she may play the game Packy and Marlon. “The game is aimed at children with diabetes. The characters in the game are two elephants that are at a diabetes summer camp. They have to get rid of a gang of marauding rats that are keeping the campers from healthy food and diabetic supplies. To win, players have to successfully manage their insulin levels and food intake while keeping their characters’ glucose levels within an acceptable range”. (Kato, 116) There is a similar game for asthma patients called Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus that does the same thing. They introduce information about what they have to deal with and make it fun to perform the daily treatments. Once you have the ability to treat yourself it becomes second nature to do it and as the saying goes ‘knowledge is power’.
These types of games are becoming so popular in the Healthcare world that they are becoming more affordable for people to acquire. “Video and computer games that teach children how to live with asthma or diabetes are becoming so popular that some health care providers are now covering their purchase price, and the United States Health Department is seeking to expand their use’. (Times, 1) It is wonderful that the government has deemed the health of these patients important enough to consider these games to be treatments that can be covered with a health care insurance provider. The studies must really be proving games to be helpful in patient care.
Gaming has made its way into the Healthcare industry in more than one way. As many people already know virtual training has been around for years. The military is probably the most well-known entity to use this form of training. There are simulators that are used for pilots of jets and drivers of tanks. Because of this safe environment that has been created for them they are able to make mistakes and learn from them without hurting themselves or others. Less commonly known is the fact that medical students and doctors are using similar training techniques. They may not all be using a huge simulated rig to train but they are being submerged more and more into a virtual world of training. With the ability to perform a surgery over and over again in a simulated world the doctor is honing his/her skills. This sort of gaming is helpful in the learning phase of medicine but you can never replace real life experiences.
In medical circles simulations have continually been progressed through the years and are many medical simulations in the way of preparing for laparoscopic surgery. In the games, that are really training aids, the doctors look at a screen that emulates the surgery they are performing. In a box there are pieces that act as the body parts they are operating on. It is similar to the nineteen eighties board-game Operation but more complex.
“Computer based training has been on the agenda for nearly a decade. The potential is great, and the requirements of efficient training outside of the operating room mentioned above are fulfilled. It is especially appropriate for practicing minimally invasive techniques, especially since the surgeon receives information from the operation area via a two-dimensional picture on a monitor. The operating fields can be recreated in the computer as well as the instruments needed for the procedure. The surgeon uses replicas of authentic instruments and their movements are shown on the computer monitor. Movements are calculated several thousand times per second to ensure a realistic situation. This technology even ensures the feeling of contact, with tissue or instruments, is transmitted to the operators hand; this is called force feedback. The simulations can even be used for training in open surgery, although certain problems in visualization must be solved; mainly with respect to three dimensional vision which is possible using computer screens with semipermeable mirrors in combination with 3D glasses”. (Anders Hyltander )
This was an article from 2003 so you can just imagine how the technology has increased in the past ten years. In the world of computers and more specifically the world of gaming you can see many things. Games are not only the obsession of the lazy socially maladjusted people that are commonly associated with them. Games have entered people’s lives as medical treatments and educational platforms for people to learn and hone their skills. Games are used in training for many different jobs from construction workers to food and beverage workers. Medicine is not the only environment that gaming has become useful but it is a very important one in training, education, and treatment.


Anders Hyltander, . n. page. .

Bosch, T. N.p., n. d. 28 Jun 2013. .

Chang, CM, YC Chang, HY Chang, and LW Chou. “An interactive game-based shoulder wheel system for rehabilitation .” 2012.6 821-828. Web. 25 Jun. 2013.

Kato, P. M. n. page. .

.N.p.. Web. 28 Jun 2013. .

Squire, Kurt. N.p.. Web. 25 Jun 2013. .

Times, N. Y.. N.p.. Web. 28 Jun 2013. .



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