Video Games Being Used in New Medical Practices

It’s an interesting world we live in, one in which video games are constantly finding new ways to infiltrate our daily lives. We’ve already seen school utilizing video games for teaching purposes, and even video games serving as parts of business interviews, but medical institutions seem like the last place you’d imagine to be playing video games. Fortunately this article is not about medical schools using the game “Trauma Center” to teach potential surgeons.

Scalpels not included.

A new trend in the medical is looking towards video games as medical tools. This trend is really novel and interesting, especially since 10 years ago we probably wouldn’t imagine that we’d be using video games to aid in physical therapy or in any realm dealing with the medical profession. These are in no way the first time we’ve seen video game being utilized in physical therapy and as medical tools, but they certainly are ones that do it in new and interesting ways.

Researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital have developed an interactive video game that is being used to measure upper extremity movement in younger patients with muscular dystrophy who are unable to walk. The game, which is zombie themed and utilizes a Xbox Kinect, has patients extending their arms to push back a force field protecting them in the game. The game, which is currently only being used in clinical trials, has had very positive feedback from both patients and parents.   The game, which charts the improvement and changed for patients over the course of time, was developed because of the sheer lack of outcome measure for this population of patients.

Another new tool in therapy has emerged for patients with Multiple Sclerosis. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society have given a grant to researchers to develop a game that will be used to help in Multiple Sclerosis treatment and rehabilitation. The game, “Recovery Rapids”, uses an Xbox Kinect and has the patient guiding and propelling a kayak. The game also asks questions to the patients in order to track the patients progress in other everyday activities such as brushing their teeth or drinking. Developers of the game hope that it will be a cost effective and fun way for patients with M.S to do daily rehabilitation and recovery, a group whom have very few options when it comes to physical therapy option.

So why should we care about these instances of games being used for physical therapy and medical means? Is it because we’re worried that we’re potentially missing out on GOTY and that we should sneak in these facilities to play these games? No…Though, I did hear that some of these games are better than the recent Assassin’s Creed game (TAKE THAT UBISOFT!). We should care because video games are embedding themselves into facets of life that have previously been untouched by the medium. While these news pieces have more to do with field beyond Sociology, it’s important to think of the social impact that such games can have on our society. With video games becoming more than just virtual toys our perspective on them and their utility changes and they become a greater part society. HEY MAN. IT’S IMPORTANT.

As a physical therapists responding to the game being developed for young boys with Muscular Dystrophy puts it “They have to spend hours with us doing nothing that’s easy, only hard things. Looking at their faces after they play this game where they get to just play and be kids is a lot of fun to see.” That’s key. To find new ways in which video games can reach, aid, and even brighten the day of new audiences is the real reason we’re seeing this trend.  You probably shouldn’t get your hopes up for Nintendo to be diving into this market ,(Though to be fair, Wii Fit and their purposed Vitality sensor certainly do come close) it’s not unlikely that we’ll see more games used as medical tools develop.