Video games, these days are no more what they used to be till a few years ago. Breaking away from its stereotyped image, gaming is being taken quite seriously these days and there exists a vast market catering to it. There is a huge demand for gaming consoles, like Xbox, PlayStation and Wii, peripherals from Razer or Steel Series and even high-end gaming systems, like the Dell Alienware range or systems from MSI and Asus. However, it is difficult to assess if anyone would have imagined that gaming could have its far reaching effects, even in the medical field. On one side, several teenagers face the ire from their parents for whiling away time with video games, on the other side there are several others, for whom, video gaming isn’t just about mere entertainment.
What is Game therapy?
Today, gaming has gone wireless and way beyond ‘connected cords and cables.’ Several researches have proven that gaming can help treat/assist patients. First came the Nintendo Wii that allowed you bring outdoor games like golf, bowling and more to your drawing room, while ensuring that you are physically active and not simply playing the game through an avatar on the screen. Now, we have the Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move, designed on the similar lines. Basically, these sensor-based gaming consoles, along with specially designed games, serve as an effective tool for treatment. For instance, a paralytic patient can play certain games, which will help improve his flexibility, reach and self confidence. It can help people who have suffered from paralysis and stroke, children suffering from autism, dyslexia and more, and also serves as a distraction for recovering burn victims and as an alternative for anaesthesia in case of minor surgery.
A child at the Jumpstart Centre, Mumbai...
Game Therapy in India
Game therapy is still a complete new concept in India. It’s well below the nascent stage. There could be several reasons for this. The most clichéd one is we are a developing country with a large population oblivious to the latest technologies. Then, gaming consoles are popular only with a certain priviledged segment of society. Considering the PC penetration in India, computer games are still slowly, yet steadily picking pace, and console gaming is popular only among the small gaming community and enthusiastic teens in the country. Another reason is likely to be lack of awareness, not many therapists and people are aware about implementing gaming as a therapy. Moreover, without much awareness, it may not be considered as a mode of treatment by many common people and patients too.
However, it is not that gaming therapy hasn't set foot in the country. We came across the Jumpstart Therapy Centre in Mumbai (Prabhadevi and Navi Mumbai) which implements video game therapy to treat children suffering from developmental challenges like Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Dyslexia, ADHD, Learning Disorders, and Intellectual Challenges. The Centre guides parents and trains children who have these developmental challenges through modern gaming consoles, like Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2 and specially designed software for the iPad 2. Dr. Saif Bijliwala, Psychiatric Occupational Therapist and Director of the Jumpstart Therapy Centre was kind enough to tell us about the treatment through gaming technologies. Dr. Bijlivala uses Nintendo Wii games, like "Wii Fit", and "dance mat” and reveals that the wii Sports has become a favourite among children. “The Wii Fit is a great tool to develop dynamic balance, posture, cordination, weight shift, spatial skills, logical thinking and strategy planning,” he points out.
Gaming therapy for children..
Besides Wii, he believes that the computer also offers an amazing variety of avenues for use in therapy. They use about 150 computer related learning software and have also incorporated touchscreen monitors to facilitate learning among children. He also talks about the new "camera mouse", whereby children can use their head or eye movements to play games, instead of manipulating the mouse with their hand of finger. It has been especially beneficial for children with severe Cerebral palsy or related manual co-ordination disorders.
“Multi-sensory stimulation achieved through multimedia is an excellent tool for stimulating the nervous system to respond appropriately. At Jumpstart Therapy Centre. We use play station 2, along with the eyetoy function. The instructions, music, and visuals on the screen elicit specific movement responses, which need to be accurate in space and time. We encourage patients to participate and excel in these games thus helping them to develop valuable visio-motor perceptual skills, spatial orientation, development of strategy planning skills etc. In the process of therapy in concurrence with the clients need, we use various softwares games like Play 3, Sing star, Anti gravity etc,” reveals D. Bijlivala.
Basically, kids enjoy these games, and the therapy isn’t like a boring or monotonous chore. The iPad 2 is used with software designed for individuals with special needs. So, a typical curriculum will have Physical-Motor, Language, Cognitive, Psycho-social and Activities of Daily living as core subjects. Using gaming and other multi-media helps develop primarily the first four skills mentioned above, Dr. Bijlivala maintains that since the treatment is for children, they opt for lively and visually appealing content that could keep kids glued to the screens.