Friday, 26 October 2012

Video Games Helping Control Anger in Children

 Feel good Friday.

I've never held much stock in the idea that video games somehow make children into violent murder-death bots. That being said though, this particular story really makes me feel good, since provided it's actually true it means that for once the exact opposite is being touted.

Now, this isn't thumping down a kid in front of Gears of War and telling them to work out their issues. Rather, this is a game that is specifically geared towards allowing children to deal with complex and sometimes emotional situations by giving them some framework to help the process. The game, called RAGE Control, works as follows:

The game has players shooting enemy spaceships while avoiding friendly ships, and as children play the game a monitor attached to a finger tracks the player's heart rate and displays it on the computer screen. When a player's heart rate goes above a certain level, players will lose their ability to shoot at the enemy spaceships, so to gain control of this ability they have to learn to keep calm.

"The connections between the brain’s executive control centers and emotional centers are weak in people with severe anger problems," explains Gonzalez-Heydrich, chief of Psychopharmacology at Boston Children’s and senior investigator on the study. “However, to succeed at RAGE Control, players have to learn to use these centers at the same time to score points."

Basically, by playing the game kids learn to see and recognize the signs that they might be getting angry, and to correlate those signs with needing to calm down or else they won't be able to proceed with the matters at hand. Although this translates in game into shooting at enemy spaceships, in real life this can be anything from learning to back down when emotions get high in a confrontation, to seeing that their elevated emotions might be clouding their judgment.

The multiplayer aspect of this takes the concept further, since if one person gets too outside of the norms then neither player is able to proceed, so the kids have to learn how to not only calm themselves down, but also help calm down others as well.

Considering that the results have been promising from the small sample group that was tested, I hope that this kind of thing can be implemented in more therapy sessions, and that different variations of it can crop out as well, perhaps dealing with different emotional problems. It's nice to be able to point to people that constantly accuse gaming of being a waste of time or even a dangerous hobby and show them that nothing could be further from the case.

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