Games for Health: A New Journal Examines the use of Technology and Therapy

by Howard Gerber on August 23, 2011

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How many children tell their parents they should be allowed to play video games because it improves their hand-eye coordination, critical thinking skills, and ability to work in a cooperative setting? In all fairness, probably very few put it just like that but maybe they should. It turns out that playing video games, and using other forms of interactive electronics, can be quite beneficial for people. A new journal looks at specific games, and other emerging technologies, that are beneficial for mental and physical health. There are numerous indications that gaming may one day be part of speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy.

The name of the new journal is Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications, (G4H). This is a peer reviewed journal that will delve into the research, development, and results of personalized healthcare that revolves around games. It will have an online forum to compliment the print editions. This should be an excellent resource for therapists who have an interest in gaming technologies and how it may help their patients as well as for practitioners who are currently utilizing this type of technology.

In addition to articles on the latest research, there will also be information on conventions and books of interest, field news, game reviews and more. Some of the disorders that could benefit from game therapy include patients with autism, games that increase patient interest in physical activity, exercise games for families, games that increase cognitive functions in the elderly, simulations to improve interpersonal skills or to treat patients suffering from PTSD.

Platforms that lend themselves well to this type of game therapy include game systems that easily track body movement such as Xbox Kinect, Nintendo Wii, and Sony PlayStation Move. Every year these platforms, as well as others, make leaps forward in their ability to interact and help consumers. The medical field is beginning to appreciate the options that are currently available and become more interested and invested in options that are under development or have the potential to be developed if commercial interest continues to grow.

Some games from these developers have already been receiving wide media attention for their ability to entice sedentary gaming obsessed consumers into getting out of the chair and onto their feet. Some of the most popular titles include Wii Sports and Kinect Dance Central. The most frequent compliment for these games, and others like them, is that they make exercise fun and entertaining rather than something that is a chore. Yoga and stretching components of some games are therapeutic devices that can increase flexibility, range, and help patients calm their minds.

The editor of the new journal will be Bill Ferguson, PhD. He will be joined by a large editorial team comprised of researchers, physicians, professors, and developers. G4H will be available bi-monthly beginning in the fall of 2011.

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