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The video game industry, despite all of the enemies that it has made among politicians eager for a quick vote and moralists who get outraged at every little thing, thrives. Certainly, gamers around the world are part of this continued survival, but other sectors of society are also reaping the benefits of advanced video game technology. The military has used video games as training simulators, helping soldiers get used to piloting the complex military vehicles that they need to use in the battlefield. The army has also used them as a stress relief device, both on the field and as a possible supplementary treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Advances made in real time 3-D rendering has been put to use in training medical students through the use of surgery simulation software. Now, the area of mental health may also greatly benefit from video game technology.
If a person has a phobia, it can be a debilitating problem. Claustrophobic people often have to resort to using stairs because the elevator is a tight space and they are unable to stay in it for any length of time. People with a fear of heights can often experience discomfort in extreme levels in everything ranging from climbing up stairs to looking out from the window of a plane in flight. Well, researchers in the UK have combined efforts with game developers to design a game built for the purpose of helping someone overcome phobias and fears by making use of an interactive simulated environment. It isn’t like the concept hasn’t been done before, but the fairly recent implementation of video game technology by the US armed forces to combat post-traumatic stress disorder is still experimental.
In fact, the British psychiatric game ‘Fearfighter’ is also firmly in the experimental stages. In some ways, it hasn’t really passed the ‘proof of concept’ stage yet. Still, patients in Britain are often put on long waiting lists for sessions and, due to the nature of the problem, may be forced to wait too long. The games allow for preliminary aid, giving both the psychiatrist and the patient to adjust the level of realism in the game environment as needed. While it does not simulate environments with total accuracy, it has been shown as providing a realistic enough simulation to have an appreciable effect on patients. However, the results are still in the short-term and studies need to be conducted on the long-term effects, along with whether or not the treatment is effective without the aid of a professional.
British psychologists have recognized the potential uses of this, not only as a preliminary treatment, but also as a means of providing a communication tool for their patients. The games can be used to connect the patient to the medical professional, allowing for communication between the two even when one group is unable to physically see the other. The tool can also help people suffering from phobias confront their problems in a safer, controllable environment, allowing them to gradually adjust themselves to dealing with the problem.