A Deeper Look at Handheld Gaming Consoles
Each case is analysed on a case-by-case basis and hence may result in possibly conflicting analyses. After interpreting the case studies, we will wrap up with some closing words and a piece of advice. In the process, we hope to advocate independent learning and for you to ponder upon the matter and formulate your own perspective and analysis.
Case #1: The boy with neurodermatitis
In one instance, the handheld video game console (Nintendo Gameboy) helped to stop an eight year old boy from picking his face. Before, the child suffered from a case of neurodermatitisA chronic skin disorder typified by severely itching skin lesions that are either localised or dispersed. which resulted in scarring as he constantly picked at his upper lip. Previous treatments (eg. behavior modification program with food rewards when not picking, spreading of a bitter tasting product on his fingers) were unsuccessful. Finally, the therapist handed the boy a Nintendo Gameboy to keep him distracted, and his hands occupied. Two weeks later, the infected area healed.
Similar studies (eg. Kolko and Rickard-Figuerora, 1985; Redd et al., 1987; Vasterling et al., 1993) have also shown that video games can indeed be used as a medium of cognitive distraction during cancer chemotherapy in children whereby the child reports less nausea prior to treatment, and lower blood pressure thereafter, significantly reducing the amount of painkillers required.
The function which handheld gaming consoles serve here is as a 'distractor task' which by cognitiveOf relation to conscious mental activities eg thinking. distraction, cancels out one's sensitivity to pain. Such novelty demonstrates how handheld consoles can be creatively employed in pain management, treatment processes and rehabilitation.
The underlying reason is due to the appeal of the game which requires almost complete attention of the player, in particular, for challenging games. Such distractive purposes illustrate that video games are mentally intense activities which can be used to train the brain.
On the other hand, what is more apparent, is that in the same way it serves as a 'distractor task' to pain, it can also serve as a 'distractor task' to important tasks, such as our studies, engaging in social outdoor activities and spending quality time with our friends and families. Thereby, detrimental to our all-round development as a person - intrapersonal and interperonal wise.
Case #2: The Autistic Child
One persuasive case is that of Demarest (2000). In her account of her own autistic seven-year old son, she recounted that although he was severely lacking in understanding and language and faced social and emotion difficulties, he thoroughly enjoyed playing video games which enhanced his self-esteem and achieved a peaceful effect. As Demarest puts it, video games aided in her child's (and anyone's in general) mathematical, language, reading and social skills.
What this case portrays, is the ability of video games to aid youths into developing social skills, especially those whom are mentally challenged. Such games provide the basis for fundamental skills development as they incorporate visual patterns, speed, and various subject skills into an alluring storyline. This invokes the typical child's interest. Ultimately, when the child solves the required task, they gain self confidence in themselves and their abilities to outperform in addition to what they have learnt in the process of completing the assigned task.
Case #3: Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus
Studies conducted in random clinics concluded that youths improved their ability to self-care significantly after playing health education and disease management video games. Three games were involved in this experiment: Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus for asthma self-management; Rex Ronan for smoking prevention and Packy & Marlon for diabetes self-management. In the game, youths take up the position of the protagonist who suffers from a recurring illness or is fighting against smoking addiction. The results proved such measures highly successful whereby those who underwent this procedure for a week (smoking prevention) to six months (diabetes self-care) were determined to not smoke, and distinctly improved management of tier asthma or diabetes, reducing emergency care visits by as much as 77%.
In this scenario whereby video games are used to enhance learning in terms of health care, we are able to see the potential and evidence of video games in education. The reason is that they pose high influence in the minds of youths, hence, creating an optimal environment and platform to learn. The possible outcomes of the game, force youths to take cautiously deliberated decisions, which advocates an active thinking process that creates a subconscious and long-term impact on them. Furthermore, by engaging in an interactive activity which they enjoy - video games - youths are more willing to learn and therefore able to pick up new skills.
Final Words & Some Advice
By now, it should be apparent that video games indeed possess positive therapeutic characteristics which is beneficial to a majority. They can be employed for a variety of uses, from psychotherapyPsychological treatment of mental and emotional disorders. to medical and health-care aspects, education, and even with the elderly (not covered here, since we target youths). However, as in the instances of our case study, a problem is raised in that these games are specifically designed for the cause rather than those that are already commercially available. Nonetheless, as handheld gaming consoles is an increasingly affluent industry, companies have began to release commercially available educational games such as Nintendo DS's Brain Academy, My Health Coach, and even Personal Trainer: Cooking, all of which serve the same purpose - to improve the quality of our lifestyles.
Whilst beneficial, it does not come without negative effects. It is important to know, however, that the negative consequences only mostly arise from excessive game play. Due to the 'distractor task' function we have earlier discussed under Case #1, it is of utmost importance that you are in control of the amount of time you invest in such devices. Even if they are educational, such applications should never take priority over studies, family and social interaction. In short, only utilize them in your leisure time for additional learning. Also, always approach your parents when you need help in regulating your use of such devices. This is often a good idea as your parent would be more inclined and to rationally permit and allocate for you a reasonable period of time.
Evidently, there are still many areas in need of future research and development, in particular, to discover the positive and negative effects of handheld gaming and how they can be best employed to benefit us. Further investigations need to be conducted in experimental conditions, such that third party factors do not hinder the accuracy of case study results. Undoubtedly, the future of handheld gaming is one that is dazzling and exciting.
To quote Gardner(1991), he made used of video games to observe improvements in his psychotherapy sections:
1. The child's repertoire of problem-solving strategies
2. The child's ability to perceive and recall subtle cues as well as foresee consequences of behavior and act on past consequences
3. Eye-hand coordination
4. The release of aggression and control
5. The ability to deal with the joys of victory and frustrations of defeat in a more sports oriented area
6. The satisfaction of aggression and control
7. The enjoyment of mutually coordinating one's activities with another in the spirit of cooperation
1. Chrisbb@prodigy.net for the image. (31st March 2009)
2. Mark Griffiths' book - The Therapeutic Use of Videogames in Childhood and Adolescence, Chapter 10. (30th March 2009)