Video Game Therapy?

Can playing a video game be a valid medical treatment? Recent studies suggest "yes." A University of Oxford study found that playing Tetris after a traumatic event could prevent forming memories that could be linked to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), though more research is needed [source: Holmes, et al.]. Also, patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center have been using the Wii as a useful tool for rehabilitation [source: McLeroy]. In time, your doctor may be prescribing a half hour of Mario Kart alongside other drugs and therapy.

Soldiers and Recreational Video Games

The military has embraced video games as simulators for training, but how does recreational gaming impact current or potential soldiers?

Potential soldiers may benefit from mental skills developed during certain gaming experiences. Studies have found that video games stimulate learning at all levels. Simulation games such as Sim City enhance strategic thinking, planning and decision-making [source: BBC]. Video games can also improve hand-eye coordination. Even the elderly could benefit, as researchers at North Carolina State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology study how video games can boost memory and thinking skills in their joint project Gains Through Gaming [source: Hamilton].

Current soldiers could play games in their down time, but can this really be a stress reliever? It may depend on the game. The demand for research into the impact of games has focused studies toward violent video games. Results of these studies are as controversial as the games themselves. Recurring themes in the studies find that those who play violent video games are prone to increased aggression and anxiety, with brain scans providing supportive evidence. With stress and anxiety linked to many physical and emotional issues, violent video games may not offer the respite a soldier needs in his down time to maintain optimum mental and physical health.

At ease! Take leave to the next page for links to more information about gaming and the military.