Exploring the Therapeutic Power of Video Games Among Veteran Communities

Tagged with:

In 2013, I attended the annual meeting of the International Communication Association in London, England. On the first day of this week-long event, I attended a fascinating talk by Jayne Gackenbach (Grant MacEwan University). In her presentation, entitled “Nightmare Protection as Motivation to Play Video Games”, she discussed the potential for video games to protect against nightmares as well as their potential use as a viable treatment option for PTSD. At the time, her research was cutting edge. Very few individuals in the scientific community were exploring the possibility of using video games in therapeutic ways, let alone as a potential way to treat PTSD. Indeed, Dr. Gackenbach was very ahead of her time as she was already talking about this line of research at the Game Developers Conference in 2011, as seen here.

Fast forward to today, and the therapeutic use of video games is now widely discussed among the scientific community across a range of applications. For example, there is an abundance of research evaluating the use of online games as a tool to help individuals suffering from social anxiety and/or mood disorders, such as depression. However, very little research has built upon the work of Dr. Gackenbach and evaluated the specific use of video games as a treatment tool for PTSD. This is disappointing (to put it mildly) as not only is PTSD a battle that many of our veterans face when they return home but the potential use of video games as therapeutic tools for PTSD has been particularly promising (in particular, to help quell nightmares which is one of the most common and most distressing symptoms).

To better able to pinpoint how, why, and if video games can be used as therapeutic tools for PTSD among veteran communities, Michelle Colder Carras (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and Jaime Banks (West Virginia University), and I have started a crowdfunding project on experiment.com. For those who aren’t familiar with this website, it is basically a kickstarter for scientific pursuits.

Our hope is to be able to interview veterans about their video game experiences to determine how this interactive media may be helping ease various symptoms of PTSD. We are also interested in how the social aspect of game play may be helping with re-integration as well as helping to maintain a sense of military community even after one’s service has ended.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, please check out our experiment.com project page. We would love your support! Also, please feel free to share widely among your colleagues who may also be interested in this line of research!