Tag Archives: Games

Gamers, Rejoice! New Science Says Video Games Improve Wellness

In 2015, a group of gamers played The Legend of Zelda for 150 hours straight to raise money for our nonprofit. Their efforts made a significant impact in the lives of our clients and their families. While Zeldathon Hope was raising over $250,000 for charity, the marathon was also raising an interesting question: are video games inherently damaging to health and wellness?

Pokemon GO

Are video games helpful or harmful to our health?

Though some interactive games like Pokémon GO may be an exception, don’t video games basically require participants to be sedentary and isolated? As reporter Martha Clement Rochford put it, “The good news for gamers is that science disagrees.” Here are 5 ways that video games can promote physical and psychological wellbeing based on recent scientific research.


Video Games Enhance Our Reaction Times And Precision


Researchers at the University of Rochester recently concluded that playing an action-based video game daily “has a beneficial effect” on players’ brains. Engaging in a stimulating gaming experience for 30 to 40 minutes per day can improve eyesight, reaction times, mental rotation capacity and the player’s ability to move efficiently from one task to the next. Researchers concluded that if games released in the future are planned and developed specifically for people with chronic conditions, they “can help patients with chronic illness, anxiety and pain management” by encouraging healthy cognitive development and greater physical strength and dexterity.

Call of Duty

Action games “generated a moderate helpful effect on the overall cognition”

Other recent studies have corroborated those claims, finding that “action games generated a moderate helpful effect on the overall cognition.” Action games like Call of Duty help to develop “fast and precise responses” and “may produce structural changes in the brain“ by encouraging greater neural plasticity, particularly in young adults whose brains are still developing. Greater neural plasticity means an enhanced ability to learn and remember new information, adapt to change or react quickly to new circumstances and challenges.


Video Games Help Us Study And Fight Cognitive Decline


A trial in the United Kingdom is studying how Parkinson’s disease impacts cognition. The twist? Researchers will be using “a scientifically-designed video game as a non-invasive medical device.” The game will be specialized based on each participant’s unique mental processing and memory storage challenges and will offer “holistic training” to improve memory, processing speed, function and attention.

Link Zelda

New games could be used “as a non-invasive medical device” for cognitive training

For now, the initiative will focus exclusively on testing the potential for video games to improve life for people living with Parkinson’s disease, but the results could influence how medical professionals assess and treat multiple cognitive conditions, including traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and “cognitive deficit caused by cancer.”


Video Games Can Be A Physical Rehabilitation Tool


“When I was at Rusk Rehab at NYU Langone,” explains HelpHOPELive client Nicole Seefeldt, “I saw the hospital-based rehab center using Wii Fit and Wii Sport to rehab certain skills in their patients at all age groups. It inspired me to get one because I saw that patients were not only enjoying it but receiving benefits from it.

Wii

Nicole saw Wii games used as tools for hospital-based rehabilitation

Nicole also believes apps can help encourage people to engage with physical therapy and get in touch with their health in a way that “is a lot more dynamic than just sitting in a chair with weights. Several systems also have brain games which are good to play for cognitive development, too.”


Video Games Have Meaningful Psychological Benefits  


Gaming doesn’t just physically alter and improve your cognitive capacity. According to studies on the psychology of gaming, “gamers can address their fundamental psychological needs through playing games.” As cyberpsychologist Berni Good concluded, gaming can help players to feel competent as they master each level and challenge, which improves their psychological wellbeing. Whether through a multiplayer online game, couch co-op or a little social media gloating, gaming can also help players to “relate to others in a meaningful way” as they collaborate on game challenges and share their experiences with others.

Zelda coop

Personal achievements and co-op play can improve psychological wellbeing

Don’t think these results only apply to massive multiplayer action wars or shoot-‘em-up thrillers. Gaming can also tap into “the idea that we need to be masters of our own destiny,” encouraging players to feel like they are making independent choices that are reflected in real-time changes to the game environment or questlines.

Zeldathon

Moffit (center) believes gaming for good can lead to emotional fulfillment

Combine video games with good deeds, like the Zeldathon Hope team, and you have a recipe for social and emotional fulfillment. “We’re creating something more than just a marathon,” explained Zeldathon founder Matthew Moffit. “We’re a real community, dedicated to forces of good. We like to think that we’re working to defeat the evils of the world through our marathon.”


Video Games Help Us Track And Treat Chronic Symptoms


Microsoft Research in Cambridge is tapping into the Xbox Kinect tactile gaming platform to support people living with multiple sclerosis. The console’s motion sensor system will be integral to new research on the effectiveness of MS treatments and the progression of symptoms. Through Kinect-compatible tests, people with MS will be asked to move or touch certain parts of their body and researchers will use a rating scale to track the strength of MS symptoms that affect mobility.

kinect

The Xbox Kinect has been used to track MS symptoms

A recent study found that cognitive training video games developed by neuroscientists could help people with MS to strengthen their neural connections to promote cognitive wellness. MS can impact the thalamus in the center of the brain, leading to the cognitive dysfunction or “brain fog” experience in people living with the condition.

Study participants “had significant increases in thalamic functional connectivity” after participating. One researcher concluded that “video games can promote brain plasticity and can aid in cognitive rehabilitation” for people experiencing cognitive dysfunction due to MS or other brain-disrupting chronic conditions. Researchers hope to use their findings to add to existing rehabilitation pathways for people with MS.


A Bright Future For Gaming-Based Research And Treatment 


Video game platforms and interfaces continue to evolve year after year, and researchers are chomping at the bit to assess their health and wellness applications. In fact, though virtual reality has just barely reached the consumer market, it is already being used to test and diagnose individuals with cognition and memory challenges. It’s good news across the board for gamers, who now have a tangible way to defend their digital obsessions with legitimate scientific research.

virtual reality gaming

Virtual reality is already being used to diagnose some cognition issues

Think these findings supersede the need for balance and moderation in gaming? “When we think about the effect of video games on the brain, it’s very similar to the effect of wine on health,” explained Dr. Daphne Bavelier in a TED Talk. “There are some very poor uses of wine. There are some very poor uses of video games.” But, as new research proves, “when consumed in reasonable doses,” video games can be a beneficial tool for managing symptoms, improving cognition and building positive psychological foundations.


Are you a gamer living with a chronic condition or disability? We’d love to hear about your experiences with gaming and wellness on Facebook.

The 2016 Transplant Games In 3 Words: Joy, Inspiration, Resilience

Every year, the Transplant Games provides an opportunity for transplant recipients and donors to come together to celebrate the gift of life. This year’s Games were held in Cleveland, Ohio from Friday, June 10 to Wednesday, June 15. The Games included over 6,000 registered participants. We interviewed a few HelpHOPELive families who attended and competed in the Games. Here’s how they described the experience.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

Bill Soloway, 1-year post transplant, attended the Transplant Games


What made you want to attend the Transplant Games this year?


Transplant recipient Liz Casperite: I can’t remember the first time I heard about the Games, but I always knew I wanted to attend them after I received a transplant. In order to attend, you need to be at least nine months post-transplant with a doctor’s permission. The cutoff this year was October 1 and my transplant was on September 17, so we just qualified! Cleveland was my first Games, but it won’t be my last.

Liz’s living kidney donor Maria Weaver: As soon as I heard about the Games from my recipient, even before the transplant, I wanted to go! It sounded like an amazing event and a chance to keep exploring my new identity as a living donor while meeting more people in the transplant community.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

The Games took place in Columbus, Ohio in 2016

Transplant candidate Pat McEntee: I first heard about the Transplant Games about a year ago when I met some members of Team Ohio at an event in Columbus. I decided I would attend as either a participant or a supporter. My wife, Amy, and I went as supporters this year and just enjoyed the event, meeting people, sharing our story and listening to others’ stories. The fact that the event was in Cleveland near my transplant center, Cleveland Clinic, was an added bonus just in case I got “the call.” I hope to be able to attend AND participate in the Games in 2018.


What are some of the things you saw at the Games that made you glad you went?


Liz: My donor and I spent time watching track and field and saw some amazing athletes who brought everyone joy and inspiration. There was a woman who ran her first 100-meter dash with the aid of her cane, and a 2-year-old whose dad had to hold him back until it was time to run. These athletes made me see there is nothing I won’t be able to do with my new kidney. My donor and I participated in donor/recipient bowling. We were teamed up with a donor mom and her friend. We had so much fun being terrible bowlers.

Maria: It made me happy to see all the donor families wearing pins for their loved ones and talking about their experiences. Many were able to meet their recipients at the Games and it made me happy to hear and see their relationships. I loved seeing the smiles of the last place finishers as they plugged along the track and the crowd went wild for them! It was all about being there. It was a privilege to talk to people in the “quarter-century club” who had had their transplanted organs for 25 years or more. We heard so many stories.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“We heard so many stories,” said living donor Maria Weaver

Pat: I was extremely moved by some of the stories I heard both during the Opening Ceremonies and just in talking to people I met. In watching the Games, I was impressed with the camaraderie that took place. After a hard-fought win in a close basketball game, Team Louisiana embraced members of Team Kentucky. It was nice to see people compete hard and win or lose with class.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“I was impressed with the camaraderie,” said Pat McEntee


Do you think events like the Transplant Games make a difference?


Liz: The Transplant Games made a difference for me because I was able to meet recipients who have had their transplant for more than 40 years and get their advice. I was inspired to train for more events for the next Games. The community was also inspiring. We told our story to many people – Uber drivers, waiters, really anyone we met. The manager of an ice cream shop was so inspired that she volunteered for five hours at the Games the day after we met her!

Maria: I DO! I felt like I was in a protective bubble full of all of the most amazing people in the country. People who were handed crappy circumstances or fear or tragedy let it shape them into strong people full of love. The strength and grace I saw…wow! Puts things in perspective. I posted a lot of pictures and stories to Facebook and I got comments from people who said they felt the love and inspiration just from seeing them. It helped them to see this during a week in which the news was full of tragedy. I came away completely inspired to go back to the Games in 2018, meet up with the amazing people I met and became close to so fast, and do more athletic events!

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“I was inspired,” said transplant recipient Liz Casperite

Pat: I feel like people would come and enjoy themselves even if there was no competition at all. I think everyone realizes that the prize of additional life is already won, so what happens in the Games is inconsequential. Everyone still tries hard and competes hard for whatever reasons they choose, whether it is to honor their donor, celebrate the fact that they can participate or just to have fun.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

Win or lose, “the prize of additional life is already won”


Is there an emotional element to the Games for you?


Liz: The Games was a very emotional experience. The tribute to living and deceased donors was amazing. I was very touched by the stories of the donor families we met over the week. I was inspired by a mom who donated the organs of three of her murdered sons and was still positive and spreading the word about organ donation. As recipients, we are all helping to keep their loved ones alive. We made some great new friends that I can’t wait to see at the next Games.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

“The Games was a very emotional experience,” said Liz Casperite

Maria: I was on a high all week. I’ve never bonded so quickly with strangers. I talked to everyone I could, and hugged, and teared up, and high-fived them. It was really hard to leave, especially leaving my buddies from far away who I likely won’t see for two years. Being there with my recipient and getting to tell our story to people and walk in the 5K with her was priceless.

Pat: I was surprised at how emotional the event was. Even at times when I didn’t expect it, I found myself tearing up. The emotions of joy and laughter were also present throughout the days we spent there.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

Pat and wife Amy experienced a range of intense emotions


How would you sum up the experience in 3 words?


Liz: Inspiring. Fun. Heartbreaking.

Maria: Love. Resilience. Celebration.

Pat: Joy. Camaraderie. Compassion.

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What did the Transplant Games mean to you this year?


About The Transplant Games


The Transplant Games is open to athletes with any level of skill with games ranging from cornhole and basketball to track events and swimming. The Games welcomes first-time participants and veterans of all ages, like 4-year-old kidney transplant recipient Cooper, who finished the 23-meter dash grinning. The Games includes donors and recipients from all 50 states as well as multiple countries. There are 21 medal competitions in total and all are free and open to the public.

Transplant Games 2016 HelpHOPELive

The Transplant Games are open to donors and recipients of all ages

Did you participate in the Games this year? How was the experience? Tell us about it on Facebook.