I have such a complicated reaction to this article. On the one hand, it fills me with a lot of hope for non-pharma interventions in the lives of various kinds of troubled people (not just kids). If we can invent mental-health-enhancing video games, it's such a powerful idea... enormous promise.

On the other hand, if we acknowledge that the language of games is a powerful way to deliver neuroplastic experiences, to teach and treat and influence... then should we not be paying more attention to what mainstream commercial gaming is teaching and how it is influencing?

Using the powerful language of gaming to sell fantasies of warfare, assassination, conquest, etc feels even more questionable/dangerous to me after reading this article. I've enjoyed games like HITMAN myself, but after a few hours of play I have asked myself whether this is doing anything to my brain, to my moral sense, to my capacity for empathy. I don't have a real good feeling about it. And I haven't even played Sniper Elite or Call of Duty. At least HITMAN is _mostly_ about stealth and ingenuity, even if each session climaxes in a successful murder.

And what about all those "economy sim" games that reward only single-minded exploitation of resources, accumulation of wealth, etc? Are they value-neutral? Or are they a use of the powerful language of gaming, the powerful feedback mechanisms and fun factor, to instil in young minds a ruthless disregard for other people and for the living world? Factorio and Satisfactory come to mind.

We used to laugh off concerns about the content and theme of video games, the amount of violence or nefariousness needed to win, leaning on the consolatory claim that they had no lasting neurological or behavioural impact but were trivial, ephemeral, zero consequence experiences. Now we are starting to take gaming seriously as a therapeutic intervention _because_ of its potential for lasting neurological and behavioural impact.

So this is why I find this article both inspiring and disturbing.

For myself, in recent years I have more and more avoided any game that requires violence/killing/combat for successful gameplay, and focussed instead on games that put exploration and the sense of wonder front and centre. I've written elsewhere about what I see as the _very_ exciting and barely tapped potential of virtual tourism. I think it's a major oversight among the commercial game builders, not offering a zero-violence, zero-campaign "tourism" or exploration mode for all major releases.

Perhaps we can go even farther, and incorporate some of the beneficial/therapeutic aspects of special-purpose therapy games as described here, into mainstream gaming. Just because something tastes good, it doesn't have to be bad for you :-)

Retired; ex-software engineer. Paleo-feminist. Sailor. Arduino tinkerer. Enviro. Libertarian Socialist (Anarcho-Syndicalist, kinda). Writer. Altermondialiste.

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