Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
D&D Therapy

Mur Lafferty | 29 Aug 2006 12:00
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It's becoming so ubiquitous that the hatred is old hat to us. Don't allow your kids to play videogames. It deadens their imagination, makes them more violent, exposes them to boobies and ruins their social conditioning with other kids. Don't allow your kids to play roleplaying games. It's a gateway drug to the occult, it encourages devil worship, suicide and only losers do it, anyway.

Most gamers are tired of hearing this, so tired they're numb to the criticisms. But what we don't hear enough of is the truth of the matter: Gaming is good for you.

Really.

While many have blamed today's hectic lifestyle - and computer games - on the rise of attention deficit disorder in children, the fact has gone silently under the radar that there are computer games available that are specifically designed to help kids with ADD.

NASA developed a high-tech helmet to assist pilots in flight simulator training, measuring sustained attention, engagement, awareness and stress. Using neurofeedback, the helmet can register how much the user is focusing - the very problem ADD sufferers have. Doctors soon discovered its usefulness in therapeutic situations, as these are qualities monitored in children with ADD. The helmet supports a surprising number of games on the PlayStation, PS2 and Xbox systems. After measuring the neurofeedback from the child, the helmet modifies the game. For example, if the child's attention starts to waver, the game slows down. It works best with racing or platform games that require speed and direction control, responding to higher focus and rewarding things other than hand-eye coordination.

The S.M.A.R.T. BrainGames EEG Neurofeedback system from Smartbraingames.com won't even break the bank. But does it work?

This past March, doctors declared that 9-year-old Ethan Meyers was brain dead after a car accident, and when he woke up, would never function on his own. But Ethan has regained much of his memory and mental abilities, partially with the help of videogame therapy from the same S.M.A.R.T. BrainGames product.

It has long been known that doing puzzles is good for your brain, and there's a plethora of cheap puzzle games available, and even more can be found for free online. What's more, Big Brain Academy and Brain Age are selling Nintendo DSes just as quickly as New Super Mario Bros. These games are so popular, the publishers are developing marketing campaigns to focus on women and the elderly.

Brain Age tests your concentration with a variety of tests from arithmetic to word memorization - and of course, it runs the puzzle game that's all the rage now: Sudoku. It uses the microphone for some voice recognition games, such as saying the color of a word - if a word "red" shows up in the color blue, you have to say "blue." It's challenging, and even more so when your dog decides to bark at the UPS driver while you're yelling "Red!" at your DS. It also utilizes the touch screen with handwriting recognition software for arithmetic and writing games. All of the games, as the little bobbing host head constantly reminds you, are good for your prefrontal cortex.

On a social and religious level, roleplaying games (namely Dungeons & Dragons) have been mocked, feared and demonized. In pop culture, playing D&D is considered the stamp of the Geek With No Social Abilities

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