The use of video games in a therapeutic setting for cancer patients has been documented since the 1980’s with use as a distraction for pain management, reducing the amount of pharmaceutical pain medication needed ( Redd et al. 1987).
● Video games have been documented in reducing nausea symptom in children receiving chemotherapy (Kolko & Rickard-Figueroa, 1985; Redd et al.,1987; Vasterling, Jenkins, Tope, & Burish, 1993)
● Studies have also been conducted and show patient empowerment has been increased with the use of video games (Caldwell, et al 2013) Govender et al (2015) also found these benefits with cancer patients in particular, The researchers go to state “Empowerment interventions may enhance patients’ internal locus of control, resilience, coping skills, and self-management of symptoms related to disease and therapy.”
● Active video games have been shown to facilitate light to moderate intensity physical activity (Peng, Lin, & Crouse, 2011). There’s also higher adherence to exercise when provided via video games than on more traditional exercise equipment (Warburton, et al 2007).Video games also being played in the cancer patients own home which reduces the risk of them picking up infections from the outside world which can be fatal to people with impaired immune systems. Exercise as part of cancer treatment and recovery is cited as being extremely important (Lemanne et al 2013; Doyle et al 2006).
● Cancer patients can commonly suffer with a phenomena known as “chemo brain”, where cognitive functioning is impacted (Simó, Rifà-Ros, Rodriguez-Fornells, & Bruna, 2013) video games have been proven to increase working memory, problem solving, spatial awareness and eye hand coordination and executive control functions (Hall et al, 2012; Shin, et al 2015, Adachi, & Willoughby, 2013).
● High stress and impact on quality of life has been well documented in oncological psychological reports (Speca et al 2000; Carlson et al 2001).
● Video games have been shown to increase mood and decrease stress with a statistically significant impact. One study looked at psychophysiological measures (brain waves and heart rate) rather than solely relying on self-reports to back this up (Russoniello, O’Brien, & Parks, 2009),
● Video games provide not only a physically safe way to socially interact due to not needing to be in the same physical environment; so risk of picking up bacterial and viral infections from other people is minimised. They also offer tangible outcomes for people who are emotionally sensitive (Kowert, Domahidi, & Quandt, 2014) online support groups and online gaming communities have been documented to help support people with mental health issues (such as depression) including those with chronic diseases ( Nicholas, et al 2009; Beaudoin, & Tao,2007).
● Random control trials (these are the gold standard of research methodology) have also shown that video games increase positive health related behaviours in adolescents and young adults with cancer (Kato et al 2008)
In summary I believe what you are trying to set up with “gamers beat cancer” will provide positive and tangible outcomes for cancer patients. If you’d like me to go into any more detail or provide more examples of the benefits of video games please don’t hesitate to contact me as this is just a quick overview.
Just to clarify, I am a board certified behaviour analyst, a graduate member of the British psychological society, a member of the UK society of behaviour analysis, hold a master’s of science in applied behaviour analysis and bachelors of Science with honours in psychology.
Samantha Stokes (Nee Stallard), BCBA, MSc, MBPsS, BSc (hons)
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