GFH: Games Assisting with Psychotherapy

May 26, 2010 -

While there is very limited information on the intersection of games and psychotherapy—studies are extremely few and far between, and by some accounts, only a single “game” broaches the subject—one child psychiatrist is using videogames in a different way; as an icebreaker.

Dr. T. Atilla Ceranoglu is an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, in addition to running his own practice. In a session at Games for Health, Dr. Ceranoglu detailed how he makes use of videogames.

Inspired by a quote from Freud, “There is little that gives children greater pleasure than when a grown-up lets himself down to their level, renounces his oppressive superiority and plays with them as an equal,” the doctor outfitted his office with videogames. The use of games permits doctor and patient to build a therapeutic relationship, allows Ceranoglu to evaluate cognitive skills and helps to emphasize what the child might be feeling in real-life.

Ceranoglu shared the story of a 14-year old boy, who had been having troubles with his family. On the third office visit, the boy, who hadn’t said much to the doctor up until then, joined Ceranoglu for some cooperative play in a Lord of the Rings title. The boy started commenting on the gaming ability of the doctor, which began to promote communication between the two.

Eventually the boy relayed how he played games at a friend’s house, because he disliked his home environment. The two played a game of baseball, which the foreign-born doctor was not very good at, and the boy won handily. A FIFA match followed (a game which Ceranoglu excels at). The boy was getting creamed, so he started reacting in-game, getting red cards, which lead to his players being tossed from the game. In time, the boy took to practicing the game at home before finally returning to beat the doctor. This pleased Ceranoglu because the boy took something from the office home with him.

Further into treatment, the boy confided to Ceranoglu that he wished he had a brother to play games with, which led to a conversation in which the boy told the doctor about his brother dying some years earlier. The parents of the boy had never told Ceranoglu about this tragedy; they had chosen to ignore the incident as if it never happened. The boy then admitted to visiting his brother’s grave quite often, sometimes every day. From there Ceranoglu was able to further break down the walls and to administer assistance to the boy. He said that videogames made all this possible.

As far as what attributes games used in this manner should posses, Ceranoglu recommended that any games used should be brief and repeatable, contain many levels, feature an easy learning curve and portray various types of avatars. Additionally, games should contain stories relevant to a child’s conflict, should be able to be saved at any point (to avoid lengthy play sessions) and feature flexible multiplayer modes plus user-made content.

Dr. Ceranoglu said he discusses the role of games in treatment with parents beforehand, to avoid catcalls like “I’m not paying you $XX an hour to play games.” He reports that the reception of his techniques from other therapists has been “quite good.”


 
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MattsworknameIt did, I found the idea of exploring a world at it's end, exploring the abandoned city of a disappeared alien race and the planets various knooks and crannies intriqued me.08/01/2015 - 5:46pm
Andrew EisenDid it appeal to you? If so, what did you find appealing?08/01/2015 - 5:43pm
MattsworknameIts an interesting concept, but it's not gonna appeal to everyone thats for sure,08/01/2015 - 5:40pm
Andrew EisenThat sounds horrifically boring. Doesn't sound like an interesting use of its time dilation premise either. 08/01/2015 - 5:36pm
Mattsworknamean observer , seeing this sorta frozen world and being able to explore without any restriction other then time. no enimes, no threats, just the chance to explore08/01/2015 - 5:34pm
MattsworknameAndrew: I meant lifeless planet, Time frame is an exploration game. Your dropped onto a world which is gonna be hit by a metor in 10 seconds, but due to time dilation ,you actually have ten minutes, so you can explore the world, in it's last moments, as08/01/2015 - 5:32pm
Andrew EisenLP is 20, TF is 8 and has an old build available as a demo.08/01/2015 - 5:32pm
MattsworknameLast I checked zip, Lifeless planet was 10 bucks on steam I think08/01/2015 - 5:29pm
Andrew EisenMatt - Which one? Time Frame? How exactly does that play? What exactly do you DO in that one?08/01/2015 - 5:29pm
Andrew EisenZip - Neither game is above $20.08/01/2015 - 5:28pm
Mattsworknamefinished it, great game all the same.08/01/2015 - 5:22pm
MattsworknameMy only complaint about that game was it's length, I felt it was a bit to short yet in certain places felt like it dragged on a bit. SOme areas were so engaging they flew by, others didn't do enough to keep me energized to play, but I got to the end and08/01/2015 - 5:22pm
ZippyDSMleeNo demo makes me not want to buy until its 10-20$ ><08/01/2015 - 5:21pm
Andrew EisenAh, yes. Lifeless Planet has a much better trailer. Tells me a bit about the game, its story and how it plays. Novel! http://store.steampowered.com/app/261530/08/01/2015 - 5:19pm
MattsworknameOn the same vien, another great exploration game is Lifeless planet. but that one has an actuall story, and real gameplay08/01/2015 - 5:16pm
MattsworknameDoc: I think it's the other way around, I think gamergate only really coalesed when a larger discussion on issues started. The Jerks and asshats just sorta got swept along with the tide.08/01/2015 - 5:13pm
MattsworknameYour not wrong andrew, the trailer doesn't explain much ,I had to play it to understand what made it unique08/01/2015 - 5:12pm
Andrew EisenBut, plenty of great games have crap trailers.08/01/2015 - 5:11pm
Andrew EisenMy problem is the trailer doesn't communicate how the game plays or what you do. The camera pans over the landscape for about a minute and a half and that's about it. Not sure how that's supposed to interest anyone.08/01/2015 - 5:10pm
DocMelonheadLike I mentioned before: Gamergate may have been created by mean spirited bigots to use it to trick people to support their actions.08/01/2015 - 5:10pm
 

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