21 May Video Games as Therapy
Innovative technology is continuously finding its way into the therapy world through the use of video games and other visual technology. In 2019, I even presented at a conference on the subject, “Video Games as Therapy.” So, in late 2020 when my friend Michelle began raving to me about a virtual reality fitness app called Supernatural, I was instantly intrigued. It was available only on the Oculus 2 headset, so it was not something I could just download and try out the same day. Eventually our household purchased one, and my love story with Supernatural began.
I would not necessarily describe Supernatural as a video game, but it has many of the same element and benefits. It is a fitness app with gaming features. You can learn more about it in this recent interview I conducted with Dwana Olsen, my favorite Supernatural coach, on the 1st anniversary of the fitness app.
For the 2019 presentation, I discussed six peer-reviewed articles about different gaming systems and how they are used in therapy with both children and adults. The research that I reviewed for my presentation did lead me to the following conclusions:
• Using video games in therapy did not lead to adverse effects.
• Using video games in therapy was found to be effective in providing physical benefits or improved function.
• Participants were more compliant with completing and continuing training using video games verses traditional therapeutic exercise.
• Using video games can be more cost effective for group settings.
• Video games can be used for telehealth in rural and urban communities.
• Using video games can lead to greater patient satisfaction.
There are several gaming systems that were discussed in the research including Timocco, Nintendo Wii Sports, and more. Even simple videos, such as the Playapy’s Made for Kids series on YouTube can be used to gamify therapy and reap some of the same benefits including patient satisfaction, improved function, and compliance.
Overall, I am a huge fan of having fun and making therapy playful. Using video games that incorporate movement are a great way to do just that.
Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L
Amy Baez is the Founder of Playapy and Creator of the PALS Handwriting Program. She is a pediatric occupational therapist, speaker, and parent coach with over 20 years of experience.