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Platforming brawlers vs anxiety?

Could you successfully improve people’s ability to focus and concentrate by playing challenging side-scrolling platform brawlers?

Could you successfully improve people’s ability to focus and concentrate by playing challenging side-scrolling platform brawlers?

This was a question I found myself asking after having played through a good portion of Guacamelee. I am not a natural at this genre of games, so even the easier ones pose a challenge to me. This means that for certain segments, be it tricky platforming sequences or fights, I have to let go of the controller and take a deep breath before I can continue. I find that I really have to concentrate and focus on calming myself (no shaking hands) and analyse the task ahead. After having done this I usually beat the challenge, sometimes I have to do it several times, but every time I have the feel that the game moves a bit slower.

Screenshot from Guacamelee; from the media section of the official website.

The thought I had was that skill based games like this, that have a increasing difficulty curve and unforgiving gameplay could be used as part of teaching people how to manage anxiety. The games would not stand alone, but be part of a course plan involving both practise and reflection upon how the things that would be experienced in the game can be transferred to “real life”.

This goes hand in hand with Kolb's theory of experiential learning, excuse for being lazy, but if you are interested in reading more I add the wikipedia link.

There are many versions of the cycle, just look up Kolb's learning cycle.

The game would then represent the active experimentation and concrete experience which the players would reflect upon.

This way of teaching anxiety management wouldn't be for all, but as games become more and more normal and people's general experience with them increase; using games for something like this is not as far fetched as it might have been some years ago.

Testing whether the method works could be done by simple methods such as measuring blood pressure or sweating in the palms. This I guess could prove an interesting study to some students or researchers within the field of serious games, at least I would love to read a report based on this study.

Another intriguing prospect of this is that action games are one of the lesser used genres when it comes to serious games, which in general favour slower paced genres that allow for more reflection on the subject matter at hand.

 

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