Gus was an all-star soccer player and tae kwon do green belt before being diagnosed with cancer. Although he was fifth-grade class president, Gus is now being home-schooled, and he can't imagine getting through his chemotherapy treatments without video games. The mother of Gus Luna said, "That made me feel like things seemed OK," referencing her son's video game system used during his recovery period. Gus added that being able to have access to playing his familiar video games took his mind away from the more stressful and scary things that were happening.
The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is among 1,000 hospitals worldwide with video game Fun Centers that roll from bed to bed just like regular hospital equipment. Kids jump at the opportunity to immerse themselves in video games that take their minds away from the treatment they are undergoing -- and the doctors say it helps.
Over the last decade, researchers around the world have done hundreds of studies probing the value of video games and other forms of virtual reality to help children -- and their parents -- cope with medical-related anxiety and pain.
The results have been overwhelmingly positive: in a UCLA study, children who were not playing an interactive game while having an IV inserted reported four times more pain. A University of Australia study ended with researchers citing "strong evidence" supporting the use of virtual reality and video games while kids were undergoing painful procedures.
Doctors also report that it calms the parents to see their kids engaged in routine activities: "If you have children and you see them in distress, then you're in distress," says Jeffrey Gold, program psychologist for the pediatric pain management clinic at USC. "If they're more calm, you're more calm." ###