Recent years have seen a surge in video game-related medical research, with results showing that simulated experiences can sometimes be strong enough to help patients cope with pain or even paralysis. But if virtual games can alter the brain's perception of pain, what implications could this have for casual gamers? Could these therapeutic solutions be used to develop richer, more sensory experiences for the average consumer? These are the questions that Michael Thomsen addresses in a recent essay for Kill Screen.
Thomsen structures his piece around a series of studies on video game therapy, including one interactive game that would allow amputees to manipulate onscreen avatars using virtual reality goggles and Microsoft Kinect. In theory, this would diminish the pain caused by phantom limbs, but according to Thomsen, this kind of technology could also open the door for similarly experiential games — enhanced systems oriented not around binary competition, but physical consequence. "In videogames we consent to having our own perceptions manipulated to the point of breakdown," the author writes. "If we accept that games can help us heal ourselves, we are implicitly admitting they can hurt us."