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Here’s a little thing about video games…

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Here’s a little thing about video games…

By Lex Youssef

There’s no denying that video games don’t have a glowing reputation as constructive forms of entertainment. Today’s tragedies that result from gun violence eventually link to the influence of interactive entertainment through mainstream journalism; and it’s quite easy for someone to make that connection, whether or not one agrees with it. The most popular titles engage players in a high-adrenaline, reflex based competitive arena; digital people shooting other digital people to stay on top and claim their status as the best warrior.

I’m not denying that I’ve played these games. When I’m not developing, designing, acting or singing (he does what now?), I love to unwind and flex the geek muscles to make sure they don’t atrophy. However, and while this may be obvious to some, I think it’s important to state that the diversity of video game genres and the variations within each is astounding. Truly astounding. I’ve found myself playing games to evolve myself; to experience beautiful stories, make choices that affect the characters and environment around me, and ultimately feel the consequences of those decisions that would bring me to tears, even days after the story had concluded.

It’s an incredible feat to have software move you in such positive ways, and that has been a driving factor in the way that I approach work here at Jintronix.

Now, I wouldn’t say that we’re a game development studio, because we’re not. If you haven’t Google’d, Bing’d, Yahoo’d, Altavista’d or whatever’d us, Jintronix is developing medical software for physical therapy.

I know that we can’t expect the people who will be using our system to be gamers; they’re simply trying to recover as effectively as possible.

Gone are the grandiose environments, the heroic protagonist, the intricately sinister villains and the gut-wrenching plot twists. Gone are the complex user interfaces, the strategic planning, the daring chase sequences and the romantic relationships. There are so many characteristics embedded into today’s games that we simply cannot rely on, because it’s not the point.

The point, again, is for the patient to recover.

At first, this made me worry. How can we expect patients to be engaged with our system if we don’t have any of these fantastic qualities that have kept me so engaged in games before? People don’t want to feel like their time is being wasted; there needs to be some level of growth, some form of progression. How is that done for someone who doesn’t want to play games?

I didn’t realize it until the first time I saw a stroke survivor playing an off-the-shelf Kinect game at a clinic. The Kinect is a depth sensing camera developed by Microsoft and it allows patients to interact with a software application through natural human motion. No wires or special clothing required; it’s just you and your body in control.

It’s not new to bring motion controlled gaming to the clinic. It started with the Nintendo Wii; a video game console that revolutionized the way people play. This type of activity encouraged people to get up and move about in order to win the game. This style naturally lends itself well to the rehabilitation space, as patients are now engaged to perform their exercises. So when the Kinect was released for the Xbox 360, clinics became very excited! And naturally, so did their patients.

As I mentioned just a few moments ago, I didn’t realize how this could possibly work until I actually saw the stroke survivor playing with the Kinect. The game didn’t have a protagonist that he could relate to, nor did it have a fantastical setting, with a clear goal and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But it didn’t need to.

The patient is the protagonist, and his path to recovery is the hero’s journey. Now that’s growth if I’ve ever seen it. And it’s a truly beautiful thing.

Lex Youssef
Developer & Co-Founder
Jintronix Inc.

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