Diagnosing and Managing Traumatic Brain Injury With Video Games?

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Blue Marble Game Co.
Almost all of us know what it is like to get caught up playing addicting games that are available for every type of smartphone available. We (rightly) assume that most of these games are absolute time-wasters, but they help us escape the world for a little while and shut off our brains. However, California-based studio Blue Marble Game Company plans to use these games for something much more impressive; they aim to help brain injury patients recover.

With the upcoming release of “The Treasure of Bell Island”, Blue Marble isn’t just releasing a game, but an assessment and intervention tool.

“[After] someone is initially injured, there is a period where we want the brain to be quiet … [where] we don’t want them to watch TV, play video games or read, ” Sheryl Flynn, Blue Marble’s CEO and a former physical therapist, told Tech News Daily. After that period, some patients can begin returning to normal activities. For those who continue to feel pain, disorientation and other symptoms, further treatment may be necessary, and this is where “Bell Island” is introduced.

The game finds the player and five other characters crash-landed on an uninhabited island, where they survive with the use of various skills to hunt for food, construct shelters, and explore the island. Players are then scored based on how they performed as well as other player behavior while playing. For example, TBI patients often have trouble focusing, so the game pops up images unrelated to the current task. Players who tap these distractions are noted, and may possibly be concussed. The data recorded can also be shared with physicians through a sister computer application.

While the game is marketed for anyone who may have suffered mild traumatic brain injury, the app was designed specifically with an eye on troops who deal with an disproportionate number of brain injuries. They worked with military representatives throughout development to avoid any possible triggers or problems for players who may be suffering from PTSD. For example, the military suggested Blue Marble design the island with as little sand as possible because sandy landscapes may cause veterans to recall their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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