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How video games assist war veterans and active duty soldiers

Video games are more than just recreational escapes from reality. They're teaching tools, treatment plans and a potential career choice.

From The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy to Socom and Call of Duty, video games serve a huge purpose in our military. Video games allow active duty soldiers and vets to enjoy an adventure well outside a militaristic spectrum. 

Sometimes video games are used to assist deployment preparations in strategy and tactical warfare. Video games can even be used as a coping mechanism for military men and women suffering from PTSD. All in all, video games make positive impacts in the lives of most, if not all, uniformed men and women stationed across the globe.

Here are some of the ways video games assist war veterans and active duty soldiers in various aspects of their work and personal lives.

1. Combat and Basic Training

In the Army, there's a game called VICE (Virtual Interactive Combat Environment) that helps soldiers learn to handle simple and complex situations that they'll face during deployment. It helps instructors to teach their students basic training, as well as combat training.

Soldiers view a first-person perspective of a foreign war zone terrain, wield fake rifles, and learn to execute missions using fast-paced decision-making and problem-solving skills with proper communication amongst their comrades. Soldiers can also review their missions to learn from their mistakes and learn how best to keep themselves and each other alive in a realistic war zone environment.

2. Recreation

The video game industry makes billions of dollars a year and it's no wonder why. Video games appeal to just about everyone. It's a great way to pass the time or even forget about current circumstances, if only for a little while, which is perfect for those in the military.

If you happen to travel around on a military base, you're likely to spot a GameStop store. According to an article on Kotaku, there are an estimated 49 GameStop stores on military bases across the country.GameStop is always there to provide our men and women in uniform a chance to enjoy all their gaming favorites.

For deployed soldiers overseas, there's a non-profit organization called Operation Supply Drop that allows people to donate money or their used video games, consoles and accessories to our men and women serving in the military abroad.

The organization has received donations from Activision and other video game developers and publishers, which is a great way to support our troops worldwide.

 

3. Treating PTSD

The after-effects of war are real and often coalesce into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can last for years in a soldier's mind like a tumor. Usually when people hear the term PTSD, thoughts of war vets, prisoners of war, those affected by various traumatic events, psychotherapy, and antidepressant medications come to mind. Luckily there's a multitude of video games nowadays that can aid a veteran in his or her PTSD recovery and redirect attention to an engaging story or adventure where there are no bodily consequences involved.

An article published by MilitaryTimes.com last month confirmed that video games like Tetris play a great role in the treatment of PTSD. In the study, Tetris "showed that intrusive memories were virtually abolished by playing the computer game Tetris following memory reactivation."

While Tetris doesn't appear to be a calming game at first glance, trauma victims involved in the study prove otherwise. The research team, which included people from both Oxford and Cambridge University, stated: "[the] findings are thought to be more applicable for developing PTSD therapies because they indicate that visual-spatial games like Tetris may be useful in disrupting intrusive memories long after the causative event."

If it's true that one video game can help trauma victims forget about their trauma, it could easily be true for other games, which is good because there's no simple cure for PTSD. Therapy is crucial for treatment and video games are leading the way.

4. Veteran Support Programs

There are great non-profit organizations that help instill morale in active duty and retired vets like the Wounded Warrior Project and the USO, and then there's the Call of Duty Endowment, which helps to employ our vets while they make their transition to being a civilian once again. Supported by Activision Blizzard, the Call of Duty Endowment seeks to end vet homelessness and unemployment by finding them "High-quality careers."

One vet made it into the gaming industry simply by serving in the Marine Corps and then following his passion for writing during his transition back to civilian life, thus turning it into a gaming dream come true. Justin Sloan, a former Signals Intelligence Analyst, is now a writer at Telltale Games, which has produced games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Game of Thrones

He turned his love for writing from a  hobby into a full-time job. He even wrote a book on how he pulled it off in order to assist other vets like him.

If Justin Sloan can get a great career writing for a well-respected and creative video game company, there's no telling what other military active duty members and vets can bring to the table.

Video games are therapeutic, didactic, supportive and motivating all at once for the men and women who serve. If you have some used video games, consoles and accessories you'd like to donate, be sure to check out Operation Supply Drop to support our troops.

Published Aug. 6th 2015

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