Walter Reed Medical Center: games and their healing touch

Thanks to an aid group called Cause, soldiers at the Walter Reed Medical Center have monthly get togethers of healing, fun, and not so surprising… video games. Although somewhat of an afterthought now, video games weren’t always part of the program.

You see, back in 2003 when the group first came to be, Cause was more focused on supplying recovering soldiers with day-to-day necessities. It wasn’t until executive director Barbara Lau noticed that the then humble video game lending library was gaining in popularity — she realized they had something big on their hands.

As the residents there will tell you, video games really can make a difference in their overall morale — something that every recovering soldier desperately needs. Just take for instance the words of Army Spec. Juan Alcibar:

“When you’re just sitting in your room thinking about what happened, it drives you crazy,” he says. “This is something to get your mind off your sorrows. . . . I wish they had it every week.”

It doesn’t end there, though. Others have noticed the healing power of video games in action. Enter Major Chuck Ziegenfuss:

 For soldiers who have just been hit with life-changing injuries, playing games helps reconnect with entertainment they enjoyed before they arrived at the military hospital. Playing games again here “gives them back a sense that they’re normal.” 

Running off of donations from various sources, such as Major League Gaming, as well as community gifts, Cause has been able to provide an ever-increasing supply of games and consoles to the delight of the soldiers. Since older titles are constantly being traded in or sold to make room for new ones (the rental space is only a walk in closet), soldiers are usually treated to the latest releases.

Although not the only group of its kind, Cause seems to be making a difference. News like this is a step in the right direction for video games, and how easy it is to underestimate their positive effects on people. Sadly, this is the sort of thing that somehow slips through the cracks when zealots attack the industry with all of the negative publicity they can manage to drum up.