Back in February of 2007, a car-bomb in Baghdad claimed the lives of sixty men and women and left a number of American soldiers, upon returning home, with severe mental and emotional trauma. American soldiers report a much higher rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than British troops, and as a result the US military began trialling radical new methods to help deal with the rising rates of PTSD, which included subjecting soldiers to virtual simulations of war-zones to help them face their fears. Early tests were promising, and now we have news that playing Call of Duty can help, too.
The tests conducted in 2007 included a graphics engine taken from the Xbox game, Full Spectrum Warrior, piped into a headset, with Iraqi war-zones and locations recreated to meticulous detail. To further supplement this, specific sounds and vibrations are added for authenticity, along with eight different scents, like gun powder, cordite, even lamb and spices.
It was an expensive test, with each station costing up to 5, 000 dollars. But now New Scientist is reporting that a recent survey of 98 military personnel revealed that regular exposure to the likes of Call of Duty can drastically reduce the intensity of their traumatic dreams. Not only that, they found they could now fight back against the threatening elements of their dreams, too.
Whereas a separate group, who did not play videogames, reported much more intense, traumatic nightmares. Jayne Gackenbach, of the University of Edmonton who conducted the study, explained that violent games act as a "threat simulator", helping the mind to process brutal and potentially traumatic scenes instead of simply reacting to them.
The results are interesting, as on the one hand you have a glowing report of violent videogames helping soldiers overcome their mental trauma. On the other hand, isn't this just a case of desensitizing subjects to violence, the big bad of videogames? The media like to leap on any accusation that games can corrupt our outlook on violence, but now it seems such effects are beneficial. Admittedly, I'm warping the point a little. It's an entirely different story when it concerns soldiers who've witnessed the horrors of war to children picking up a pad and playing Call of Duty.
It's a topic rife with debate, and we'd love to hear your side on this. Can violent videogames be used for good? Or is this just a case of a much-maligned effect being twisted for appropriate purposes?