While some politicians seem to believe that video games are behind many toxic behaviors, there are some video game companies working towards positive implementation for video games. In Canada’s University of Victoria, a team of researchers have banded together to create Dino Island, a game to help children with cognitive disabilities.
The University of Victoria is an institute known for its industry leading research into climate change and marine biology. However, this endeavor is headed by psychologist Sarah Macoun and a team of post under-graduates. Sarah Macoun specializes in Pediatric Clinical Neuropsychology, has a Ph.D. and is an assistant professor in the psychology department. This project appears perfectly aligned with her interests, which lie mainly in cognitive training for children with disabilities being delivered via alternative contact points. The goal of Dr. Macoun’s research seems to be ensuring all families have access to cognitive training at low cost and with easy accessibility.
Dino Island is the game Dr. Macoun and her team have developed in the hopes of making that goal happen. Dino Island builds upon work in Neuroplasticity (the study of the way the brain changes throughout one’s life) to retrain cognitive pathways in children’s brains and help them develop better habits. The game is designed to be fun to use, so that children are more likely to keep up with their treatments. The games AI also alters its difficulty level automatically based on performance, to reduce the need for psychologist intervention. Dino Island is designed to be easily delivered via parents and school officials, making It accessible for most families, and easily affordable. This contrasts with many current treatment methods which require participation and overview by a psychologist.
Serious games are not all that new in the industry. The military has long used simulation games to train pilots and prepare recruits for the realities of their job. Games have been used to help children with cognitive disabilities before, too. Studio Sikki has developed a game called TEAPP, which is available on the App Store and aims to build emotional intelligence and general situational understanding.
Still, Dr. Macoun’s research is exciting. With the news often touting that games are harmful to youths (even though there is evidence they are not); it is nice to see exploration of a few of the positive effects gaming can have on the world. Some might question the likelihood that gaming can truly help children with autism. However, based on neuroplasticity there is little reason why training delivered by video games would not be effective.
Dino Island is not yet open for broad participation, however those who wish to participate in the study can visit here to register.
Source: UVic Dino Island