We all play games no matter who we are, be it on our smartphones on the go, or on our TVs in our living rooms. But just how far does gaming go to help humanity be a better place? I am sure you are questioning my view on this as you probably have no idea just how many lives video games have changed (for the better) or even made a minor dent on.

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There are so many opportunities for gaming to make an impact in the real world that we sometimes don’t always see everything that goes on. Here are ways that gaming changed people’s lives for the greater good.

Curing AIDS

Scientists have spent 15 years trying to find a solution to the Mason Pfizer Monkey Virus, and understanding the virus and its formation and structure would be important to combatting the AIDS epidemic. When the structure was given to The Contenders as a puzzle called Foldit, they took three weeks to solve it and come up with a solution.

This solution become a vital part of solving the structure. This proved that Foldit, an application that mergers science and puzzles games, could produce viable results that could alter the way scientists approach diseases.

Mario Makes You Smarter

Research has shown that playing video games causes positive structural brain changes in regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills. This has led to proof that playing video games is useful for patients with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s dementia. Lead author of the research, Simone Kühn, PhD stated that

While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games.

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It has shown that playing a game like Super Mario 64 for more than 30 minutes a day for 2 months shows dramatic grey matter increases in the right hippocampal formation (HC), right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and bilateral cerebellum. Joaquin Anquera, PhD explains that:

I think it’s clear that video games can have an influence on the brain, with this study providing that much more evidence from a structural perspective.

Virtual Reality Mining In South Africa

Although not completely video game related, Anglo Platinum teamed up with a small SME, The Cyest Corporation to develop a piece of 3D visualisation technology that helps reduce the risk of damage and improve performance in the mining sector. Anglo Platinum is a major company in the mining sector that produces 37% of the world’s platinum.

This technology is being used in the training arena where it is used to emulate the realities of working underground in a hostile environment. This way workers can experience a simulated scenario that produces life-saving improvements in their daily workplace. Anglo Platinum and The Cyest Corporation both agree that gaming and technology can both be incorporated into promoting safety underground:

There is so much that technology can do in empowering people and making them more effective at their jobs. Whether it is advanced visualisation or beneficiating data to make better decisions, we are only touching the tip of the iceberg. Innovation and technology are the bridge to taking companies forward.

SuperBetter – A Game That Helps You Cope

Jane McGonigal developed SuperBetter while she was recovering from a traumatic brain injury. She was extremely ill due to this which led to migraines, nausea, memory loss and depression. Instead of submitting to the illness she decided to create a game that let her use her willpower to overcome obstacles in the game which referenced real-life scenarios. This led to her improving her way of life and helped her through her recovery process.

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Today SuperBetter has more than 1 million downloads on the Apple App Store and has helped nearly half a million people overcome their daily struggles by just using the app for 10 minutes a day. You can also pick it up from GooglePlay.

Man With Muscular Dystrophy Saved From Fire

Bob Chambers is a man living in America who’s house caught fire one night while he was using his toaster. Bob being unable to put out the fire could not run or call for help, given his condition. Bob, at the time was playing games online with some friends, he then typed, “Help me. My house is on fire, and I can’t get out”. His fellow gamers then called the authorities who forwarded the call to Bob’s local fire department, who then rushed to the scene. Upon arrival they managed to put out the fire and save him.

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I did what I tell everyone not to do, and that’s put your address on the Internet

His wife, who hated his gaming obsession has now taken a step back and appreciated that video games ultimately saved his life.

Re-Mission 2 – A Game About Fighting Cancer

Re-Mission 2 is a collection of online games that help young people with cancer fight their disease, literally. Each player gets put inside the human body and gets given one objective, to destroy the disease plaguing the human body. The players are given weapons like chemotherapy, antibiotics and the body’s natural defences.

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The game is designed to keep the players motivated and try and get them to stick to their therapy and treatments by boosting self-efficiency and positive emotions. It also helps shift negative thoughts into a positive light.

Re-Mission 2: Nanobot’s Revenge has gone onto winning multiple awards and is now available on iOS and Android. It is now used worldwide by young patients, medial professionals, and developers.

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