How video games alleviate our phobia, one spider at a time

From Abbey’s Acrophobia Last of us Part IIIn the sense of claustrophobia, stuffing yourself in a locker inside Alien: Isolation, The game is excellent at reproducing the physical sensations of horror. However, phobias can be a major barrier to entry for trying out new games, especially for those who are afraid of common video game enemies such as spiders. For phobic gamers, this horror can prevent them from playing games that they might otherwise enjoy.

Fortunately, this horrifying ability is actually being used to heal people. Neuropsychologists like Dr. Skip Rizzo have been studying for decades how to use games to treat mental illness.

“It’s not VR therapy, so I always try to include the term exposure therapy,” he says. “VR is a tool. Therapy is exposure therapy.”

Dr. Rizzo directs the Medical Virtual Reality Lab at the Creative Technology Institute at the University of Southern California. He is part of a team of neuropsychologists and researchers who use VR to treat veterans suffering from PTSD. The software BRAVE MIND built into Unity helps bring the patient to a traumatic situation and allows the patient to experience in a safe space under the care of a healthcare professional.

Watch the video above to see how VR is used to treat people suffering from a variety of illnesses.

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