Video Games Can Help With Post Traumatic Stress
March 15, 2013

Video Games Can Help With Post Traumatic Stress

Anyone who tried to play SimCity last week likely found the experience a little stressful. While building a virtual city was meant to be fun, the game suffered numerous server woes and other problems that resulted in it being anything but fun.

“We are hitting a number of problems with our server architecture which has seen players encountering bugs and long wait times to enter servers,” wrote EA senior producer Kip Katsarellis in a forum post last Wednesday.

However, video games can still be relaxing and even therapeutic to those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reports Voice of America. Soldiers who return from war zones face a variety of challenges in trying to get back to normal life, and researchers have determined that interactive videos can help ease the transition.

These are certainly far different from “military” themed games such as Call of Duty and aren’t really aimed at gamers, but rather soldiers who witnessed the real world versions of popular action games.

Army veteran Robert Menendez, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said that interacting with The War Inside helped him.

“I think, once I acknowledged that I did have issues, it actually helped me cope with it,” said Menendez in a clip during the VOA piece.

Maryland-based WILL Interactive, the nation’s leading developer of interactive training simulations, created this new video simulation for the U.S.Army and provided wide distribution as a cornerstone soldier behavioral health and PTS education program.

These simulations offer players a chance to watch a video on their computer in which they are prompted to choose a course of action for the main character as the story unfolds. When play resumes, the user experiences the outcome of his decision.

The War Inside offers players a chance to “play” as one of four different characters connected to a platoon that has just returned from combat. Each character explores different challenges of coming home. In one case, there is a young Specialist with severe combat stress/PTSD trying to understand and control his behavior, while another focuses on a Sergeant growing distant from his wife and child, yet another on a spouse trying to understand what’s wrong with her husband and what to do about it, and finally a Platoon Sergeant trying to create a command climate that is more accepting of behavioral health.

Those who have played the game have responded that these have been very helpful. In one testimonial, a military spouse offered these thoughts:

“My husband and I watched the video. It was an awesome learning tool, even for me. I learned to listen more to my husband. He finally broke down and told me a few things that I never knew happened when he was deployed. I think he thought it was too graphic for me and he didn’t want me to have bad dreams as well. Now I understand why he was having those dreams and I know now where his anger comes from, very sad story, but [‘The War Inside’] video has helped us both and I’d recommend it for families like mine. I thank you so much for allowing us to view this! [My husband] is in counseling and is doing better with his anger, but I don’t think counseling is better than that video!!! Again, thank you so much!”

Of course dealing with real issues can be far more stressful than not being able to connect to SimCity, but fortunately some soldiers will now a way to learn to return home and get a trial run in something akin to SimLife.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on,,, and Peter is a regular writer for

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