May 31st, 2006

Wii Got All the Press, but Games For Health Had Great E3 Showing

Video game technology is like duct tape. The ways in which it can be used are limitless.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the recent Games for Health Conference at the University of Southern California (USC). Held in Los Angeles on the day before the opening of the E3, the event attracted more than a dozen speakers from the video game and healthcare industries to talk about how game tech is being used to enhance mental and physical health. You can view a trailer for the GFH Conference here.

Readers of GamePolitics are no doubt familiar with some of the alternative uses for games such as the Dance Dance Revolution program in West Virginia schools which is aimed at combating childhood obesity. Or perhaps you've heard of Ben's Game and others like it which help kids deal with painful treatments.

But games can improve lives in a number of other ways. Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus, an SNES game released in 1994, starred an asthmatic dinosaur who progressed by avoiding hazards like dust clouds and cigarette smoke. The game was designed as an alternative way to teach children important asthma management skills. Studies showed that Bronkie was more successful in teaching kids about their condition than watching a 30-minute video on the same topic. Focus groups also demonstrated that children with asthma were drawn to and identified with a game protagonist who proudly held his inhaler on the game cover - an image the developers had to fight for, by the way.
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Louisiana Bill Clears Committee, Heads to Full Senate

Following yesterday's committee approval, a video game bill making its way through the Louisiana legislature now faces one final hurdle on the floor of the State Senate.

As reported by the Shreveport Times, HB1381, proposed by Rep. Roy Burrell (D) and drafted by antigame activist Jack Thompson, was passed unanimously by the Senate's Judiciary "A" Committee.

"We are not violating (the video game industry's) First Amendment rights, Rep. Burrell told the committee. "We are protecting our children."

Also testifying on behalf of the bill was Steve Strickland, brother of Fayette, Alabama Police Officer Arnold Strickland. The officer was killed in a murderous rampage by 18-year-old Grand Theft Auto player Devin Moore in 2003.

HB1381, which began in Louisiana's House, now heads to the full Senate for consideration. This should be an interesting debate, since,as reported by the Times-Picayune, the Senate recently amended SB340, a bill proposed by one its own members, specifically removing language restricting game violence.

The Associated Press has more on this story, while WBRZ-2 News has a brief video clip.

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