Video: Full Spectrum Warrior Mod is Therapy for Traumatized Iraq War Vets

May 12, 2008 -
The New Yorker serves up a video which details how THQ's hit strategy game Full Spectrum Warrior was modified to help Iraq War veterans deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

The video accompanies an six-page article by Sue Halpern in the May 19th issue. Halpern also narrates the video. From the article:
Most P.T.S.D. therapies that we’ve seen don’t seem to be working, so what’s the harm in dedicating some money to R. & D. that might prove valuable?” Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said last November.

In January, his group issued a lengthy report called “Mental Health Injuries: The Invisible Wounds of War,” which cited research suggesting that “multiple tours and inadequate time at home between deployments increase rates of combat stress by 50%.”

Rieckhoff went on, “I’m not someone who responds to sitting with some guy, talking about my whole life. I’m going to go in and talk to some dude who doesn’t understand my shit and talk about my mom? I’m the worst of that kind of guy. So V.R. therapy, maybe it will work. We’re a video-game generation. It’s what we grew up on. So maybe we’ll respond to it.”

Comments

Looks like First Comment goes to me! Heh heh heh heh...

This mod looks to be very useful!

Maybe this should be under "Gamers Doing Good" as well? This was user created right?

I'm very, very skeptical that this will lead anywhere, but heres to hoping that it does help. Our veterans deserve the best post service care available, and if this is shown to be a helpful treatment then I'm all for it. Until it is shown to be effective in a legitimate clinical trial, forgive me if I take it with a grain of salt.

To Altair: It was created by the Department of Defense.

It can be scary to face your fears like this in a virtual world.

But for people who come home from wars, it is common that they usually suffer from great nightmares even as they dream.

So perhaps something like a Virtual Iraq like this can help in somehow using that fear and stress to channel that into somewhere it could be controlled so it does not explode out in real life situations.

it is worth a chance as long it does not kill anyone or make anyone worse off than the actural war experience which is far more worse.

Damn, wish I'd seen this about a month ago. I had to do a paper on PTSD for psych class.

I can totally see this working. Basically they're using immersion therapy (used for specific phobias and fairly effective) for something that can't be duplicated safely (battle). Get a good system to run it on, and change from FSW to something more realistic (CoD4 springs to mind) and this can totally work.

I did a paper on PTSD for my high school health class, and they were doing something similar to this with people suffering from PTSD following the 9/11 attacks. They would place the person in a room with 360 degree monitors and start out with a view of the New York skyline from a general angle that the person had seen it at, with the towers intact, then slowly add elements to the scene, such as planes flying in the air or sirens sounding.

The process was long and drawn out, as they would use multiple sessions to make sure that the person was coping with what they were seeing well, but after a while they would work it up to re-enacting the scene of the towers being struck, and then to the towers actually collapsing. Everything was taken in very, very slow steps so as to not overwhelm the person, and with every change they made they would come closer to playing the whole scene back to the person. They actually found that in a lot of the cases, after the therapy the person was better able to cope with what had happened, and as such suffered far less severely from their PTSD. And while it took months to actually work up to the full scene and being able to cope with it, it was well worth it because coping with what happened is the biggest factor of overcoming your PTSD.

If they take the same approach and try to model the scene after what actually happened to the person and then slowly work from a very simplified version, such as walking down a street instead of being in a gunfight, and then working up to the actual event by adding small elements over time they will most likely help a lot of people.

Great idea.

Confronting your fears in a safe environment without the actual thing you fear being there, sounds like the best idea for treatment of our veterans.

Back when I was working on a half-life modification called Mastersword, we had one chap who came onto the forums who told us that fighting the spiders in the game had helped him to get past his arachnaphobia, so it seems reasonable to think it might be possible to do the same with war related anxieties or other similar conditions.

This is awesome on various levels.

Unruly: That's fascinating. any chance I could read your paper?

@Aragorn - I never kept the paper, and even if I had it would have probably been lost by now since I wrote it 6 years ago.

Given what we know about overcoming fears and about PTSD in general, this is probably the best thing that could be happening in the efforts to provide assistance in overcoming battle trauma and helping soldiers come to grips with actions and occurences nobody from the civilian world can truly understand or help them work through.

Most of the time, soldiers are willing to do what they have to when they enter the outside world; but without such tools to help them assimilate and move past the horrors of combat and the emotional impacts of lengthy and frequent deployments, too many are being left by the wayside. Even if this could only put a minor dent in the numbers of soldiers surviving the war only to end their lives when they're abandoned in the civilian world, that and the potential to develop similar, more overarching therapy would be more than worth the effort put in.
 
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