Interactive games offer alternative therapy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am
 

Homegrown interactive computer games have been shown to successfully treat children with behavioural problems. Children who had been abused regained their confidence and became less aggressive.

Horace Ip Ho-shing, chair professor of the Department of Computer Science at City University, said it started to develop the three-dimensional, motion-tracking video games in 2005 with funding of HK$1 million from the Innovation and Technology Fund.

From 2006 to last year, nine children aged six to 12 recovering from abuse underwent 10 hours of therapy at the university's AIMtech Centre with help from the Hong Kong Association of Art Therapists.

Professor Ip said the participants who played all 10 games and completed the therapy became more confident and less aggressive.

'They have shown improvement in their psychological well-being and have better relationships with their family,' he said.

Participants stand in front of a large screen in a dark room equipped with a system to capture and translate their movements. They wear a pair of stereoscopic glasses to view three-dimensional virtual objects on the screen, which they can manipulate and interact with.

Therapists guide the participants and give them counselling during the games. They can also learn more about the children's fears and psychological problems when observing how they play.

For example, Professor Ip said, when they played the Ribbon Dancing game, they would be asked to dance with ribbons of the colour they liked.

'They can learn to be gentler when playing with ribbons ... And if they choose blue or green ribbons, it shows that they are probably quite calm. But if they pick red or black ribbons, they may have fears or may be unhappy,' he said.

The university and the association also launched a pilot study last November, and two mentally disabled children were now receiving the therapy at the centre's laboratory.

The study will be completed next month, when its effectiveness on mentally disabled children will be assessed.

Four of the games - Magic Bouncing Balls, Ribbon Dancing, Little Brick Out and Paint Splash - will be exhibited at the Science Museum until 2011.

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