Combat games are nothing new, but now the Department of Defense is testing the concepts of battlefield games and virtual worlds to help soldiers explore the causes and symptoms of combat trauma. The newly released virtual world game “T2 Virtual PTSD Experience“, is designed to enable soldiers and their loved ones to find out more about post-traumatic stress in an anonymous Second Life setting.
The Virtual World game was developed at the National Center for Tele health and Technology within the scope of a Pentagon funded research program that is charged with developing gadgets and programs to encourage soldiers to access mental health services.
Kevin Holloway, one of the program’s developers, believes that by providing a place like Second Life, the DoD would be giving a chance to veterans to get back to their first life and bring to light the causes of their battle endured stresses and injuries.
PTSD has become a major problem for the military with every one in five soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression, according to a 2008 RAND Corporation study. On the other hand soldiers are not coming forward with the disclosure about their problems. A recent military report on Army suicides noted that around 51 percent of officers and enlisted soldiers believe that accessing behavioral health services would impact their careers despite numerous public assurances to the contrary.
Pentagon officials believe that this game would enable soldiers to seek guidance about PTSD in an anonymous setting without fear of social or professional fallouts. To further boost soldier confidence, Pentagon has disclosed that it does not intend to monitor the site, and the timing and amount of disclosures are left to the soldiers.
The game begins with soldiers selecting an avatar as a representative in Second Life. Once that’s done the game immerses soldiers into an Afghan marketplace scenario that is meant to trigger post traumatic stress in soldiers. The setting is designed to recreate emotional connections that the soldiers might have developed during their stay in Afghanistan or Iraq.
During the scenario, soldiers can monitor their stress level and can be guided away to safe rooms, where they can interact with natural beauty and other comforting images to help cope with the situation. The virtual world also provides soldiers with tips on coping with the PTSD and other information about how to seek professional therapy.
Greg Reger, a psychologist and administrator at the center, believes that the game would be instrumental in helping not just the warriors who were deployed in combat, but will also enable friends and family to learn more about the changes that their loved ones might experience after return from duty.