The U.S. Army has awarded contracts (of around $100,000) each to three separate private companies in a bid to create “the highest quality” videogames designed to be able give indications of a soldiers’ mental health in the hope the data could be used to diagnose such conditions as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Such a videogame, it is reported, ought to be able to be downloaded onto a soldier’s smartphone, be of the highest quality in both graphics and technology in order for its workforce to want to keep playing, and also one that measures response time, attention span and various other indicators. It should also have the capability to beam the data gathered back to a centralised computer, where it will then be analysed and compared to other data sets so that a picture of the soldiers’ mental health and stability can be determined.

Quite how telling such data from a videogame could be is unclear – at least to us, it’s difficult to see how the way you play a game can attribute to the likelihood you suffer from a mental disorder – but the Pentagon seems to believe it could work. The game is highly unlikely to out rightly diagnose such disorders, but could pick up tell-tale signs that something may be remiss, where a more in-depth analysis of the soldier can then be undertaken.

Perhaps things aren’t doom and gloom in the videogame sector after all then. The very fact that the U.S. Army is actively looking at the medium to do good (retroactively, of course) is surely a much-needed positive spin on the whole ‘videogames are evil’ mantra. Perhaps we should stop scoring the ‘maturity’ of videogames on the gritty realism, adult themes and helpings of T&A, and more on what purpose they truly serve. This, surely, is a step in the right direction.

Richard Birkett

Source: Wired

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