August 8, 2007:
medical researchers have noted that soldiers that play violent video games, are
better able to handle the stress of combat. More elaborate (virtual reality)
combat simulations are now being used to treat combat veterans who are suffering
from severe stress reactions from combat (PTSD, post-traumatic stress
The U.S. Army has been
studying combat fatigue (or PTSD) a lot more these days. Currently, about 400
soldiers a year are sent home from Iraq because of severe PTSD, and thousands
have less serious bouts of PTSD, which are treated in Iraq, with the soldier
soon returning to duty.
What the army is up against is
something they discovered during World War II. Back then, PTSD was called
combat fatigue, and it was a serious problem. In the European Theater, 25
percent of all casualties were serious PTSD cases. In the Pacific Theater, the
rate varied widely, depending on the campaign. In some of the most intense
fighting, like Okinawa in 1945, it accounted for over a third of all wounded.
Israel has done a lot of work
in finding new ways to diagnose PTSD, and has also noted the video game effect.
Researchers are using a more realistic virtual reality type system to enable
patients to relive the combat situations that triggered the PTSD, and learn to
cope with it.
This may all sound
counterintuitive, and that's what outsiders (including some journalists)
thought when they first came across combat troops playing violent video games
to unwind after a day in combat. When asked, the troops generally shrugged and
commented along the lines of, "it relaxes me." A military historian would point
out that, in the past, troops often sought out violent, or stressful,
entertainments when given some respite from combat. During the World Wars,
troops on leave would, after getting cleaned up and sleeping for twelve
hours,would go gamble, or engage in
team sports. They were looking for some excitement. Farther back in history, a
little hunting, or looting (or worse) was always popular between battles.
It's another case of
something, that's been around for a long time, getting noticed, and put to use
more deliberately and aggressively.