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Empathy Video Games Change Players Thinking

MIAMI  (CBSMiami) — There is a new type of video game out and it's one that doesn't involve violence.

Instead, players experience and fight 'real life' problems.

In a single day Meghan Ventura helped a family pass through immigration, a father cope with his son's cancer and a woman who struggled to survive in a developing country.

Ventura's experience was part of a video game experience that puts the player in the shoes of people facing tough life challenges.

"These kinds of empathy games can bring you these really intense, rich worlds you know, and present issues you otherwise wouldn't have known about," said Ventura.

The so-called 'empathy games' are a tiny portion of a $60-billion industry.

"They're becoming larger. You will start to see it becoming more diverse in the range of emotions and in the type of people it's going to reach," explained Asi Burak, Games For Change.

Video game creators have started to move away from fighting and sports themes in favor of exploring deeper issues and emotions, according to industry experts.

"We live in a world where empathy is tough to achieve. This is a medium that could teach, that could inform, that could promote something very positive," said Burak.

Gamers are faced with a range of emotions as they work their way through a variety of dilemmas, like a father caring for a sick child in 'That Dragon, Cancer'.

"'That Dragon, Cancer', which is about a father dealing with his son having cancer and you know just being there with him and trying to keep his son just from, to stop crying and there's no way to do it. It's just so hard to watch and to even play through," said Ventura.

The ability to make decisions for the characters is, what experts say, makes the emotional experiences of these games appealing.

"We're finding, in our studies, kids who play more pro-social types of games end up increasing their empathy over time and then behaving more cooperatively and pro-socially in the real world," said Douglas Gentile, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology.

The impact was not limited to children. The findings have shown that all ages including adults can be affected.


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