PAX East 2016: Sick Kids and Special Support

Penny Arcade has created a huge variety of comics, merchandise, show experiences and more that gamers have enjoyed for over a decade, but I believe that their most important contribution has been the creation of the Child’s Play Charity. Providing toys and age appropriate entertainment to sick kids and their families, Child’s Play has been at the forefront of gathering donations of interactive entertainment for children since its inception in 2003.

At the Gamers Give Back Hospital Tour panel as part of this weekend’s PAX East 2016 event, panelists Kristin Lindsay and Erick Blandin from Child’s Play were joined by JJ Bouchard from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Jim Carol of GameChanger to discuss a newer initiative designed to support the child life staff at care facilities who share many of the same stresses and challenges that their patients are faced with. In partnership with GameChanger, Child’s Play has expanded their outreach with an initial lineup of 17 hospitals in 2015 and ambitious plans to expand every year. This partnership provides a delicious meal for healthcare and child life staff, professionals who are focused on caring for sick kids from an emotional and psychological point of view. The initiatives also includes providing personally curated gifts for kids with choices such as learning tablets for kids at age 1-6 which can make a lasting improvement to their life, some of which have been provided by game developers.

JJ discussed using headsets like the HTC Vive to help kids deal with pain crisis and regain a degree of control and normalcy in their lives, in situations where medically required isolation or high levels of pain are involved. The virtual and augmente reality child care program includes the possibility of adding new interaction methods such as a head mounted tracking for kids who can’t use their arms. Jim had an amazing story about a child from Japan who played the piano for the first time in VR using their eyes as their method of input, it’s exciting as an audience member to hear about the rapid evolution of GameChanger as they experience different child care situations and challenges.

One such issue is that hospitals need help in learning how to use the gaming tech they already have, all of the panelists talked about the challenge for hospital staff to target games based on desired outcome such as distraction from pain or available time for the patient when many of them do not have experience with video games. Erick addressed the importance of normalizing the environment for sick kids, as well as referencing a Child’s Play designed therapeutic video game recommendation guide that is available in both physical and digital forms upon request.

Teaching kids with gaming is important across all levels of health, Kristin emphasized the value of video games for teaching abstract concepts such as time management. That said, the most urgent audience is kids with health problems and I’m confident that the teams at Child’s Play and GameChanger have an aggressive agenda and sustainable growth plan for improving the lives of sick children, their families and the caregivers who support them after today’s panel.

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