A GEELONG initiative that uses gaming as a therapeutic tool for youth and young adults is being rolled out statewide, with plans for wider distribution in the coming years.
GAMER, a program created by genU, a provider of mental health and disability services, helps people develop their own interpersonal, identity and coping skills by engaging in a variety of games that best reflect and engage them.
“Essentially, GAMER taps into what is a universal concept for everyone, which is play,” said designer Paris Conte.
“From the day we are born, in fact, all we learn is through play.”
Mr. Conte said customers can choose from a variety of games, including consoles, role-playing, board and card games, wargaming and minis painting, to begin the process.
“The way our program and environment is set up is that we don’t dictate what should be done, but we use games to shape the social environment they are in and give them the opportunity to discover the skills they need. have to work, try them out, test them, until they get the hang of it themselves,” he said.
Mr. Conte said a participant in the program who was considered extremely nervous and stupid found his voice, and more, through the program.
“I did what I do for everyone and treated them like a gamer, a person. I found out they love Pokemon and in that game you get to name your nemesis; they went with Buttface,’ he said.
“Every time that popped up, it grew into a smile, then a giggle… then a few months later their support agent burst through the door yelling that their client had just spoken.
“The young man knew how to talk, but the point was that he was in a place where he was treated as an individual, where he belonged.
“Our role is to see when the individual is involved and then water it like a flower.
“Because everything we do is wrapped in that ball of fun that is gaming, the ease of learning is much greater.”
What started as a concept by Mr Conte in 2018 at genU now operates from five locations in Victoria, with three in Melbourne, one in Geelong and another in Colac.
GAMER, short for Growth, Achievement, Mindfulness, Engagement and Resilience, is also being rolled out online and is about to be used as the basis for a research project that will bolster anecdotal success with scientific research.
“We’ve had a lot of happy crying moments…it’s definitely grown into something more than I thought it would achieve,” said Mr Conte.