New kind of video game inspires empathy

(WXYZ) - In a single day, Meghan Ventura may decide whether families can pass through immigration, help a father cope with his son's cancer, and assist a woman with her struggles in a developing country.

For Meghan, it's all a game. She plays video games that put her in the shoes of other people facing tough challenges.

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

The gaming industry is now massive, $60 billion worldwide, and while these empathy games are a tiny portion of that right now, they're becoming larger.

"We live in a world where empathy is tough to achieve," says Asi Burak, from Games for Change. "This is a medium that could teach, that could inform, that could promote something very positive."

With titles like, 'That Dragon, Cancer,' 'Papers, Please', and 'Half the Sky,' players face a range of emotions as they deal with various dilemmas.

"'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, stop crying and there's no way to do it. It's just so hard to watch and to even play through," Meghan says.

The ability to make decisions for the characters is what makes the emotional experiences of these games appealing to people like Meghan. Her choices impact the outcome. And the games can impact the player, too.

"We're finding in out 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," says psychologist Douglas Gentile, PhD.

These type of games are available on a range of platforms, from video game systems to online. They range from free to about $60.

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