How do I best empathize with others?
I have played a very emotional video game called “ ThatDragon,Cancer ” that is available on the Steam game platform. This is a very different video game. This video game isn’t about shooting up enemies or accumulating points and levels. Instead, it helped me empathize with a family’s painful struggle as they lost their young boy to brain cancer. All of the points of view were shared including the little boy with brain cancer, the parents, the siblings, the medical staff, friends, etc. It was very moving and powerful and affected me in ways that other games have not.
We live in an era where 1 in 3 people on the planet are gamers (playing at least 1 hour or more of video games per day) . I think this type of game helps gamers understand the effects of cancer more fully. Children who play this game especially could be helped to process their emotions if they have a friend or family member who has cancer. It can help all of us understand what is experienced as we encounter this disease.
This is the story of Ryan and Amy Green and their son Joel. You can read more about the game and how it was funded on Kickstarter .
This is one of many positive reviews of the game found here :
“WOW! is pretty much all I can say right now. This game takes you on such a journey I never thought possible until now. I won’t lie in the beginning I was a little confused about the storyline. Being someone who has lost a very close loved one, my father, to cancer this game really hit all of those same emotions. Standing there in the hospital and reading every single one of those cards and looking at all of the paintings was by far the hardest part about it. This game is beautifully made and amazingly well told. Just be prepared to cry because lord knows I did.”
Of course, this was just one family’s perspective and doesn’t represent all cancer patient’s point of views, but it does give you an inside look into the feelings and emotions they experienced.
In our human experience, in order to empathize with others, our brains have “Mirror Neurons” to help us feel the emotions of others even though we are not currently experiencing the circumstances that bring on those emotions. This game helps others who have never experienced cancer from all the points of view of the participants through the gameplay.
“ MirrorNeurons ” are defined this way:
“While we watch a movie, we share the experiences of the actors we observe: our heart, for instance, starts beating faster while we see an actor slip from the roof of a tall building. Why? Specific brain areas are involved when we perform certain actions or have certain emotions or sensations. Interestingly, some of these areas are also recruited when we simply observe someone else performing similar actions, having similar sensations or having similar emotions. These areas called ‘shared circuits’ transform what we see into what we would have done or felt in the same situation. With such brain areas, understanding other people is not an effort of explicit thought but becomes an intuitive sharing of their emotions, sensations, and actions. “
And, I would add that if watching a movie can help us understand others, playing a video game is much more immersive and therefore more empathy enabling. Here is the walkthrough for the game:
Virtual Reality as an Empathy Machine
I was also very inspired by this TED Talk on using Virtual Reality to create empathy for people’s plights around the world. It’s one thing to read about the suffering in Syrian refugee camps, it’s another to experience a day in the life of a Syrian Refugee (in Virtual Reality): LINK
Spend just 10 minutes watching this and consider this quote from the Transcript:
“ And I think that we can change minds with this Virtual Reality machine.
And we’ve already started to try to change a few.
So we took this film to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. And we showed it to a group of people whose decisions affect the lives of millions of people. And these are people who might not ootherwise be sitting in a tent in a refugee camp in Jordan. But in January, one afternoon in Switzerland, they suddenly all found themselves there.
And they were affected by it. “
Soft Skills Are in Demand by Corporations
Recently JP Morgan announced that they were using computer games to identify future candidates for jobs. Why? JP Morgan uses games to test your aptitude: “The games have shown to be very accurate in measuring a wide range of relevant social, cognitive and behavioral features — things like attention, memory, and altruism.” Source: LINK
Additionally, we have made the case for Soft Skills and being empathetic is crucial to how well you manage and interact with others.
If we can use games to help in not only the development of empathy as well as identifying empathetic people, we will be able to reward those who will truly make a difference in our workforce.
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