The benefits of gaming

11 June 2021

For Scott Boyle, gaming started out as a way to preserve his hand function. It’s turned into a 17-year hobby.

In 2004 the world was a very different place.

The internet was slower.

Phones were just phones.

And gaming was generally viewed as something either just for kids or geeks.

So, imagine my surprise when my paediatric neurologist suggested to my parents they get a games console for me.

As a 10-year-old all I heard was that I was getting a Playstation 2, but my parents heard more.

With SMA2 my muscles gradually get weaker. It’s a slower process than some conditions but fast enough to be incredibly inconvenient.

My doctor realised that one of the most important things to preserve was my hand function. After all, I couldn’t walk anyway, so let’s do everything to keep these fabulous fingers moving!

Since then I have been an avid gamer, and surprisingly one that’s been supported by my parents.

Every evening from 6pm-7pm during the school week I would get into my standing frame and play a game like Ratchet and Clank, and if it was the weekend or the holidays, I would get an extra hour.

That regime lasted until I was 16 and stopped using a standing frame.

But thanks to the routine I kept gaming in a more controlled manner.

So, did it help?

Yes! If not for the daily use of a controller my fingers would be completely decorative.

But that’s just one way it can benefit people with disabilities.

The use of VR (Virtual Reality) gaming can help with exercise and maintaining a person’s range of movement and mobility, as well as being a pretty funny experience.

In 2014 a study published by Davood G. Gozli in the journal of Human Movement Science determined that people who play action-centric games are able to learn sensorimotor skills more quickly, such as riding a bike or learning to drive.

As we all know though it’s not just about the physical aspect, there’s also the psychological to consider.

Gaming, and the hundreds of online communities in it, has been one industry where the fans are willingly sharing their stories about trauma and depression, only to find video games to be a positive outlet and coping mechanism.

Mats Steen, who was a prolific Norwegian gamer with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, was thought to have lived a lonely life when he passed away.

However, his family quickly realised how loved he was when thousands of fellow gamers all over the world held vigil, with many attending his funeral in person.

Despite never meeting these people he had a supportive and genuine community.

“But Scott, don’t games make you violent?”

No. Unfortunately this is a belief wrongly pushed by certain media outlets, specifically in the US, despite the hundreds of studies done in the past 20 years debunking it.

Of course, there are definitely negative consequences for gaming, just as there are negative consequences for pretty much everything we don’t regulate in life.

Some people can become addicted to it or spend all their money on ‘microtransactions’.

But if you’ve gotten this far and are thinking about getting a console for your child, my advice would be to build a routine and stick to it.

It’ll hopefully help when they’re a teenager and have more independence.

Good luck!


Scott Boyle is a member of the MDANZ National Council.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of In Touch magazine.

For more information please contact: 
Melanie Louden 
Communications and Marketing Advisor 
Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand 
027 509 8774 
[email protected]