How serious games can help relieve stress

It looks like the Dutch are once more a step ahead in the world of serious gaming. Researchers from Radboud University have received funding to develop a serious game which will aim to train officers how to optimally respond under stressful situations.


The game will be a combination of biofeedback and VR, which will optimise engagement, provide real-time individualised biofeedback and feedback on decision making performance to improve a set of selected training scenarios. ‘Police officers often train in situations that do not resemble real life’, says Karin Roelofs, project leader and Professor in Experimental Psychopathology at Radboud University’s Behavioural Science Institute and Donders Institute. ‘Therefore, our body’s stress reaction does not initiate. And that’s a disadvantage for the training, because stress literally makes you see the world different, and makes you take different decisions than when you’re relaxed. For example, stress decreases shooting accuracies by at least 50%. Virtual reality allows us to train police officers in lifelike stress situations while giving them real-time physiological feedback, which is essential to learning.’


During the game, police officers will be placed in various stressful situations such as a shooting incident, domestic violence, a confrontation with hooligans and an arrest. At the same time, electrical activity of their brain that is associated with increased cognitive control over automatic stress reactions will be measured. Because the officers see this information live (biofeedback), they learn to bring their body into a state that is optimal for decision making under stress: a low heart rate and more theta waves.


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