This former WilmU game design educator is now making gaming accessible to hospitalized children

For 13 years, Scott Shaw LEDs Wilmington University (WilmU) Game Design and Development Program – the first four-year degree program of its kind in Delaware.

The program has quietly put WilmU on the map as a college for students interested in gaming careers, with graduates launching local gaming companies such as Momiji Studios. Shaw was instrumental in WilmU’s partnership with The future first events that combine tournament play with education and membership information in the growing industry.

In July, Shaw brought that expertise to a career move at Wilmington’s Nemours Children’s Hospitalwhere he works as a game and technology specialist — a position that helps hospitalized children access play.

“We use video games as a way to bring some normalcy and hopefully connect [patients] back to their friends and family,” Shaw said. Technically. The work was all the more crucial as the pandemic prevented visits from siblings: “Making awkward positions bearable and maybe even fun, that was the draw. To use my talents in terms of game development, gameplay, game theory, game-based learning – all the things I had done before – in a way that could give back to a population that is not not in the best place.

The position revolves around a few axes:

  • Play games with patients, and sometimes with staff to prevent burnout
  • Support for all entertainment systems, gaming and virtual reality systems, iPads and tablets in the hospital
  • Work on projects such as building adaptive controllers or implementing the use of virtual reality and augmented reality

Since some hospitalized children may need more than just having a play system in their room, there are a range of disabilities and limitations that Shaw must consider, adding a problem-solving element to the job. If a child does not have fine motor skills in their hands, for example, the game interface can be adapted so that they can use another part of the body or larger buttons to control the game.

Shaw also uses adaptive controllers produced by companies such as Microsoft which feature a “co-driver” where Shaw or a parent can play with a patient, allowing them to take over parts of the controls – “so if we’re playing a driving game, one person can do the steering and the other person can do gas and brake,” he said. “Or if it’s an adventure game, one person can control movement and the other can control ability.

Oversized buttons for adaptive gamepads. (Courtesy picture)

The Gaming and Technology Specialist position is a new part of Nemours Department of Child life, creative arts therapy and school programsdirected by Melissa nicely and funded by a grant from Child’s play.

Nicely points out that while play adds something fun to a child’s time in the hospital, it can also be really therapeutic.

“We have a lot of kids who might need physical therapy or occupational therapy every day, and it’s really painful for them and they don’t want to do it,” Nicely said. “You can put a VR headset on these kids and they’ll do all the moves they just said ‘no’ to. We’ll do it 20 times in a row because it decreases the feeling of pain for them — because their brain is thinking about something. something completely different. It can make a big difference when it comes to being able to increase movement and action, so that’s a huge plus.

While similar VR distraction therapy had been used with adults at ChristianaCare Cancer Center (and should become more prominent in children’s therapy), there aren’t many game-specific positions like Shaw’s in US hospitals — only about 50, per Shaw. But he expects other roles to emerge.

“I hope to see him grow, because I think one of the most important things I’ve learned in those first few months is that building relationships with patients and families takes time,” he said. he declared. “Without someone like me to take care of the technical issues, it takes a lot out of the existing child life specialists. Their job is to build relationships and care for the patient, and if technology gets in the way, it can’t happen.

The growing need for more gaming and technology specialists in hospitals – a position that many people looking for jobs in the gaming industry may not even know about – is one of the reasons why which Shaw, with his ongoing relationship with WilmU and his students, is a good fit for the position.

“There are absolutely educational opportunities,” Nicely said. “One of the reasons we were really drawn to Scott was because of his connection to education. We would love to create a volunteer program, an internship program, an internship — there are so many opportunities to involve children and students.

Those interested in learning more about entering this industry can contact the Nemours Child Life Program at [email protected]nemours.org.

“You can’t get a better job,” Shaw said. “You can play games with kids and you have an impact. Of course, there are challenges with technology all the time. But that’s why this position was created: to make everything run smoothly.

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