Video games and hockey safety

November 16, 2006, Volume 37, no.6
By Terry Lavender

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Can a video hockey game influence how hockey players behave on ice? Chad Ciavarro and Brad Paras think so. The two recent school of interactive arts and technology (SIAT) graduates say videogames could help change on-ice behaviour and perhaps reduce the incidence of concussions.
The pair developed two games, Alert Hockey and Symptom Shock, while working with kinesiology professor David Goodman on a Canadian Health Research Institute sponsored project to prevent head injuries among young hockey players.

Goodman's team reasoned that young hockey players might respond better to learning how to avoid risky behaviour through a videogame rather than more traditional means.

The results? Alert Hockey, a PC-based hockey game in which the more aggressive the players are, the worse they perform. With young players, “we were able to see a statistically significant drop in our measure of aggressive and negligent behaviour,” says Ciavarro. “But they also had fun. All I had to do was see the look on their faces.”

Paras, now a game designer with Electronic Arts, says Symptom Shock is based on the popular block-manipulating game Tetris. It involves a hockey game “where the player must compete against a computer opponent by strategically aligning groups of icons.”

Besides Ciavarro and Paras, the team included researchers from SIAT, the education faculty and the school of kinesiology.

“SIAT was tasked with game development. Education was to advise us on different instructional angles. Kinesiology provided the physiological perspective of brain injuries, and the overall vision for the project,” Ciavarro says.

Ciavarro now works for the RCMP, and would like to find a wider audience for Alert Hockey, though neither he, nor Paras, has plans to take their games further.

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