‘Player Like Me’ Showcases Healing Potential of Gaming With EDS

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Gamers Outreach and Xbox are working together to promote a documentary that showcases how gaming can help to forge connections among people with rare diseases like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).

The five-minute film, called “Beyond Xbox: A Player Like Me,” tells the story of Jordan, a 14-year-old from Atlanta with EDS during a hospital stay. “In comparison to other kids my age, I’m very similar in that I like to play Xbox and I watch baseball,” Jordan said in the documentary. “But because I was born with a genetic mutation that causes a disability, I have some challenges.”

Jordan had never met anyone else with EDS until he came in contact with Megan through car race gaming on the Xbox.

“I was in shock when I found out that Megan had Ehlers-Danlos,” Jordan said in a press release.

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Although Megan lives nearly 4,000 miles away in Inverness, Scotland, the two developed a friendship through gaming. Megan has mentored Jordan, offering encouragement and advice about life with EDS.

“One thing I took away from talking with Megan is that if I have a passion to do something, I shouldn’t ignore it just because it seems impossible,” Jordan said.

“It was really nice to talk to someone who understands (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome),” Megan added. “It didn’t matter that Jordan and I had age differences or are in different countries, we could relate to each other’s experiences.”

Gamers outreach is a charity that aims to help hospitalized children through video games. The organization currently supplies over 300 children’s hospitals with Gamers Outreach Karts, or “GO Karts,” that include an Xbox console, screen, controllers, and games on entertainment station that can be wheeled into hospital rooms for young people to play.

“Each year, millions of kids and teens receive medical care inside hospitals, and for many, the process can be scary and isolating. During hospitalization, kids lose access to friends, school and moments that typically define childhood. We’re on a mission to change their experience,” said Zach Wigal, founder of Gamers Outreach.

The documentary was created by Xbox. “We believe that play is a fundamental human need,” said Michael Flatt, the company’s director of global integrated marketing. “We’re proud to support Gamers Outreach and to bring the fun, creativity and connection of gaming to children to help support them during their recovery.”

Wigal started Gamers Outreach as a foundation in 2008, an outgrowth of a gaming tournament to raise money for charities called Gamers for Giving, the group reports on a webpage. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan was among the charities Wigal was evaluating for tournament funds, and he spent six months volunteering there — creating during that time a first “GO Kart” for its patients.

“Gaming enables activities and social connection in ways that can support the healing process. In many instances, we’ve seen games assist health workers during procedures. Video games can help lower fear by providing a distraction,” Wigal said. “We want every hospital to be equipped to easily provide kids with their favourite activities.”