6 Acts of Real-Life Heroism Made Possible by Video Games
As Cracked has pointed out before, mankind is just now coming around to the idea that video games might actually be good for something after all. We need these stories to counterbalance two decades of claims that games brainwash kids into going on shooting sprees, and after having watched many friends abandon their social lives in favor of grinding for XP.
Remember, games are neither good nor evil -- it's all in what you do with them. For instance ...
Online Gamers Have Saved Strangers' Lives
In any discussion about the benefits of multiplayer gaming, its capacity to bring people together would not usually enter into the equation. Yes, current technology allows gamers to speak to opponents at the other side of the world with nothing but a cheap headset, but the conversations tend to revolve around the promiscuity of the mothers of said opponents, so that's not all that impressive.
But among the jerks, there are some downright heartwarming stories. For instance, a Canadian teenager made the news after helping an autistic youth online who was showing serious signs of depression, to the point of hinting at suicide. The teen had no idea who the other kid was, or where he lived, or anything other than his gamertag. That didn't stop him -- he got in contact with the police, who contacted the at-risk kid over Xbox Live. They were then able to spend a few hours talking him down.
Since the hero of the story hasn't been named, we just have to assume he looks like this.
And here's the best part: When authorities got in touch with the suicidal kid's parents (who lived in Texas), they said they had no idea there was a problem. It took a 14-year-old gamer who lived 1,500 miles away to see the signs.
Meanwhile, Robert Chambers also benefited from the concern of online strangers. He was sitting at the computer playing the browser game Evony when a fire started in his house. His muscular dystrophy prevented him from getting to a phone to call for help, so he turned to the people he was playing with online. He gave them his home address (which isn't advised when your house isn't on fire). Thankfully, his fellow players got in touch with the authorities, who showed up and carried Chambers to safety within minutes.
This would have been a very different story if Chambers had a history of griefing.
With all those stories of cyberbullying swirling around, we need to be reminded that on the whole, forging connections between strangers is a good thing.
A Guy Saved a Life With His FPS Medic Training
War games aren't just about mindless slaughter -- pretty much every war video game has you play as the good guys, and each one has missions that involve rescuing hostages or giving aid to civilians.
But still, an entire campaign of Medal of Modern Warfare: Ghost Recon Duty isn't going to teach us any skills that help us to actually rescue people and save lives, right? These are games where you "save" people by blowing the hell out of the cartoonish enemies that are threatening them, and where you recover from bullet wounds by pausing to catch your breath.
"This man needs a nap, stat!"
Some games strive for realism, however, and if not for one of them called America's Army and Paxton Galvanek, a random dude who played the ever-loving shit out of it, there might be at least one less person on the planet.
Galvanek is a North Carolina man who was just driving along the highway back in 2007 when some pretty scary stuff started to go down. An SUV in front of him lost control, flipped upside-down and started to spew smoke. Ignoring the fact that "Paxton Galvanek" sounds more like a Bond villain than a citizen hero, Galvanek stopped his car and rushed to help.
He was later punished by being forced to appear on Fox News and explain what a video game is.
There was one teeny tiny problem that would have prevented most people from helping: Galvanek had no prior real-world medical experience. However, he did have loads of virtual hours of medic training, thanks to, you guessed it, America's Army. The game is not only known for having super-realistic weapons and combat, but it also boasts medic training that apparently rivals a real-life EMT course. And we're not talking "Get the health mushroom to the victim when his heart icon gets below 50 percent" here. It's the real stuff.
Galvanek went to the flipped SUV and safely pulled a passenger from the smoking metal heap. He then saw that the driver had lost two of his fingers and was bleeding heavily. Galvanek pulled him out and, remembering his "medical" training, used a towel as a dressing to curb the blood loss. He then told the driver, who must have thought it was lucky as hell that he crashed his car so close to a doctor, to raise his hand over his head to lessen the blood flow and prevent further blood loss. Galvanek capped it all off by evaluating the rest of the man's injuries, which included a cut on his head, until the paramedics arrived.
That's right: Thanks to a video game, Paxton Galvanek was able to save the life of a complete stranger -- without any of that highfalutin medical schooling. Let's see board games match that.
"Now slowly, carefully, pull his dick off."
A Kid Somehow Fended Off a Moose Thanks to World of Warcraft
Ninety percent of the reason we play video games is to live out our ass-kicking fantasies that would be impossible in real life. What self-respecting kid hasn't dreamed of launching a fireball at a bully and screaming "Hadoken!"? Or kicking someone in the face while screaming ... whatever the hell it is Ryu screams when he does his spinning kick. Seriously, he says like a whole sentence.
"I am going to kick you in the face with my foot, you have no honor and your face now smells of kick-foot!"
Sadly, science has not yet advanced to the point where we've learned how to shoot fire from our wrists. But as 12-year-old Norwegian boy Hans Olsen demonstrated, that doesn't mean that video games can't teach us how to foil a would-be attacker -- even one that's much bigger than us. And has antlers.
You see, little Hans and his 10-year-old sister were walking to school when a moose spotted the tykes on his territory. The antlered monster was none too happy about this, and showed it by charging at the duo. That's when Hans went into Super Big Brother EX mode and tried to save his sister from their attacker -- using his World of Warcraft skills.
Luckily for the moose, he didn't play a mage.
Luckily for his little sister, Hans is an avid World of Warcraft player. A key strategy in WoW when taking on any kind of huge, overpowered monster is managing the enemy's "aggro" -- that is, intentionally drawing its aggression away from weaker teammates. So, the boy taunted the moose, trying to get it to take its attention off of his sister. It worked like a charm! The moose lost all interest in the girl, but there was only one drawback: It was now charging full speed at Hans himself.
This is usually the part where a full-grown adult shits his pants and wonders whether morticians can repair antler-shaped holes to a corpse's sternum. But Hans kept his cool. The moose caught up to Hans and headbutted him in the back, striking his backpack. At that moment, Hans realized that he should use a skill that you acquire at level 30 of WoW: feign death. Hans did his best possum impression while the moose sniffed at the boy and eventually lost interest and wandered off to do other asshole moose things.
Like morph into its demonic Ice Moose form and fuck with tourists.
Hans was declared a hero and remained totally nonchalant about the whole thing. When a Norwegian news outlet asked him if he was scared during the encounter, his response was simply, "It went really well." It went really well? This kid is only 12 -- we predict he'll be the Beastmaster by 30.
A Web Browser Game Helps Explore the Universe
Studies show that 90 percent of modern computing serves one of two purposes: procrastinating and masturbating, or both at the same time (procrasturbating). With regard to computer games, people mostly play them for the procrastination part. That, and seeing their names on those awesome leaderboards so that they can show off their achievements to their fellow nerds.
That means that there's a whole population of gamers whose defining characteristics are that they have nothing but time on their hands and that they desperately want to stand out among their peers. The folks over at Yale and Oxford universities recognized this tidbit and had a light bulb moment. They realized they could harness all those readily available man-hours and use them for something constructive that, quite frankly, is also a tedious pain in the ass: searching the universe for new planets.
Level 1. GO!
The scientists at Yale and Oxford devised a Web browser game called Planet Hunters in which a player looks at computer data depicting a star's light output, then records when there's a dip in luminosity. Less light might mean that a planet was passing in front of the star, so when a gamer says that there's a dip in light, he records it, and someone with a big-ass telescope and fancy computers checks out the area. If it turns out that it was a planet that caused the dimming, the lucky interstellar Marco Polo could get credit for the planet's discovery, and might get their name written in any subsequent papers about it.
Clicking the "Finish" button throws you directly into the gun battles and hardcore anime porn.
And hey, guess what? The geniuses behind Planet Hunters totally called it right. Just one month after the game was released, players discovered two planets lurking about in the cosmos. It turns out that getting your name written in a spiffy scientific paper and potentially having your moniker forever be associated with the discovery of a planet were good motivations for getting gamers to spend hundreds of hours looking at their computer monitors and examining little light dots. You can even enable the players' already-inflated egos by clicking here and checking out the paper on the discovered planets, where each gamer is given the fitting title of Planet Hunter.
"This doesn't make sense. They're ... destroying them."
Video Games Help Stroke Victims Recover
Look, we know video games aren't exactly good for you -- they're linked to an increased chance of obesity, which is itself linked to an increased occurrence in several debilitating medical conditions, including stroke. But operating off the same logic that led to Michael Vick working with the Humane Society, science is redeeming video games by putting them to work helping stroke victims.
Except for the part where it's not a desperate PR move.
Recovering from a stroke can be a long, tedious nightmare; it can take years, as many people have to relearn basic, everyday skills while still recovering from extensive neurological damage. Current recovery programs involve exercises like picking up buttons or shifting your weight from one side to another.
However, these exercises have two shortcomings. The first is that they only help in one area of recovery, usually stimulating your mind or your muscles, but rarely both. The second is that they're boring as hell, and thus easy to quit. Video games to the rescue!
"Oh my God, why do you have to be such a noob? Gimme the fucking handle!"
Researchers found that stroke patients who played video games on either a Nintendo Wii or a Sony PlayStation were up to five times more likely to show improvements in arm motor function compared to patients just undergoing standard therapy. One reason for this is that playing video games provides both physical and mental stimulation.
Another reason is that, unlike perpetually crumpling pieces of paper, the action in video games is always changing. This requires the user to constantly adapt and change strategies, which helps heal the patients' brains by augmenting neuroplasticity. Which is a good thing.
Unless it's Duke Nukem Forever, in which case it would just prompt another stroke.
Video Games Are Creating a Race of Master Surgeons
Tony Hansberry, like most 14-year-olds, hasn't spent a decade in medical school, but probably has spent that much time in front of an Xbox. Unlike most 14-year-olds, Hansberry put his gaming skills to work by advancing medical science.
For his high school science fair project, Hansberry unveiled a new procedure for stitching up patients after surgery, probably making his classmates feel like a bunch of worthless dicks (symbolized by their flaccid papier-mache volcanoes).
"Nice shell collection, Jimmy. Now fuck off before I beat you for being an embarrassment."
At issue was a surgical device called the endo stitch, which surgeons use to sew up patients after a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus). This device was supposed to close the tube where the patient's uterus had been, but often failed to clamp down, leading to a troubling problem doctors refer to as "Getting your ass sued off."
Tony came up with a radically new procedure, which involved sewing up the patients with a vertical endo stitch instead of a horizontal one. Though this sounds simple, it actually radically alters the endo stitch procedure and requires a lot more coordination. You have to guide a camera inside the patient, while manipulating the tool with a controller ...
"Oh, man, my bad. Can I get a res here?"
You can see where this is going. The teenager had invented (and performed, on dummies) a technique that required more precise hand-eye coordination than most adults could manage. Doctors say the action required is identical to the "training" Tony was getting playing video games his whole life. It was like Luke being able to hit the Death Star's weak spot because he had spent his youth shooting womp rats for fun.
The doctors were so impressed with Tony's surgical work on the test dummies that they tested it out in patients. The result: It reduced recovery time, complications and pain.
"Just sending you a quick hysterectomy app. If you get a request from Titman Buttford, accept it."
So the next generation of surgeons will not only be highly skilled, but also be able to maintain concentration even when someone's yelling "Your mom's a whore!"
You can hire Eddie to write something for you by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can watch his newest short film here. You can contact Michael Cooney at Mikey.Cooney@gmail.com for writing opportunities.
For more on video games, check out 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted. Or learn about the 8 Creepy Video Game Urban Legends (That Happen to Be True).