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Video games as medicine? Sourcing a strong point in coverage of regulatory aspects


2 Star


'Play This Video Game And Call Me In The Morning'

Our Review Summary

evo-phoneThis story about video games being tested as therapies for cognitive disorders is better than its star score indicates. The focus of the story is primarily on the standards that should be used to evaluate and regulate such video games, rather than the evidence, or lack thereof, that this sort of game could have therapeutic value. Nevertheless, the story passes along several claims about these games that lead the reader to believe that there will be some discussion of the evidence that backs them. But apart from a skeptical comment toward the end and a link to previous story addressing the issue, the hoped-for analysis doesn’t materialize. Which is not to suggest that the story doesn’t deliver a significant amount of valuable information. Readers are treated to the perspective of a number of different players in the technology, health care, and drug industries — and what they have to say about the regulation of such possible therapies is fascinating. Among the interesting questions raised: Can the years-long FDA approval process keep up with a technology that’s changing every six months? And what problems occur when you try to apply that methodical, evidence-based process to such a fast-moving area of technology?


Why This Matters

The rules of the game often determine the outcome. For example, sales of nutritional supplements are far higher than they would be if purveyors were subject to regulations similar to those the FDA applies to pharmaceuticals. This story helps educate readers about the battlefield terrain and the objectives of those who promote or resist the use of video games as therapy for cognitive disorders.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of the costs of the games. The story does quote an insurance industry executive who suggests that the reimbursing patients to play games could lead to overall cost savings, but we didn’t think that was quite enough for a Satisfactory rating.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story includes claims that these games could be effective for a range of symptoms of cognitive disorders; that they could be as effective as drug treatment; and that they could cut the size and length of certain clinical trials in half. But there are no hard numbers that pin down what these claims mean.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of potential harms. There is strong debate about whether recreational video games affect social development or behavior. Such games certainly can displace physical activity… playing outdoors… that is important to the health of children in particular. The story would have been better if it at least mentioned that video games may not be entirely benign.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story quotes a game company executive who says that clinical trials have been done on ADHD, autism, depression and other cognitive disorders, but there is no description of the trials or their results. On the other hand, the story does briefly mention some experts who say there is a lack of good evidence.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story doesn’t exaggerate the need for this sort of video game treatment, if it was ever offered.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


This is a key strength of the story. Several different experts and viewpoints are presented, so that readers are shown a range of opinions and perspectives. The affiliations of key sources are identified, so that readers can see how their interests might influence their outlook.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story includes a claim that video game therapy might replace drug treatment, but there is no clear comparison made between the approaches. Behavioral therapy is mentioned only indirectly. Such comparisons would have welcome even in a story whose main objective is describing the approval process.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story is clear that these video games are experimental and not currently available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not explain how these video games are different from other computer-based cognitive therapy approaches that have been tried before.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The number and range of sources make it clear that the story does not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 4 of 10 Satisfactory


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