January 18th, 2013
10:43 AM ET

Skip Rizzo: Deploying virtual therapies for the real stresses of combat

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) -  Skip Rizzo is a wizard of the virtual world, a clinical psychologist and anything but your average lab geek. He’s also a key combatant in the U.S. military’s battle against post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Rizzo's lab is a part of The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies.

Watch CNN at 2 p.m. ET on January 27 to see a half-hour look inside Rizzo's world. Here's a primer on why he's a member of CNN's The Next List:

Why you might know him: Rizzo grabbed headlines back in 2006 with "Virtual Iraq," a virtual reality PTSD therapy for combat veterans. The treatment combines latest in gaming technology with a clinical approach to treating PTSD called prolonged exposure therapy. "Virtual Iraq" is used in more than 50 Veterans Affairs hospitals in the United States.

Why he matters: Despite advances in PTSD treatment, Rizzo believes America can do more for its troops. His current effort is called STRIVE - and it's designed to prevent PTSD by intervening before a war deployment. Funded in part by grants from both the Army and Navy research communities, the 30-chapter virtual reality program will use a fully immersive, “'Band of Brothers'-like” simulation to better prepare service members for the pressures of combat before their boots hit the ground. Research trials will begin at California’s Camp Pendleton this spring.

His philosophy: Rizzo says his calling is to "take care of the folks who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms."

Oh, he's also into skull collecting: Rizzo is Harley-riding rugby player with a penchant for collecting skulls.

Why combat-related PTSD matters: One in 5 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to George Washington University. That’s nearly 300,000 veterans as of October 2012. And the social and economic costs of PTSD are immense. First-year treatment alone costs the government $8,300 per person, or more than $2 billion so far. Suicides among active-duty military personnel averaged one per day in 2012. Veterans now account for 20% of suicides in the U.S., with the youngest (age 24 and younger) taking their lives at four times the rate of older veterans.

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Filed under: Gaming • Military • Science • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
Swapping dog poop for free Wi-Fi
May 7th, 2012
12:12 PM ET

Swapping dog poop for free Wi-Fi

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - OK, I know this sounds ridiculous. But hear me out. An Internet company in Mexico City recently tested the idea of giving responsible pet owners a treat for picking up after their dogs in public parks.

People put their dogs' droppings in a special container which measured the weight of the poop. The container, which doubled as a router, then emitted a set number of minutes of free Wi-Fi for every pound of feces it collected.

Yeah, that's kind of gross. And no, there apparently was nothing stopping Wi-Fi cheaters from putting rocks or other heavy objects in the bins instead of dog poop. But it's yet another example of game mechanics getting tacked on top of the real world we live in - trying to influence our behavior, for better or worse, with rewards. The same kind we give to our pets. FULL POST

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Filed under: Environment • Gaming • Innovation • Internet • Tech
April 16th, 2012
03:44 PM ET

Jane McGonigal: 'A game saved my life'

By Jane McGonigal, Special to CNN

(CNN) - “When you’re on your deathbed, will you really wish you’d spent more time playing Angry Birds?”

It’s a question I hear all the time. And understandably so: I’m probably the world’s leading advocate of spending more time, not less, playing computer and video games.

Why am I so passionate about spending more time playing games (ideally, at least 30 minutes every day)? Because heaps of scientific evidence over the past few years – from an extremely diverse group of investigators, such as Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life, the U.S Army’s Mental Health Assessment Team, Michigan State University’s Department of Psychology and Massachusetts General Hospital - have shown that games can increase our mental, emotional and social resilience.

Games can make us more resilient in the face of tough challenges, better able to learn from mistakes, more likely to cooperate with others on difficult problems and more creative in coming up with new solutions. They can alleviate depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. New research from Stanford University just this month even shows, through fMRI imagery of the brain, exactly how games boost our motivation and self-efficacy at the neurological level. Games build up our belief that we can take positive steps to affect the outcome of our lives – and game help us be more motivated to take those steps and not give up. FULL POST

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Filed under: Gaming • Innovation • Tech • The Next List • Video
April 12th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Games 'tap into the best version of yourself'

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Think video games are evil? Spend some time with Jane McGonigal.

McGonigal - a designer who's queen of a genre called "Alternate Reality Games," or ARGs - believes games make us better people. They can be used to combat climate change, reduce poverty and, as she knows personally, help victims of conditions like depression, head injuries and cancer recover more quickly.

"Games are an extraordinary way to tap into the best version of yourself, the most determined, the most creative, the most resilient in the face of failure, the most likely to collaborate with other people - sort of heroic qualities," she said in a recent interview with CNN's "The Next List," which will feature McGonigal on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. "And it seems that if we play more games - games that we love - these qualities can actually spill over into our real lives." FULL POST

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Filed under: Future • Gaming • Innovation • Social change • Tech • The Next List • Uncategorized
April 11th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

GraFighters: A game that brings your drawings to life

By Nina Raja, CNN

(CNN) - When boredom struck, Eric Cleckner and David Chenell decided to get creative. They co-founded an online fighting game called graFighters, which lets users bring their own drawings to life.

Endless days of doodling during class led to the inspiration of game. Cleckner and Chenell envisioned a fighting game where they would take the characters they drew in class and plop them into a fighting game.

“So we were two broke college kids," said Cleckner. One was a designer and the other a programmer. “We got as far as we possibly could, which was about 1% done with the game." FULL POST

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Filed under: Future • Gaming • Innovation • Tech • The Next List • Video
April 10th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

A game to make your life "SuperBetter"

Jane McGonigal is serious when it comes to playing games. She’s a world-renown game designer who insists playing games for an hour a day can change your life. That’s right. Playing video games can actually change your life. Gaming, Jane says, produces powerful emotions and social relationships that can really change lives, and potentially even change the world. Scientists call it “game transfer” phenomenon: what we think and feel in games starts to spill over into our real lives. Jane further believes that playing games can us help bond with our family and friends, strengthening our real-life and online social networks.


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Filed under: Gaming • Innovation • Tech • The Next List • Video
When making a game is a game in itself
February 10th, 2012
10:02 AM ET

When making a game is a game in itself

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Something strange happened earlier this week: The people of the Internet - not exactly known for their generosity - gave $1 million in a SINGLE DAY to an online game that hasn't even been created yet.

Not only is this a milestone for Kickstarter, the "crowd funding" platform that made these donations possible; it's also an experiment in, as the blog ReadWriteWeb aptly described it, making a game out of the game-making process.

The game is called Double Fine Adventure. As of Friday morning, it had raised $1.2 million on the promise that:

With this project, we're taking that door off its hinges and inviting you into the world of Double Fine Productions, the first major studio to fully finance their next game with a Kickstarter campaign and develop it in the public eye ... This year, you'll be given a front-row seat as they revisit Tim's design roots and create a brand-new, downloadable "Point-and-Click" graphic adventure game for the modern age. FULL POST

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Filed under: Crowdsourcing • Gaming • Innovation • Internet • Tech