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Anger Games

Have you ever screamed at a video-game enemy? Jason Kahn, A02, G10, uses that pulse-raising fury to help kids control their anger. He and colleagues at Boston’s Children’s Hospital have developed a computer game called RAGE Control that uses a heart rate monitor as one of its inputs. When players’pulse jumps too high, their in-game weapons malfunction until they calm down. “We wanted kids to be able to see their own emotions,” Kahn says, “and we wanted kids to do something to actively control their emotions.”

In a clinical test, kids played the game during five therapy sessions. Half faced penalties for losing their cool. Afterward, that half reported fewer angry outbursts and less effort needed to control themselves.

Now, Kahn and his team have made the game a family affair. Kids with anger problems and their parents tend to aggravate each other. In a new test, kids teach their parents how to play a cooperative version of RAGE Control. Each player is penalized for getting agitated, but if a player hasn’t regained composure after ten seconds, the other player is penalized as well. One of the researchers, Peter Ducharme, says the game behavior carries over into their broader lives.

Kahn recently rigged a remote-control car to sputter when the user gets upset. He aims to use this toy with children as young as four and imagines this technology making its way into mainstream games—which may save a few controllers from destruction.

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