In the twenty-first century, video games and gamer culture are common experiences in the lives of children, adolescents, and adults alike. Whether they are creating portals to navigate out of a maze-like laboratory, using plants to defeat a horde of zombies, or zerging mobs in the latest raid instance, the experiences, challenges, opportunities, and lingo of video games are a regular part of the daily lives of many clients. Understanding the significance, cultural, and personal roles that video games play in the lives of the people and families we serve can be an important part of the services we provide. However, social workers who are not familiar with video games and gamer culture may be left with some important questions. What are the meanings that gamers might ascribe to their gaming experiences? What are the therapeutic values of video games? What opportunities and challenges do video games raise for social workers? And what does it mean to “zerg mobs”, anyway? A ‘zerg’ is a swarming attack, and a ‘mob’ is a computer-controlled opponent.
In this podcast, Michael Langlois, LICSW, explores answers to the remaining questions. He argues that, given the prevalence of video games in our culture, gamer affirmative therapy is not simply a particular treatment modality, but a form of cultural competency that is important for social workers to understand and utilize. Play therapy in the twenty-first century should make use of twenty-first century forms of play. In addition, Langlois discusses the advantages and benefits of playing video games for individual, families, and in sessions, as well as the challenges that come with incorporating these games into practice. He also discusses common concerns related to video games, including the effects of violence in games, worries about spending too much time playing video games, and gender biases in beliefs about gamers.
Michael Langlois, LICSW, received his BA from Connecticut College in 1991, and his MSW from Smith College School for Social Work in 1994. He has over 20 years of experience counseling adults and families. His work includes treating patients who use video games from a gamer-affirmative stance, and his theoretical background combines psychodynamic theory, contemporary cognitive and learning theory with cutting edge technologies. He is currently an adjunct faculty member of Boston College School for Social Work and a teaching associate in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, where he supervises interns and clinicians. He also serves on the Massachusetts Commission for LGBT Youth. His work focuses on gaming, social media, & psychology, as well as the impact of social networks on relationships. A gamer-affirmative psychotherapist & educator, he’s interested in team-building between the video game industry, consumers & mental health. He wrote a book about it, called Reset: Video Games & Psychotherapy & have conducted workshops at SXSW, PAX East, Harvard University, Boston University, Boston College, SUNY-Buffalo, & dozens of other organizations. In addition to being a clinician, Mike co-founded the social media company Sparta Social Networks, a full-service social media company providing software platforms, hosting, and consultancy.
Interviewer: Anthony Guzman, MISM, MNCM