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Nonprofit Provides VR Games for the Sick, Disabled and Elderly

by Dylan Siegler

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Here is your daily dose of hope for humanity: There is a nonprofit organization called Gamer’s Gift that provides VR (Virtual Reality) equipment and video games for nursing homes and children’s hospitals. The organization was started by eighteen-year-old Dillon Hill when he was still in high school.

Hill told Kotaku recently that he started the nonprofit because he was dissatisfied with previous volunteer work in food kitchens and hospitals because he hardly got to interact with the people he was serving, which made the work he was doing feel unrewarding and mechanical. The idea for Gamer’s Gift came from Hill’s experience as a fifth grader when his friend, Chris, fell ill with leukemia. Visits to the hospital to meet with his friend were difficult until he had the idea to bring a PlayStation 2 with him on visits for the two of them to play together. Hill states, “We didn’t have to worry about when his next shot was coming or the nausea that he was feeling, or any of the typical things you have to deal with. We were completely immersed in that world, and we could very much distract ourselves from what was happening.”

In February of 2016, during his senior year of high school, Hill launched Gamer’s Gift. The first thing he did with his new organization was to buy Beatles Rock Band and attempted to give it to a children’s hospital. However, because Hill was still too young to be considered an adult, but too old to be a child, he wasn’t allowed to enter the children’s hospital. So instead, he brought the game to a nursing home. Since then, Gamer’s Gift has shifted its focus to bringing VR experiences to nursing homes and hospitals.

Hill has found that VR tends to be easier to understand for people, particularly elderly people, who don’t have much, or any, experience with video games. Additionally, VR allows them to live out parts of life that they would otherwise be unable to anymore, such as skiing, scuba diving or race car driving. Interestingly, Hill also discovered that children in hospitals tend to enjoy VR games that allow them to live out a “normal” life. “A lot of the times in children’s hospitals they just want to be store clerks in Job Simulator, and they just want to be normal.” Regardless of the application, Gamer’s Gift has allowed people to live out experiences through VR that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. You can check out their website by clicking here.

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