Catching up with Player 2

Program News | February 17, 2016
Photo via Dominic Valente | The Ann Arbor News

A few months ago, we unveiled a new pilot program we’ve been working on within the walls of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital called “Player 2“.

It’s been going well. Like, really well.

Player 2 is a new program through which gamers have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through gaming in a manner that supports patients and staff within hospitals.

Recently, we sat down with Dave Anderson – one of our brave volunteer guinea pigs who made an effort to reach out and get involved with the Player 2 program. We (and the hospital) have been incredibly thankful to have his support, as well as the support of a few other volunteers we’ll be highlighting in later articles.

For now, check out this interview with Dave, and learn a bit more about his experience inside the hospital thus far. Our questions are in bold.

Hey Dave! Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. Mind giving us a quick back story on who you are, and how you got involved with Gamers Outreach?

Sure! My name is Dave Anderson, I’ve been working as a legal assistant in Lansing, Michigan for the past 8 years.

I heard about the Gamers Outreach program [Player 2] on Twitter. I didn’t know where it was located, but it sounded like a great opportunity, and Mott Children’s is only about an hour way from where I live. After reading about the program, I thought “I could do that.” I sent an application, heard back a couple months later, and that’s how I got involved in the program.

What do you like to do outside of the volunteer program?

When I’m not at work or anything else, I spend a lot of my time gaming. Lately I’ve been going through my own personal backlog. I’ve recently been playing Just cause 3, The Witcher 3, Diablo, and some other games like that.

How’s life been as a Player 2 volunteer?

The opportunity to give back through the Player 2 program has been very enjoyable. I’m not sure what I expected going into it, but it was nice to enter into an environment as a specific expert on this little field of games. Whenever anyone has any questions – I can usually answer them off the top of my head. I’ve always been fairly knowledgeable on the topic of games and computer systems, so this volunteer opportunity has been a great fit. I had an issue just this past weekend where an Xbox wasn’t connecting to the TV. The staff was thrilled I could just handle it, especially since I have a background in IT support.

Overall, the experience has been great. The biggest hurdle was just learning the procedures for interacting with patients. Becoming a certified volunteer within the hospital was the biggest challenge. It’s not strenuous, but it was a decent undertaking. You have to get your medical history checked out, the hospital runs a background check, takes references, but that wasn’t a deterrent.

Once you’re in the hospital, you have to make sure you’re not bringing anything into the environment that’s going to make them [the patients] sick. You have to make sure you’re conscious of what they’re going through, what signs are on the door, that kind of thing.

Mott patient Reid Van Diepen enjoys an Xbox game in his room. Photo via UMHS.

Was it easy to get used to the role?

Getting comfortable with the role was another great experience. The patients and the parents are both thrilled the Xbox consoles are hooked into the TVs. A lot of them bring games they have from home. The parents are glad to have something they and their kids can do, because they don’t necessarily want to think about why they’re there. I’ve had patients play right through situations where nurses have been taking a look at them, and kids have just continued to game. It’s a great distraction for the kids and the staff have been really accommodating.

In terms of a future commitment, Mott requires volunteers dedicate at least two semesters (5 or 6 months), but I can easily see myself doing this for a much longer period of time.

Are there any stories from your experience you’d like to share thus far? Anything you’ve learned?

A lot of what I’ve learned has just been about the kids. The kids are so happy to have someone around who knows about games and wants to play games with them. They’re so happy to have someone there that they can engage with. Most of the games are two player, so it’s easy to jump in with whatever the kids are doing. When they see you and remember you, they’re just so thrilled. It’s just pleasantly surprising to see their smiles light up.

I had this one patient whose mother was with them. She hadn’t slept for a while, and she was so thankful someone was there to play games with her child. She grabbed a quick nap on the couch while I was there playing games. It was a wonderful thing to be able to help someone with.

I also got to spend a good amount of time with one patient who was really looking forward to the hospital’s Star Wars day (they had the 501st group come in with authentic cosplay costumes). I was playing games with this kid for at least an hour, and then the hospital staff came in with the Star Wars characters. I volunteered to take him down to the play room so he could participate. He was thrilled and happy to see them, but it was also cool seeing something I could relate to, and have the kids relate to it. They had an R2 D2 that was fully functional. It was so awesome seeing another group of people probably with similar interests doing something great for the kids. That was just a random example of how video games connected us all.

What’s the reaction been from the staff you’ve worked with?

The staff have been so happy to have someone around who’s knowledgeable about games. Sometimes the staff defer to me for questions. Last weekend I had one of the child life specialists ask me which games were age-appropriate. We try to provide games to accommodate a range of kids – from younger children to older teenagers. One of the staffers asked “hey I don’t know anything about these games, what types of games are in here?” I was able to run her through what content was in the game so she could make an informed decision when handing titles out to patients. I was basically a subject-matter expert for things within the hospital.

Photo via Dominic Valente | The Ann Arbor News

We know you still have some time to go until the pilot phase is over – but do you think this is something you’d do again in the future?

I will probably continue to do this. I don’t have an end date in mind. It’s been an incredible experience. For the foreseeable future, I’ll be helping out as best I can. I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to give back, especially if you’re familiar with video games. You can be the Player 2 and make sure kids are having a great time in the game. You can follow their character around and make sure they’re having a good time and make sure they’re the hero of the game, whether that’s in Minecraft or Lego games. You’re helping to make sure the kids are enjoying themselves as much as they can in a hospital situation, where they might not have anything else to look forward to.

Thanks for your time, Dave! Best of luck as you continue volunteering!

Thank you guys!

Mr. Dave Anderson himself! Thanks again for hopping on call for the interview, Dave!