Presenter Encourages Military Caregivers to Promote Positive Emotions

According to Steve Shenbaum, the root causes of video game addiction aren’t that complicated.

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Steve Shenbaum, founder and president of game on Nation, speaks Monday at the USO Caregivers Conference at Camp Pendleton, Calif. USO photo by Michael Clifton

It seemed like an odd thing to bring up in front of a room full of military caregivers, but Shenbaum was on the way to a powerful point: the lessons we can take from knowing why kids spend hours mashing buttons in front of televisions can be applied successfully major life endeavors like fortifying relationships in times of stress.

Shenbaum is the founder and president of game on Nation, a firm specializing in communication, leadership, character development and media training. He traveled to the USO Caregivers Conference at Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Monday to talk to a room full of spouses, parents and devoted friends who play crucial roles in the care of their wounded, ill and injured loved ones.

His theory is that video games enthrall people because they satisfy four emotional cravings: empowerment, mystery, competition and humor.

“As we interact with people, I think it’s important to show [we care] before we say it,” he said.

Shenbaum spent the rest of his time showing the caregivers in the audience how they could target those four cravings to grow their relationship with their recovering family members by providing interactions where those same emotions were experienced. He engaged in roleplaying with the audience in games like “Expert Speaker” – an fun routine where both participants built confidence through boastful banter – and “Dimmer Switch,” where participants practice ramping their mood up and down to accommodate certain situations.

By the time he finished, Shenbaum had passed on several tips on how to help navigate the stressful caregiver lifestyle.

“As a caregiver, too, a lot of times, you’re the pilot,” he said. “And we don’t want pilots to say ‘I hope we get there.’”

–Story by Eric Brandner, USO Director of Story Development