Played by Sean Rafferty Make a living from video games. He’s neither a developer nor a professional, but his work has always revolved around games: Rafferty is a game technologist. As the name suggests, he uses technology—especially video games—to provide social and emotional support to hospitalized children and their families.
Although the job description may sound like a fantasy, gaming technologists are a reality in over 50 hospitals around the world. These include the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.Rafferty has played dozens of games there since August 2021, from Mario Kart to Tetris to super smash broswith hundreds of children.
Rafferty comes from a healthcare background, so he’s no stranger to educating patients, distracting them, and helping them cope with diagnoses, but gaming also allows him to connect with patients about shared interests.
“It’s a great way to build rapport with them and break down barriers,” Rafferty said.
In addition to building relationships, he has found that playing with (or against!) kids helps them forget they’re in the hospital. It gives them the opportunity to play like their peers.
“They sit, they play Mario Kart,” Rafferty said, “and they didn’t think about how they got stuck in the same room last month. Instead, they’re thinking, ‘I need to get this red shell so I can beat this guy who thinks he’s sexy. ‘”
Being able to provide this relief through play, which both Rafferty and the kids love, is especially rewarding.
just another day in life
The name “gaming technologist” might be a bit of a misnomer, as Rafferty’s day can include everything from bedside gaming sessions to console troubleshooting to consultations with other departments and even donors.
As Rafferty puts it, “I wear a lot of hats.”
Rafferty has three main missions at Lurie. The first is to maintain the hospital’s entertainment technology. This includes game consoles in the playroom area on the hospital’s 20 mobile game vehicles, as well as any technology lent to patients’ individual rooms. He troubles the controller, installs updates, and confirms the appropriateness of the app downloaded to the hospital’s iPad. He also orders new equipment as needed.
These are all tasks to improve the patient’s quality of life. Without dedicated experts, these tasks may also be put on hold.
“Our Child Life team is focused on interacting with patients’ families, providing surgical support and providing education,” said Rafferty.If the game doesn’t work,” they don’t have time to say, ‘Okay, yes Minions Dash up to date? ‘”
Dealing with the burden of technical maintenance is just one of the benefits of being a gaming technologist. There’s also Rafferty’s second assignment to consider, the first: his job requires him to stay abreast of the latest trends in technology and gaming.
Rafferty is not alone in this study. His post is currently being funded for two years by the gaming industry charity Child’s Play. Through this partnership, Rafferty not only receives donated equipment (such as the hospital’s 3D printer), but also has access to a larger community of gaming technologists with whom he exchanges ideas weekly.