In the early weeks of the pandemic, Monet Goldman tried different strategies to cope with stress. “I was exercising, I was meditating, I was doing yoga,” says Goldman, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Santa Clara, California. But he didn’t start to feel better until he turned to a familiar pastime: video games. In the bright, immersive world of online gaming, Goldman found solace—and he started to have fun again. As he and his colleagues struggled to connect with clients virtually, he wondered if gaming could help his patients too.
Goldman began training other clinicians to use online gaming in their work, starting with Roblox, a platform with millions of games that’s especially popular with kids ages 5 to 12 in the United States. In a Zoom session with two elementary school boys, Goldman kicked things off by asking the kids to name their favorite Roblox game. At first, “it’s just like radio silence. Everybody has their cameras off,” says Goldman. Eventually, one boy mentioned Brookhaven, a roleplaying game set in a bustling city. Soon the kids were enthusiastically leading each other around the game space, their shyness forgotten.