BROWNSBURG, Ind. – A Brownsburg Army veteran is using online gaming to help fellow veterans who are living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brad Rollings is one of the founding members of the Dad Body Cavalry, a non-profit group that’s using video games as a way to bring veterans together for support. Rollings is a combat veteran who has coped with PTSD since leaving military service. He says going back to civilian life years ago felt like losing a big part of his identity.
“Reconnecting with some of my military buddies really helped me with my transition,” Rollings said. “You know, knowing that I could always reach back out to them, that they’ve got me covered.”
Rollings and three other veterans who served together in Iraq get together nightly to play war games like Call of Duty.
“It’s almost like being a kid again,” he said. “I come home, I’m excited because I know my buddies are going to be online.”
Not long ago, Rollings realized the games were more than just a fun way to hang out with his buddies in Kentucky, California and Los Vegas. It had become a form of therapy.
“I have found that it really does help me out,” he said.
Dad Body Cavalry co-founder Chris King agrees that jumping online to play simulated battle games with the group helps his PTSD symptoms.
“My wife will tell you it’s calmed a lot of my aggression,” King said. “I don’t get as angry, because I’ve got an outlet for it.”
Rollings and King say getting online to play Call of Duty means being part of a team and working together to accomplish a mission, using familiar tactics and terminology, and enjoying a camaraderie they once shared while serving together in Iraq.
“It just got to the point where it was like, hey this is pretty cool, it felt amazing,” King said. “Let’s see what we can do.”
Indiana University Associate Professor of Communication Science, John Velez, believes the online games could have benefits similar to immersive VR therapy that is sometimes used for PTSD treatment.
“I can see that working the same way for veterans in the sense that they’re getting themselves back into these kind of experiences, but over time they are learning that they are in a safe environment, they are in control,” Velez said. “Essentially it’s like reclaiming the body for whenever those things occur.”
After realizing the potential benefits of the games, Rollings and his friends decided to invite other veterans to join in their gaming community. That’s when they created the Dad Body Cavalry non-profit group.
“We’ll invite you into our community, you can come, you can play with us,” Rollings said. “You can also find other people on there to play with.”
“We’ve even had some guys that watch and follow that aren’t interested in gaming at all, they just enjoy to jump into the chat, talk with everybody, kinda get that camaraderie,” Rollings said. “They just get in there, they interact, we try to interact back with them, see how their day is going, talk to them.”
“Of course, there are a lot of social benefits of being in a team and working together and knowing that you have people’s back and they have your back,” Velez said.
Gaming sessions are streamed online daily on Facebook, Youtube and Twitch, and any veteran who wishes to join is welcome. Money raised through live streaming is used to purchase and build gaming systems for veterans who are randomly selected from email submissions.
Those winners can then use the new gaming systems to continue playing and interacting with other veterans. The group also accepts online donations for new gaming systems.
“We’ve talked that sometime in the future we might only be able to play with each other one day a week because we’ll be playing with other people from the community,” Rollings said. “And if that day comes, I’ll still be just as happy as I am now because we’ll actually be accomplishing our mission.”