Gaming a useful tool for social connection

After being posted to Darwin, away from his family, Chaplain James Hall would play Xbox games online with his sons to keep in touch.

CAPTIONArmy Chaplain James Hall, of 6th Battalion, the Royal Australia Regiment, in the unit’s social gaming hub at Gallipoli Barracks, with equipment donated by Veteran Gaming Australia. Story and photo by Corporal Michael Rogers.

He saw value in the social aspect of gaming and used it in his chaplaincy work during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep in touch with isolated soldiers.

At 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), he discovered Veteran Gaming Australia, a charity that uses games to bolster the mental health of Defence members and veterans.

Chaplain Hall got in contact to discuss how they could incorporate chaplaincy into the community.

With support from 6RAR, the Veteran Gaming Australia charity set up a gaming hub in the unit with an Xbox, controllers and TV to be used as a social and welfare area.

“I plan to use it in some of my pastoral care sessions, particularly if I find someone is already a keen gamer,” Chaplain Hall said.

“Instead of sitting in my office having a chat with them, I might say ‘hey, let’s go and play Halo for half an hour’, but while we’re playing Halo, we’re going to be talking.”

Chaplain Hall hopes 6RAR can be the blueprint to introduce more hubs around the Army to give soldiers a way to de-stress and socialise.

The idea for Veteran Gaming Australia came to its founder and CEO, Army veteran Sam Harris, while he was recovering from a severe neck injury.

“I was pretty much wheelchair-bound. It took me about a year to learn to walk again, so I couldn’t get to base to be with my mates,” Mr Harris said.

“For the physical recovery, using VR [virtual reality] and a Nintendo Ring Fit helped, but those social connections throughout, just jumping on games with mates, was really good.”

What started as a way to organise games with his mates grew to a community with more than 4200 veterans and serving members that attained charitable status in 2021.

The group holds online social nights, organises tournaments and competes in eSports and simulated racing under the Veteran Gaming Australia banner.

Craftsman Liana Healy, of 9th Field Support Battalion, races for Team VGA, which won the 24-hour Nürburgring race in 2023, and shared virtual tracks with racing legends like Lando Norris and Max Verstappen.

An avid gamer with a lifelong passion for motorsport, including working for some of Australia’s biggest racing teams, it was only natural to combine her two hobbies.

When Craftsman Healy discovered Veteran Gaming Australia from social media posts, she signed up to help out.

“You’re playing with people that know what you’ve been through,” Craftsman Healy said.

“Whether it’s injuries or the stresses of going away for months at a time out field, having to miss out on social events, they understand.”

She has since volunteered a number of times and had Valentino Rossi sign hats at a Bathurst 12-hour for auction, with funds going to Veteran Gaming Australia charity programs.

The charity also helped Craftsman Healy with her Veterans Affairs claims, with a server dedicated to navigating the department’s administration.

They have large table-top and role-playing groups, a 3D-printing community and run miniature printing and painting sessions in hospitals and welfare centres.

Veteran Gaming Australia has provided more than $30,000 in financial support through care packages, and its Air Assault program covers costs for injured or ill members to visit gaming conventions or competitions.

To find out more about Veteran Gaming Australia visit www.veterangamingaustralia.com.au or join the community at www.discord.gg/veterangamingaustralia


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