When Video Games Are More than Just Play: How Multivarious is Healing with a Controller

Multivarious games

Columbus startup wants to make Ohio a video games hub by moving beyond fun

What if video games were more than just fun? What if they could give relief to sick kids, assist with physical therapy or improve the workplace? For Multivarious Games, gaming isn’t just about fun with friends — it’s Ohio’s next big industry and a way to impact thousands of lives. Multivarious, led by CEO and president Chris Volpe, develops games, healthcare solutions and virtual reality experiences, and hosts GDEX, the Midwest’s premier gaming expo each year. As the capability of gaming expands, Volpe sees Multivarious as an industry leader.

“We make our own games, apps and websites, but we also work with larger companies like Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University,” said Volpe. “We’re in a fun space where we are really trying to grow the industry and position Columbus and Ohio as the regional leader for gaming. And we’re breaking the perception of what gaming and gaming technology can be.”

Sure, Multivarious makes video games — they’re working on a new title called No Mercy: For Lorne Hope, a fantasy brawler in which players explore a world on the verge of destruction. But for Volpe, the company’s more exciting work comes outside the realm of traditional gaming. When Multivarious began working with Nationwide Children’s on a cross between play and therapy, Volpe said he knew the company’s scope was about to grow significantly.

“There are obviously games for the entertainment sector — console and PC games — but you can use that technology in any application,” said Volpe. “In healthcare, for instance, this technology is rarely at the forefront. We worked with Nationwide Children’s to create an app that’s basically a game but is really a research and therapy app for kids with muscular dystrophy. Their therapy is painful and monotonous, and they have to do these regimens that hurt and aren’t fun. So, we used motion-tracking technology to measure what they’re doing while they’re interacting with the game. It gives them something fun and exciting, and we’ve been told that a lot of these patients find the game to be the best part of their visit.”

Multivarious doesn’t want to stop with muscular dystrophy patients. Volpe and his team have realized that almost any number of physical therapy treatments could benefit from their experiences. They’ve branched out into other approaches like a painting simulator for patients with upper-body injuries that measures brush strokes while users paint a canvas. And with more people familiar with gaming than ever before, Multivarious is gaining potential users every day.

“Young people get it; they’re growing up with these games and devices, so they get this tech right from the get-go,” said Volpe. “Every year that goes by, more and more people are becoming part of the gaming industry and community. We’re beginning to see the educational infrastructure build up, and I think that’s a direct result of interest in and success of the industry. Where do you see an industry grow by ten times in four or five years? It’s very uncommon. And we’re at the forefront of that growth.”

As that evolution continues, Volpe sees Columbus as the headquarters of the region’s possibilities, with Multivarious leading the charge. The company is no stranger to Columbus resources, and has worked with Ohio State and garnered support from organizations such as NCT Ventures, Rev1 Ventures and LOUD Capital. They’re also walking the walk, launching their own incubator, The Sandbox, focused on gaming companies. With so much already in place, Volpe believes Ohio’s capital is primed for a gaming boom.

“No state really has a claim to the games industry, so I think with the right amount of effort and support and financing, Ohio can be that state,” said Volpe. “If you want to come and be in this industry, then you come to Columbus, Ohio. I see other states and other communities and I don’t think they are anywhere near as together as we are. We have an event like GDEX; we have a lot of major universities and cross-collaboration and we share resources and networks. That stuff just isn’t happening in other states. I think between the tech and education infrastructure, we are doing phenomenally well.”

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