How Virtual Reality Could Help People With a Fear of Flying

By Cailey Rizzo |

© Inti St Clair/Getty Images

This piece originally appeared on Travel+Leisure.

Fear of flying is a fairly common ailment: The National Institute of Mental Health estimates about 6.5 percent of Americans suffer from it.

Of the approximately 20 million people who fear flying, each has different methods of combatting the phobia. Some branches of psychology recommend stress management techniques, others prefer engagement therapy. And one sufferer just released a virtual reality game to help her onboard flights.

Theresa Duringer is a game developer who also has a fear of flying. She decided to put her talents toward creating a VR game that would distract her from the fact that she was in a plane, flying high through the sky.

Called Ascension VR, the game is an intense card battle, and actually has nothing to do with flying at all. The deck-building game immerses players in a fantasy world where they battle for power. It involves strategy and a fair amount of concentration and can be played by up to four players at a time.

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“I wanted a game that helps me with my problem and enables me to make a lot of decisions fast,” Duringer told Venture Beat. “This is a game that has a lot of strategy. I’ve had the best success playing for a long period of time on a plane.”

Because Duringer’s game simultaneously forces the player to constantly make quick decisions and shut out the outside world, it can be effective as a tool to forget about being in a plane.

However, Duringer says the game is not a 100 percent cure-all from takeoff to landing.

When her flight encountered turbulence, she said that it was more reassuring to take the headset off and focus on the people around her. Duringer will continue experimenting with the game to find more effective strategies for in-flight users.

It may not be a miracle cure-all for all sufferers, but for those looking for in-flight entertainment and distraction, VR could provide a stress-free flight.

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