[Skip to Content]
Brad Taylor, a gaming and technology specialist, plays video games with Savannah "Savvy" Spittler, a patient at the Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital. Provided photo
Brad Taylor, a gaming and technology specialist, plays video games with Savannah "Savvy" Spittler, a patient at the Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital. Provided photo

Offering an escape: Video game specialist is part of kids’ care team


There’s no specialized degree that prepared Brad Taylor for his job in Upstate’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. Instead, Taylor’s deep knowledge of video games and gaming, a desire to make personal connections and a daily drive to help as many hospitalized children as time will allow make him the perfect person for the job. 

As the gaming and technology specialist for Golisano, Taylor’s main job is to play video games with young patients as they await blood draws, an IV insertion, surgery or radiation. 

His goal? Normalize the hospital environment, make the patients less afraid, cheer them up, combat their boredom and reduce their pain. 

The outcomes of his work show in happy smiles and giant hugs. 

“One patient said to me, ‘Every time you’re down here is the best time. I am so happy when you come in to play,’” Taylor said. “The job is fun, but hearing that tells me how meaningful it is to patients and families, and how much it impacts them.” 

Taylor started in his role in the fall of 2021, thanks to a grant from Child’s Play, a national nonprofit organization that delivers therapeutic games and technology to pediatric hospitals to improve patients’ lives through the power of play. 

Taylor has long been involved in the local board and video game scene. He also has associate’s degrees in computer science and mechanical technology, and a bachelor’s in business management. He was looking for a job with more personal interaction when he saw the Upstate position posted on Facebook and applied. 

Now, in addition to gaming with patients, Taylor maintains all of the gaming systems and computers and the iPad that child life specialists use with patients in many different ways. He also uses a 3D printer to make items for the specialists to use when explaining procedures such as IV ports, radiation masks and tracheotomy tubes. 

His favorite part of the job is playing games. Every room at Golisano has a PS4, and seven mobile gaming carts feature Xbox and Nintendo Switch games as well as games for mature players. 

Taylor checks the list of patients to see who might appreciate a visit from him. He prioritizes patients who can’t eat due to an upcoming procedure, older teen patients and patients who are there alone. 

“When kids are unable to eat, I prioritize them more,” he said. “I know if I am gaming, I am no longer hungry and sometimes even forget to eat lunch.” 

He says one of the most rewarding parts of the job is making adaptive controllers for patients who have limited use of their hands or arms. Once, Taylor set up a patient with a virtual reality game that was controlled by head movement. 

When he arrives at a patient’s room, he introduces himself and assesses the patient’s demeanor and condition. 

Then he asks if the child wants to play a game with him. Which game to play depends on the situation. If the child is there a short time or is anxious or bored, Taylor will pick a high-action game like Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers. For patients with longer stays, he suggests the longer-term building games like Farming Simulator, which is relaxed and slower paced, or Minecraft, where kids can spend days building. 

“When you’re playing Mario Kart, it distracts you from why you’re here, and maybe it doesn’t feel like you’re in the hospital,” Taylor said. “You don’t feel the pain as much.” 

This article appears in the 2024 Upstate Health magazine, Issue 1.