There's something about video games that can captivate you for hours, hyper-focused on the screen's bright colors and the speaker's sounds. Alexander Periera grew up on this.
"We always had computers growing up, in a time not everyone had computers in the house," said Periera. "I think it was like, Putt-Putt Goes to the Zoo, Mathblasters. One of those learning-but-not-quite-learning games."
As a teenager, Periera could easily play for five or six hours a day. The times - and games - have changed since then, but virtual reality has always been a part of his reality.
Periera doesn't simply play games at his home. He plays them at San Antonio Children's Methodist Hospital, with some unusual competition: kids.
However, these aren't just kids who like video games. They're kids who, in a way, need them.
"Sometimes, it's the little things, just being fun, making the hospital less scary. Sometimes, it's the bigger things like using VR to distract them from the pain," he explained.
Oftentimes, it's a mix of both.
Jason is one of the kids who regularly games with Periera. He says that when he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his arm about a year ago, he was willing to do anything to avoid a prolonged hospital stay.
"I didn't want to do it," Jason recalled. "I just asked at first if he could just cut my arm of and if he could put a robotic arm...I expected to be just me and my mom chillin' for 5-6 months by ourselves."
Jason's treatment hasn't been easy, but Periera's visits make things a bearable.
"I'd probably be lonely, I'd just be laying in bed sleeping all day," said Jason.
And as Jason and Periera share a laugh in the dimly lit room, it's clear these visits can even make the hospital stay enjoyable.
To kids like Jason, Alexander is a friend and trusted confidant. To doctors, he's the missing link, a look inside the convoluted thoughts of a seriously sick kid.
"I get a lot of those interfaces where a teen doesn't want to talk to the nurses, and I walk in like 'Hey, I got games!'" he explained. "And a lot of the time I'll get a response, some kind of answer from them."
On the surface, these games might seem like a simple, silly way to pass time. But sometimes, a little distraction is exactly what's needed to defeat the toughest challenges we face.