Games With Hidden Therapeutic Value
Developed by Eric Barone (aka ConcernedApe), players have reported improved depressive symptoms upon playing the game. For instance, a post on Reddit has over a hundred comments, many of which vouching for the therapeutic value of the game.
“It’s been a healing tool for me as well- even my therapist says it’s made a significant impact on my depression and anxiety and she’s thinking of recommending it to some of her other patients who she thinks may be interested. You’ve really made something special!” –Reddit user ashestoApple
Another game that is reported to have effects on depression is Pokémon GO. Twitteruser Hirez David (@uglycatlady) said: “As someone with anxiety/ depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal.” A member of SANE forums said the game motivated her son to leave the room, take walks, and interact with friends, both of which are activities essential to the recovery process.
Unintentionally, these two games have managed to achieve certain goals of psychiatric rehabilitation. Imagine what, then, could be achieved if a game was created for the purpose of rehabilitation?
SPARX – A Game That Combats Depression
SPARX is a self-help intervention based on cognitive behavioural therapy. A study found that SPARX reduced the levels of anxiety and depression of players by one-third.
The game has quests that introduce players to a variety of skills. For example, a quest requires the player to defeat gnats (Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts) that fly towards the player and say negative things. The player has to shoot and sort them according to types of negative thoughts. The gnats then turn into SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts) – glowing white orbs that encourage and compliment the player. Unfortunately, this game is currently only available in New Zealand.
A lot of youths do not have the means to seek professional help. Should a game like SPARX, however, make itself available in Singapore, there would be an easily accessible mental health resource that youths can turn to. Skills learned through SPARX are useful to those who do not have mental illness as well – they could act as a preventive measure against depression by increasing mental resilience. This would be exceptionally important for students who experience bullying in school, which strongly correlates with anxiety and depression.
What is shown in this article is a brief outline of a short paper I wrote (700+/- words), which you can read here if you’d like.