Gamification of therapy or gaming for good

“Up to a quarter of young people will have experienced a depressive disorder by the age of 19…However, fewer than a fifth of young people with depressive disorder receive treatment, partly because of shortages in the workforce.”

This quote is taken from a BMJ review of a 3D fantasy game environment, SPARX. It has been developed in New Zealand to help adolescents with mild to moderate depression who would otherwise be referred to traditional cognitive treatments and is in fact based on CBT.  A simplistic definition of CBT is this: it works on the premise of identifying negative thoughts, recognising that they are just thoughts or repetitive thought cycles and thereby dealing with them, instead of letting the depression cycle downwards.

The game provides fantasy spaces where the players combat and destroy game elements that represent typical thoughts.

And according to the BMJ review and research, it works. The results are equal to or better than the results from traditional treatment methods. Around 44% of those who played SPARX recovered completely from depression, compared with 26% of those in regular treatment.

I love gaming and though I’m not recommending  World of Warcraft as a therapeutic environment for the depressed (the pleasure of zapping demons aside) there is something powerful that role-playing games achieve in placing you in a different “brain-space”. It can create a space in which to explore adventure and imagination so why not a safe space to engage in therapeutic activity.

It will be interesting to see if the story is widely picked up on in the media. It’s much juicier to say that a boy killed his friends because he’d been playing Grand Theft Auto than it is to say that a young depressed girl was prevented from self-harming or anorexia through playing a fantasy role-playing game.
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One thought on “Gamification of therapy or gaming for good”

  1. Hello, I think your website might be having browser compatibility
    issues. When I look at your website in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, great blog!

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