Can video games help teenagers deal with depression? That’s the question that a team of researchers and specialists from the University of Auckand is trying to solve. Several years ago, the game SPARX was created with funding from the Ministry of Health to help treat depression in young people. It was designed by Metia Interactive. The research team is led by child and adolescent therapist Sally Merry.
Here’s the trailer:
Its release details are still being finalised but Merry said she would like to make it available through schools, doctors and youth centres as an easily accessible resource for teenagers struggling with depression.
Other options include releasing it on the Internet so it can be played on iPad and Android tablets, as well as developing specialised versions, such as “Rainbow SPARX” for gay youths.
SPARX is described as a self-help computer program for young people with symptoms of depression.
“In order to actively engage young people, SPARX uses a 3D fantasy game environment and a custom-made soundtrack. The programme teaches skills to manage symptoms of depression, in a self-directed learning format,” the games website explains. “Young people learn cognitive behavioural therapy techniques for dealing with symptoms of depression (e.g. dealing with negative thoughts, problem-solving, activity scheduling, and relaxation). It can be used with minimal oversight.”
Players can customize their avatars and journey through seven provinces each with different sets of challenges and puzzles.
Here, the team explains more about how this can be used to help treat depression:
The game’s release is dependent upon funding. The team is hoping to make it available this year.