Despite gaming being one of the more joyous things in life, many researchers believe video games are a primary contributing factor to teenage isolation and depression.
A New Zealand psychiatrist, Sally Merry, is looking to flip the scripts and use gaming as a remedy tool for this gaming-induced depression.
SPARX is the game of choice for the anti-depression programme, which instead of engaging players in mindless destruction (which does sound fun), it instead allows players to blast negative thoughts with fireballs and save the world from a new evil force – pessimism.
Regardless of the bizarre concept, the RPG game has proved popular.
“You can deal with mental health problems in a way that doesn’t have to be deadly serious,” project leader Sally Merry said. “The therapy doesn’t have to be depressing in and of itself. We’re aiming to make it fun.”
And apparently it is fun, with the world constantly changing to be brighter and more vivid as players progress through the game.
“We had to look at the learning objectives and still design it to be a game,” she said.
“That meant keeping the entertainment value, such as interactive 3D environments, puzzles and quests that you’d find in commercial games.”
Speaking of commercial games, a lot of the feedback from the test groups asked for a shooter, instead of SPARX.
“We knew we couldn’t have shooting because of the nature of the game,” she said.
“So instead of having your character going around shooting or killing with machine guns or bombs, we gave the avatar a staff so they could shoot lightning bolts to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. It was about compromise.”
Feeling depressed? Check out the SPARX website.