Digital games prompt users to do simple tasks that research has shown to reduce depression and anxiety. And some are undergoing clinical trials.
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"I love it when video games can manage to connect at an unexpectedly emotional level, and in Ni No Kuni’s case, I certainly wasn’t expecting it to resonate with me this much prior to starting. Indeed, many reviews hint that it hits all the right emotional high-notes through excellent writing, pacing and character growth, yet it’s the game’s indirect commentary on coping with depression that managed to strike a particular chord. These are just a handful of early examples too; the mending of broken hearts remains a constant theme throughout.
At the centre of it all is the bond that I felt with Ollie in particular, a young man that I had initially thought I’d dislike, but instead grew to look up to and admire. We shared something in common, he and I, and although my own depression wasn’t related to a loss, I fully understood him in his strongest and weakest moments. I found common ground in the ways in which we both chose to cope with our own sadness, our acceptance, and our recovery.
It hits me now that, despite dealing with the morose subjects of loss and depression, Level 5 and Studio Ghibli have avoided the tired genre tropes of the internally angry, disengaged loner and created a protagonist that deals with his anguish in far more human and relatable ways. Because of this, Ni Ni Kuni might well be one of the most important and relevant JRPGs in more than a decade."
Josué Cardona's insight:
The writer of this articles discusses how he connected the experiences of the game's main character with his own experiences with depression.
Every year thousands of teenagers suffering from mild to moderate depression don't get the help they need for any of a number of reasons: lack of services and support, isolation from mental health services, the high cost of treatment, or embarrassment. A video game might change that.
Developed by the University of Auckland in partnership with Metia Interactive, SPARX is a fantasy role-playing game designed to teach young people suffering from depression ways they can manage and overcome their condition. The game was proven successful in trials and the results have been published in the British Medical Journal last month.
Diego Pizzagalli spent a good chunk of 10 years at Harvard doing what most professors at elite institutions do: research. Specifically, research on depression. He's fMRI'd and EEG'd a lot of gray matter, but most of his work got stuck in the lab and never evolved into any real-world application. Then he developed something that was too good to let collect dust in the hallowed halls of academia: software that he says could help treat depression.
Now with the help of the Baltimore-based startup incubator Canterbury Road Partners, Pizzagalli is set to turn his lab invention into an app. MoodTune will be a series of simple games that when played regularly, can help treat depression, Pizzagalli and his colleagues say. Turn on the app for 15 minutes a day, play through some games, and maybe it could help. Maybe, they say, in some cases, it'd be all a depressed person would need. Could something that simple actually work?
When MoodTune is out, this is how it'll work: You'll open the app and be directed to a simple game (there are "six or seven" games so far Konig says.) The images you see here are from the prototype, but the final version will probably be similar. Here's the example Pizzagalli gave of a game that could be used for a "workout." A face appears onscreen. The user--or patient, depending on your thoughts about the app--looks at the face as words flash above it: "Happy." "Happy." "Sad." "Happy." The user gets slammed with some serious cognitive dissonance as they try to reconcile the faces and words. After the user is done, he gets a review of his score for the game, as well as his overall progress in treatment.
An exercise like that can cause certain parts of the brain to work overtime, Pizzagalli says. It's enough, he says, to give certain parts of the brain a "tune-up" and enough, apparently, when done for 15 minutes every day, to counteract some of the symptoms of depression.
Empowered by her experience, Keegan wanted to share her "medicine for the mind" with U.S. military service members abroad.
In 2010, she founded the nonprofit Books for Troops, which has collected and mailed many thousands of paperbacks and magazines to service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Keegan formed the program in her garage. It's based on a simple premise: reading material can help ease the loneliness, stress and fear that some service members feel while under duress.
Lt. Bob Smith, a combat medic from New Orleans, told Keegan the comics helped distract him from the problems in Afghanistan and made him think of his childhood and home.
"The collection of comics is just what the doctor ordered," Smith wrote. "If you are able to send more like that, just know my team would be anxious to receive as much as you can send."
But what makes Depression Comix and Hyperbole and a Half different is that they bring the reader up close to the depressed mind and shout, "Hey! This is what it's like in here!" They've put words and pictures behind something that is incredibly difficult to articulate. For folks who have suffered from depression or are currently suffering from depression, the benefit is twofold. First, there is the ever-important sense of kinship, the realization that someone else understands the very thing that you are going through and that you aren't completely alone.
On top of that, these comics can help non-depressed folks who may understand depression at an intellectual level understand it at an emotional one as well. After all, it's easy enough to talk about neurotransmitters and decreased serotonin; it's far more difficult to get at the meat of what makes depression so devastating.