Students at DePaul University in Chicago are creating video games that raise awareness for mental illnesses and other afflictions.
Students at Deep Games Laboratory in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media are working on projects that address bullying, help those with anxiety overcome their fears and teach sickle cell anemia patients ways to stay healthy, The Chicago Tribune reported .
All of the projects involve “the human experience and insight into ourselves,” said associate professor Doris Rusch.
The games are like a self-help book that give people the tools to help themselves, she said.
“But you have to do the work,” she said.
No studies have yet proven that video games are effective treatment on their own, but they can present a new method to reach patients who have mental health afflictions, said Psychiatrist Dr. Nina Vasan of Stanford University.
In one game, called Soteria, players control the actions of a character who suffers from anxiety and must work to overcome the character’s fears. The game teaches patients that avoiding what makes them anxious may be advantageous in the short term, but won’t be the most beneficial in the long term, Vasan said.
The games would ideally be used alongside counseling from a mental health professional, but provide an option that may be less daunting and more accessible, Rusch said.
“The number of people who need mental health help is so much more than we can provide,” she said. “We need to find new tools to help them.”
The laboratory’s games are all available to play for free online, Rusch said. Some are also marketed to organization or mental health professionals, she said.
Vasan noted that like most medications and treatments, there are benefits and risks. Video games can be addictive, she said. The World Health Organization recently recognized video game addiction as Gaming Disorder.