Thursday, April 26, 2012

Video Game Helps Fight Depression

I read this week that a video game created in New Zealand has been used to combat depression in teens. I have to admit, this latest research made me giggle because let’s face it, video games have been blamed for all kinds of evil from laziness to murder. But seriously, this game actually shows some promise.

The game is called “SPARX” which stands for “Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts.” It’s a fantasy game that engages a user to use mental behavior skills to fight depressive thoughts.
The results suggest that the game was actually more effective than traditional forms of talk therapy. Individuals playing SPARX had anxiety and depression levels reduced by 44 percent, compared to a 26 percent reduction among those who received traditional therapy. (MSNBC, Hawkins)
So how does it work?

According to TIME Healthland, the game creates an interactive fantasy world where the avitar (child) faces negative thoughts and tries to destroy them to restore balance in their virtual world. It’s a type of cognitive therapy that works to educate kids that these negative thoughts are not real but a result of their depression. There are multiple levels each tackling different areas of education, one brings information about the illness so hope can be restored, another focus on relaxation techniques and there’s even a level that helps with anger management, appropriately titled the “The Volcano Province”.

So would you ever try a video game as a form of therapy for your child? I have to admit, I’m intrigued. Already my boys use the Wii to exercise, you should see them sweat up a storm playing a dance game, why not have them practice better positive thoughts? One thing I’ve learned from countless hours of my son’s therapy is that any change must be practiced over and over again before it becomes a new behavior. Maybe this game can help with this process while allowing the kids to have fun too? If anything, this research shows that therapy may come in many unexpected forms in the future, maybe this game will make a difference for your child.

As for my son, when I mentioned this game his first question was, “Could we buy it? That sounds fun!”

Hmm... maybe SPARX is on to something.

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Study: Playing a Video Game Helps Teens Beat Depression

Matthew Hawkins
Video Games Can Help Teens Combat Depression, Study Suggests:


  1. Interesting! I know my son would love to try it out.

  2. I wonder if the video game would work for adults? I'd give it a try! Unfortunately right now my son is in a "I won't try anything new to help myself" mode. I don't know if a video game would even intrigue him....maybe so??

  3. I wonder how well it would work with an avid gamer? I think my son would either love it or hate it--depending on how well it was put together as a game. Because I can see it going either way--either being hokey (some therapists created it themselves with no idea of game mechanics) or really engaging and a way to reach some of these kids. I've seen way too many educational games that just don't "get" that fun is first in games when trying to reach game savvy kids.

  4. This is really very interesting, especially since so many people are quick to judge video games and blame them for causing violence in children. A video game that would help ease depression would definitely be a welcome change. I hope it becomes useful to your kids because it would not only be a testament not only to video games, but to your effort in helping your children has a better life as well.