Sparx: 3D Animated Fantasy Game Effective in Treating Depression in Adolescents

A study by Dr Sally Merry, an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiarty at New Zealand’s Auckland University School of Medicine found that a 3D animated fantasy game, called “Sparx,” proved more effective in treating depression in adolescents than face-to-face therapy. A randomized clinical trial showed that the remission rate among adolescents with mild to moderate depression who participated in the clinal trial was 44 percent, compared to 26 percent for therapy as usual.

The game’s remarkable success can be attributed in part to its application of the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the basic idea of which is to change how you feel by changing your thought patterns. The roleplaying game, in which players roam a fantasy world and obliterate “gloomy negative automatic thoughts” (GNATS) in order to achieve a series of goals, helps sufferers of depression replace negative thoughts with positive ones. The game has seven levels, each of which takes half an hour to complete.

Sparx will launch in a couple of months as a cross-platform game built on the Unity 3D gaming engine. Users will be able to play the game online at any time in a Web browser. To do so, they’ll pay a monthly subscription of somewhere between $20 and $30.


Population of focus: Youth

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Date: 2013

Organization: LinkedWellness