While gamers have been using video games to combat stress and anxiety for decades, mental health professionals are only just beginning to see the benefits (and potential drawbacks) of interactive entertainment on our physiological well-being.


The world is getting more and more stressful every day, especially for the college student. With the rising cost of tuition, the disappearance of student loan opportunities, and the most competitive job market we've seen in ages, it's a wonder college students don't spontaneously explode into a fine red mist on a regular basis.

With that in mind, a team of students and faculty from Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College are developing a video game that utilizes biofeedback technology (generously provided by Mind Media B.V.) to help students combat anxiety by developing their everyday self-control skills.

"The use of physiological controllers in a personalized game platform allows us to help our patients help themselves in a new way," says Dr. Laurence Sugarman, director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-Regulation in RIT's College of Health Sciences and Technology.

Subjects using this game will begin by undergoing a series of assessments that helps lay out their anxieties and repetitive behavior, turning them into game characters in the process. Then, using the biofeedback technology built into the proprietary game platform, players will learn how to combat the physiological manifestations of their stress and anxiety. While they play the game, their therapists will be able to collect helpful data useful in treatment, making the project a double anxiety whammy of sorts. Sugarman says games involving physiological health are newly emerging, yet none combines aspects of assessment, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback in a creative and customizable setting. This game allows a unique extension of the therapist's role that provides a fun, engaging platform for therapeutic change, while collecting data on psychophysiological change. The team is looking to have the game in clinical trials by the fall, before sending it out into the wide stressful world to find its own way. I hope the anxiety of it all doesn't prove too much.

Game-Changing Project Combines Anxiety Therapy and Video Games [RIT University News]


You can contact Michael Fahey, the author of this post, at fahey@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

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