A 3D fantasy game, called Sparx, could soon act as a counsellor to gloomy teens.
Developed by New Zealand researchers, the game lets players choose an avatar, or character, which can roam around a virtual world, interact with non-playing characters and complete challenges.
AdvertisementAnd the challenges have been carefully based on cognitive behaviour therapies, a common technique used in face-to-face counselling.
Sally Merry, an associate professor of psychology at Auckland University who helped develop the game, said each of its seven levels taught players about a new behaviour therapy.
They could practise the techniques in the Sparx world using mini-games before trying it out in real life.
In one level, the players are taught the technique of swapping negative thoughts for positive ones, by making them zap malignant "gnats" - gloomy, negative automatic thoughts - to transform them into positive "sparks".
A "guide" then encouraged players to try out what they had learnt, said Merry.
"He sets challenges for the young person - he'll say, 'you choose some [techniques] and go and try them out in your real world ... and tell me about it next week,'" Stuff.co.nz quoted Merry as saying.
The game was aimed at young people with mild to moderate depression and the guide prompted players to talk to someone if their mood was worsening or not improving.
A prototype of the game, created by PhD student Karolina Stasiak, was trialled last year.
Merry said the 34 teenagers who took part in the trial liked the game.