Gaming2CV POV

Gaming as a force for good

It is a startling and somewhat sobering fact that one in four people will be affected by a mental health disorder at some point in their lives, half of which start by the age of 14.

Gaming as a force for good

Liberating and exciting social media tools like Facebook and WhatsApp are a boon to young people who crave social connectedness and thrive on sociability.  However, these digital technologies can also make being young that bit tougher, as every social faux pas or shortcoming is presented for critique by your peers 24/7. Learning to manage the stress of being a teenager in the 21st C and giving young people the tools to manage their emotions and build emotional resilience is urgently required. 

Young people's love of computer games in all their various guises from Temple Run to FIFA, from Singstar to Grand Theft Auto is often a source of concern for parents and the media.  However, the level of engagement with gaming offers a useful platform through which to communicate these skills.  The idea behind this new game was to help develop a video game that could play a role in training young people in techniques that bring about a more positive state of mind in young gamers. 

Talking Taboos in partnership with We Are What We Do are working with specialist agencies to develop a video game that uses biometrics in play to promote mental health in young people.  It will train players in simple techniques to enhance their mood, focus and general wellbeing: but the focus will be on progress in the game rather than personal development. 

The game uses HRV (heart rate variability) as a key input to accompany progress through the game and includes aspects that engage players in cerebral challenges and tactics.  Improvement in managing HRV will provide advantage in game, but the idea is that by introducing management of HRV to young people they will be able to utilise it in real world, stressful situations to remain clear and focussed, ultimately allowing them to cope better with everyday challenges. 

The game is being developed by a consortium of not for profit organisations, We Are What We Do and the Talking Taboos Foundation, in association with HRV specialists Cardiac Coherence, games designers Playlab London and gaming research specialists, 2CV. 

This concept is now a finalist in the Google Impact Challenge, which supports UK non profits using technology to tackle problems and transform lives around the world. Four of the projects will receive £500,000 along with support from Google.org to make their vision a reality. 

Given 2CV's experience in the interactive entertainment space and our roots in youth research we are providing the consumer insight to develop the game ideas.   Making the game as engaging and playable as the other famous franchises we work on is obviously key as, no matter how worthwhile, video games that focus on promoting mental health at the expense of entertainment aren't going to stir the hearts of teenage gamers. There is an absolute imperative to make the game something that teens want to play, where the heart rate variance seamlessly fits into the gameplay rather than feeling like a cumbersome bolt on. 

Are we finally getting at a point where video games can be seen as a force for good? Let's hope so: if the games are also fun then why not? 

This is a public vote and you can find out more about the competition and vote here:   https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/uk2014/charity/we-are-what-we-do