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David Brendel
Posted over 1 year ago
Community Organization and Impact in Online Games
Gary, Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts about games to help with PTSD and TBI, both of which often don't respond adequately to the conventional medical treatments involving psychotropic medications. The medication approach is so passive in many ways -- take a pill and wait to see if it will make things better. Even when the medications help to reduce the severity and intensity of symptoms, something more is necessary. Here is where I find your remarks about "existential sensibilities" and "choice and responsibility" so important and enlightening. The community of clinicians (and many others) serve people with PTSD and TBI best when we engage with them as active co-participants in recovery and wellness, rather than simply treat "patients" was bundles of neurons waiting to be passively modulated by drugs (even though the drugs may be helpful in settling the nervous system enough so that people can assert themselves as individuals with choice and responsibility). The right kind of games invite people to proactively take control of and shape their mental lives. We are in rudimentary phases of developing optimal games for people with neuropsychiatric challenges, but the existential and choice-based philosophy you articulate will help to drive the field forward toward novel, unforeseen options for human community and wellness.
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David Brendel
Posted over 1 year ago
Community Organization and Impact in Online Games
SPARX has been studied primarily by its developers in New Zealand, spearheaded by Sally Merry. It was their impressive results that were published in the British Medical Journal. Part of the core mission of LinkedWellness is to further study and develop SPARX and similar games. There are ongoing studies of SPARX at this time, including a U.S.-based study of the effects of SPARX on functional MRI scans of the brain. We hope that this and future studies like it will enhance the evidence base for SPARX and suggest new directions for developing the game. SPARX will be strictly controlled from the start to avoid trolling and other problems. We believe it will be best for there to be some monitoring of how players are doing clinically, so that they can be referred to other forms of treatment and care if necessary. The efficacy of SPARX has been validated in adolescents with mild to moderate depression, and we need to be cautious in the approach to individuals with severe illness like suicidality and psychosis. It is quite likely, however, that SPARX and other well-designed online games could be a component of the care of people even with more severe depression or other psychiatric conditions.
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David Brendel
Posted over 1 year ago
Community Organization and Impact in Online Games
I approach this topic as a psychiatrist who believes gaming holds huge untapped potential for good in my profession. The online game SPARX has been shown to help depressed adolescents achieve remission at a higher rate than standard, evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The remission rate for the game was 43% versus 26% for face to face CBT. However, we are not yet to the point where there is widespread community acceptance or discussion about the SPARX phenomenon. For the purpose of this discussion about community interactions around online games, I will share some thoughts arising from the SPARX experience. For games like SPARX to have a major societal impact, people must be aware of its existence and benefits. It needs to be part of the therapeutic culture. Up to now, gaming has been denigrated by many who believe kids and many adults spend too much time on games. In many camps, there is a knee-jerk assumption that gaming may be fun but must be bad for the brain and for society. Some academics are working to stand this assumption on its head -- see American Psychologist article on brain benefits of gaming: http://bit.ly/1k2tBVi As more research on gaming becomes available, we could see a "tipping point" toward widespread community discussion on the benefits of well-designed games. Mental health professionals will have to move past old assumptions, professional "ego", and financial/guild concerns to embrace the fact that gaming may serve a role in clinical treatment. Parents and teachers will need to discuss which games kids should be encouraged to play -- not whether they should be playing at all (what a waste of time when gaming is already enshrined as part of their everyday experience"). Kids will talk with their friends about how cool SPARX is and how to win it. Maybe they'll play it together. When community discussion on "therapeutic gaming" is lit on fire, we could see SPARX and other games transform our world and promote mental health.