Biofeedback Game

We have been working with social enterprise We Are What We Do to develop a video game to train young people to manage their emotions in stressful situations using breathing techniques. The game measures and interacts with a player’s emotional state, prompting and rewarding them for controlling this through regulated breathing.The video game was a finalist in the Google Impact Challenge, run by Google.org and Nesta to support UK charities using technology to tackle problems and transform lives around the world.

The game aims to address the lack of effective, non-stigmatised preventative solutions for common mental health disorders, half of which start by the age of 14 in the UK and ultimately affect 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives.

Harnessing data from wearable sensors, the game motivates players to stay calm under pressure, by linking their performance and progress to the variability of their heart rate. Through regular play, this fosters habits of self-control and builds emotional resilience, improving wellbeing and helping prevent mental health problems.

After a year of research and consultation, a simple proof of concept that demonstrates the HRV game mechanic in action has been created and can be used to test its effect on wellbeing. A pilot at Billericay School, Essex, is being undertaken in autumn 2014 with 60 12-13 year olds.

Between autumn 2014 and autumn 2015, the prototype game will continue to be developed and tested, with the aims of generating more evidence for its effectiveness, refining the core game mechanic and putting together the ideas and partnerships needed to take it to market.

The project has brought together a range of experts in fields as diverse as behaviour change, psychology, youth work and video game design.

  • We Are What We Do – A social enterprise with ten years experience designing consumer products which address social problems by helping people make better choices. By designing products that meet consumer demand and can become independent, financially sustainable ventures, we aim to give them the best chance of delivering measurable, long-term impact at scale. We Are What We Do lead the research and development of this project.
  • Playlab London – A development studio which specialises in games that produce measurable positive changes. Playlab London is the game development partner and have led the design, development, animation and analytics of the prototype game.
  • 2CV - An international research agency with specialisms in gaming and digital research. 2CV have been involved in game testing and evaluation, bringing the rigorous games research used by larger game manufacturers to the project.
  • Complete Coherence Ltd - A leadership development consultancy which specialises in applying research in neuroscience, physiology and psychology to improve performance in both business and sport. They have brought medical expertise and knowledge of data analytics to the partnership.
  • Billericay School, Essex - The initial prototype of the video game is being tested with 60 13 year olds at the Billericay School over a six week period.