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.