A study from New Zealand has shown that depressed teenagers are responding to playing a video game developed by therapists. The new game, named SPARX, stands for "smart, positive, active, realistic, and x-factor thoughts," and is designed to teach children strategies to fight depression.
According to Time magazine, a study conducted in New Zealand focused on 168 teens who had sought treatment for depression. Half were assigned to play SPARX, while the other half received "traditional treatment," which consisted of one-on-one counseling sessions.
Results showed that approximately 44 percent of those who played SPARX completely recovered from their depression, almost double the amount of those in traditional therapy. Nearly 66 percent in the gaming group showed a 30 percent reduction in symptoms.
The game is designed to help teens focus on getting rid of (or destroying) negative thoughts. Players must complete seven levels of challenges in a fantasy world; they are encouraged to kill creatures representing negative thoughts they may have. Completion of the game coincides with significant healing, researchers showed.
One interesting fact, though, states that while 81 percent of game players told researchers they would recommend the game, 96 percent of those given traditional therapy said they would recommend the therapy.
More and more psychologists and physicians are turning to video games and the Internet in order to help reach younger children. For example, a study conducted with teens suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome showed a greater improvement in those who participated in online therapy.
Sanne Nijhof, lead researcher of the chronic fatigue study, said she believed the success was due to easier access for the youths. They were able to work at their own pace and convenience, rather than working in an unfamiliar environment.
The studies "have added to an increasing evidence base which shows that therapist-aided, internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for many similar disorders," psychologist Peter White told National Public Radio.
The depression study can be found in the latest volume of the British Medical Journal.