Developing Games for Mental Health: A Primer

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The development of digital technologies is rapidly providing mental health researchers and clinicians with innovative means of communication, assessment, and intervention. Video games provide an important new platform for the delivery of mental health assessments and effective interventions. However, researchers and clinicians wishing to make use of this new platform may find themselves overwhelmed by the unfamiliar terminology, processes, and logic employed by game developers. This article provides mental health researchers and practitioners with an overview of current trends in games for mental health, an introduction to games development theory and terminology, and a concise guide to the game development process from a researcher and practitioner perspective. Factors requiring consideration prior to the commencement of game development are highlighted, and a checklist to guide games development for mental health is presented. Potential issues specific to mental health research and practice in this area are also discussed. In light of current trends in video game play, adoption, and acceptance, researchers and mental health practitioners are strongly encouraged to explore the games development process and to become familiar with the field’s language and philosophy. Further development of empirically supported game-based mental health assessments and interventions is likely to help promote mental health research and practice into the ever expanding digital world.

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