One thing that anyone who plays videogames can understand, is frustration. Some gamers press on, and sometimes you just have to rage quit. According to Trevor Stricker, co-founder and Vice President of Technology at Mightier, these experiences help build emotional regulation that can benefit people in real-life situations.
In Stricker’s panel, “Playing With Your Emotions: Games That Build Emotional Regulation,” he pointed to the fact that clinical research has suggested that games can be more effective than medication for emotional regulation in children with ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, anxiety, and even those without an official medical diagnosis. A lack of emotional regulation can cause problems for students in academic and social situations, as well as affect their overall health.
The idea behind Mightier’s emotional regulation games is that games can mimic real-to-life stressful situations and be a success, because the stakes are lower. If a task is failed, there is always the opportunity to try again with endless lives.
With Mightier’s “bioresponsive games” kids play games and wear a heart rate monitor. When kids get more excited or frustrated, their pointer moves from the blue zone–a “normal” area–to the red area. Once in the red area, the games get more difficult to play because the screen gets obscured by clutter. In the case of Race the Sun, red and orange creatures begin to fill the screen. In You Must Build a Boat, the slide tiles that show the items that have to be paired in certain ways get covered up. The more excited the player gets, the more their games are obscured. If the player can calm themselves down successfully, the extra clutter begins to disappear until the pointer has moved back to the blue area and the game goes back to normal.
As you may have noticed, the two games mentioned above are already in existence. Mightier partners with game developers and integrates their mechanics into games that kids are likely to be interested. As was discussed at other panels*, it’s important that kids want to play the games that are meant to help them for optimal results.
Stricker then discussed that clinical trials that have been conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School for Mightier’s games. There was a control group that played the regular version of the game as described above, and a placebo group whose games weren’t affected by stress readings. The results, which seemed positive across the board, can be seen in the photo above.
Stricker did admit that there are still some kinks that are being worked with. In an ideal situation, there would have to be a coaching monitor to help establish a routine with a child and to help a game that has to happen on a set schedule remain appealing. Two huge problems to tackle were the general bugginess of the necessary Bluetooth technology and the fact that many parents see videogames and screen time as inherently bad.
Mightier games are currently targeted at kids, but there’s “no reason to think this wouldn’t work for adults as well.” They have also only been tested on single-player games so far, though Stricker seemed extremely enthusiastic about testing out the game mechanics on multiplayer games. He said that this would be a step that would be taken in the future, however.
The Mightier game app and package is currently available here. It includes the app, parent support, the heart rate monitor, and three months of the program and expert support available with no extra charge.
For more information on other events offered at Games For Change, check out its programming schedule and our other related articles below. We were there for all three days, so please continue checking n3rdabl3 for more on Games For Change Festival 2018!