Here are five games under development or available to consumers on a limited basis, which aim to improve mental health or cognitive skills.
Treasure of Bell Island by Blue Marble Gaming Co.
Many Army veterans use this video game for tablets or computers for rehabilitation after suffering traumatic brain injury or PTSD. Players are part of a treasure-hunting company who seek Bell Island’s secret trove, taking on puzzles and challenges along the way that are designed to improve attention and focus.
Sparx by Sally Merry, University of Auckland in New Zealand
This game is geared toward depressed adolescents and uses avatars to take players through seven fictional provinces. These include the Cave Province, where players seek hopeful thoughts, or the Ice Province, where they learn the benefits of being active.
Elude by the Singapore-MIT GameLab
A game about the experience of depression, in which the player’s surroundings represent various moods. Climbing trees helps players discover new passions, and reaching for birds or grabbing new ideas helps players work toward happiness.
Groundskeeper by CogCubed
This game, meant for teens with depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a Whac-a-mole-style game intended to help diagnose and possibly treat attention and anxiety problems. On 1.5-by-1.5-inch screens, players have to pay attention to a creature appearing and knock it out of the way while keeping track of other distractions.
Personal Investigator by David Coyle, University of Bristol in England
P.I. aims to help adolescents set goals for improving mental health and to get them talking to their doctors about what they want out of clinical visits. The game is meant to be played during therapy sessions.Sanjena Sathian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sasathian.