Discover Game Jam Mechanisms & Examples

Updated: May 1

As a developer, you’re likely already aware that video games are a powerful form of media uniquely poised to provide mental health benefits.


Rich social interaction. Engagement. Meaning. Accomplishment. Deep focus. Resilience.




These are just some of the positive outcomes gamers report experiencing as a result of playing video games. Playing games reduces isolation, decreases stress and anxiety, alleviates depressive symptoms, helps process loss and trauma, and improves overall quality of life.


Games allow us to try another way–to change how we move, breathe, feel, and think. For DeepWell’s inaugural Mental Health Game Jam, we’re asking teams to focus their effort on these four mechanics. We recommend you use the following information to help guide the ways you implement one or more of these mechanics into your game during the jam.


MOVE

BREATHE

  • Slowed breathing is linked to improved health outcomes because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, a system that helps our body rest. Activation of this system lowers heart rate and improves digestion.

  • Slowed, controlled breathing in multiple forms (targeting a 6 second inhale and exhale), when practiced regularly, can improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

  • A video game could produce these positive health effects by incorporating breathing practices into gameplay, providing the player with feedback to attend to their breath and slow their breathing rate. After playing Android games with paced breathing, players had better breath control and performed better in stressful tasks (Gaming Away Stress: Using Biofeedback Games to Learn Paced Breathing | IEEE Journals & Magazine | IEEE Xplore).

FEEL (I.E., EMOTION REGULATION)

THINK (I.E., COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING)

  • Cognitive restructuring is a primary tenet of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the most well-researched and -validated form of psychotherapy. It aims to help people reframe or change perspectives as a way to replace self-defeating, automatic thoughts with alternative ways of perceiving ideas, events, and situations–ways that are more accurate and healthier.

  • The act of cognitive restructuring requires identifying dysfunctional thinking patterns and then changing them to be more accurate. For example, overgeneralization involves drawing broad conclusions based upon limited information. Countering this way of thinking involves recognizing that one event, or small number of experiences, do not necessarily indicate a pattern or larger truth. This is done by collaboratively examining the evidence for cognitive distortion.

  • Successful cognitive restructuring requires practice. Multiple aspects of this process could be incorporated into narrative games.

  • For more information regarding common cognitive distortions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470241/.