Doris C. Rusch - Lessons Learnt from Creating an Anti-Anxiety Game

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<ul><li><p>Lessons Learnt from Creating an Anti-Anxiety Game </p><p>Doris C. Rusch, PhD, DePaul University, Play 4 Change lab @D_Carmen</p></li><li><p>The Problem: 40 Million US adults with </p><p>anxiety disorder</p></li><li><p>we owe it to our children, not to pass on our anxieties.</p></li><li><p>research on the problem</p><p> SME Prof. Reid Wilson </p><p></p><p></p></li><li><p>challenges to treatment</p><p> anxious peoples rigid belief system </p><p> avoidance and resistance of fear </p><p> only seek help when current strategies produce new set of problems</p><p>Wilson, R. (2009): The Art of Persuasion in Anxiety Treatment, In Kerman, M. [ed.], Clinical Pearls of Wisdom: Leading Therapists offer Essential Insights. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. </p></li><li><p>Soterias Goal Initiate perspective shift </p><p> from avoidance &amp; resistance of fear to embracing &amp; wanting it </p><p> Leverage the embodied experience of games </p><p> Design structured after recursive learning model</p></li><li><p>Embodied Experience = </p><p>learning through acting upon the world and experiencing consequences of actions 1st hand </p><p>(Gee)</p></li><li><p>Recursive learning</p><p>Mitgutsch &amp; Weise</p></li><li><p>Soteria is designed to disappoint old beliefs through embodied experience in order to facilitate a perspective shift</p></li><li><p>Not a CURE!</p><p>Soteria is comparable to self help books. The principles are sound and based on decades of successful psychotherapy. But the game can only get you this far. You have to apply its strategies to real life yourself. Its not a What you do is what you get kinda game - it targets belief systems; it doesnt train behavior. </p></li><li><p>Soteria - development context &amp; approach</p><p> DPU Play for Change lab </p><p> 4 months concept phase </p><p> 14 months development </p><p> $12.000 funding </p><p> students, alumni, professionals, SMEs </p><p> poetry meets purpose</p></li><li><p>Design Challenges1. Game models anxieties in a general sense </p><p>2. Game overcomes players resistance to the theme </p><p>1. not preachy! </p><p>3. Overcoming fears must be non-trivial </p><p>4. Promoting reflection and insight to facilitate transfer to real life</p></li><li><p> </p><p>view Soteria video here</p><p></p></li><li><p>1. Modeling Anxiety in a general sense: metaphorical approach</p><p>To model the essence of anxiety disorder, rather than depicting specific surface manifestations of it, we decided to take a metaphorical approach to the design. According to our subject matter expert, Reid Wilson, treating anxiety disorders has little to do with the content of a particular fear (e.g. germs, flying, social judgment.) It is about targeting the motivations behind anxiety patients actions: namely to AVOID and REJECT FEAR.</p><p>These motivations are the INVISIBLE FORCE underlying all anxiety disorders. They are also abstract. We can only see their symptoms, e.g. carefully avoiding the cracks between two cobblestones, not flying. </p><p>Metaphors are excellent tools to make the abstract concrete. They allow us to get an inside view. </p><p>What is GOING ON UNDERNEATH THE SURFACE?</p></li><li><p>2. Overcoming Resistance: Metaphors =Magic Door</p><p> counter resistance to a difficult theme &amp; learning something new </p><p> tapping into fantasy </p><p> stimulating curiosity </p><p> (inspired by: Ruben Farrus, Vander Caballero, Jesse Schell)</p></li><li><p>Soterias core metaphors</p><p>gameworld = Anas inner world = harbor town</p><p>harbor town = infested by Shadows = fears</p><p>harbor town = worships Soteria = goddess of safety</p><p>Goal: claim your dreams from Oicys = disorder</p><p>Conflict: Oicys minions, the Shadows</p></li><li><p>Soterias servants = aspects of Anas anxious self</p><p>the town is empty except for a few other characters - Soterias servants - aspects of Anas anxious self. They bestow protective items upon Ana: the Soteria token to beam out of danger, a flash bang to stun shadows, a compass and a Phobos suit.</p></li><li><p>OMalley the cat = Therapist</p><p>The only other character in Soteria is the alley cat OMalley, whose sarcasm is only surpassed by his mangy appearance. OMalley is the counter-voice to Soterias servants. To reinforce the recursive learning process, he is designed to raise suspicion and resistance. He pushes you out of your comfort zone, but you are not ready. It makes sense to doubt his trustworthiness at this point.</p></li><li><p>Soterias metaphors, cont. 3 districts representing 3 salient (general) </p><p>aspects of anxiety </p><p> music district: fear of self-expression </p><p> theatre district: fear of judgement </p><p> observatory: fear of uncertainty </p><p> Each district features one anxiety challenge location</p></li><li><p>Music store: Fear of self-expression</p></li><li><p>Puppet theatre: fear of judgement</p></li><li><p>Observatory: Fear of Uncertainty</p></li><li><p>metaphorical core mechanics</p><p> mechanics model Anas relation to fear </p><p> Part 1: stealth gameplay = avoidance </p><p> Part 2: safety at the cost of agency through Phobos Suit </p><p> Part 3: provoke and linger through the fear</p></li><li><p>3. From fearful to fierce - </p><p>the role of Game Structure to make fighting fears mean something, and leverage recursive learning</p></li><li><p>modeling the journey, not just the solution</p><p> Part 1: models perceived reality of anxiety patient </p><p> Shadows = insurmountable </p><p> Increased desire for safety / protection</p></li><li><p>modeling the journey, not just the solution</p><p> Part 2: impasse </p><p> increase safety measures through Phobos Suit </p><p> safe &amp; stuck </p><p> disappointment as basis for new learning</p></li><li><p>modeling the journey, not just the solution</p><p> Part 3: New Strategy! </p><p> linger &amp; provoke </p><p> emotional challenge </p><p> work through it, move towards the fear </p><p> gain key to recovery </p><p> face Oicys </p><p> claim dreams</p></li><li><p>4. Speaking the Mind </p><p>the role of Voice Over to promote insight, reflection and real-life transfer</p></li><li><p> Anas VO: intended to convey her inner conflict </p><p> Dialogue with Soterias servants: intended to reinforce Anas doubts </p><p> Dialogue with OMalley: clarifying metaphors and reflection prompt </p><p> What do you think happened? 35 pages of dialogue</p><p>rewritten several times to make Ana seem more hesitant in the beginning </p><p>Dialogues with OMalley to talk through the individual stages of the game</p></li><li><p>Summary Soteria allows players to experience the ineffectiveness of common </p><p>anxiety strategies </p><p> by way of disappointing these strategies, it prepares the ground for new learning </p><p> it uses metaphors to capture the essence of anxiety and to present a mystery that incentivizes continued play </p><p> the game works: you cant win, without understanding the message / new strategies </p><p> its not a cure: players still need to do the work in real life </p><p> AND: making = more effective than playing</p></li><li><p>Outlook: Soteria goes</p></li><li><p>thanks, questions? </p><p> </p><p>@D_Carmen </p><p> </p><p>mailto:drusch1@cdm.depaul.edu</p></li></ul>