Developing a video game to help young people better manage their emotions

“We need healthy, creative and resilient children who know how to maintain wellbeing and can manage stress, judge risks and embrace failure as part of the learning process. It’s essential that we find ways of engaging young people with their technologies in order to do this.”

Charlotte Berry, Assistant Head Teacher, The Billericay School

The Problem

By developing emotional management skills, young people can learn to focus and perform better and protect themselves against more serious mental health problems. However traditional training activities, like meditation and yoga, are seen as boring or irrelevant by this audience.

“When I’m in an argument I don’t feel right, I sometimes feel like I’m in a different planet, on a different world. When I did breathing I’d learnt in the game, I calmed down, came back to earth

Student, 15

The Solution

A video game that respond to players’ emotions and reward those who can master them, created by BfB Labs, a mental-health tech venture set up by Shift.

“Games tap into the most fundamental ways we learn and feel. They are an incredible way of reaching out to young people regardless of nationality and background – and, in as urgent and universal a field as mental health, this promises to equip countless players with a proven tool for transforming their own health and resilience.”

Tom Chatfield, author and technology theorist

So far…

  • 5 trials in schools including an RCT
  • A successful crowdfunding campaign
  • 1200+ early users
  • 4 in 5 trial participants were able to use techniques taught by the game to reduce physiological signs of stress
  • 3 in 4 reported getting better at staying calm and focused within the game.

 

Research

BfB Labs Trial Summary

September 26, 2016

An evaluation report describing the results of the five trials of Shift’s emotionally responsive biofeedback video game, conducted to investigate the effectiveness of the game in training emotional regulation skills through regulated diaphragmatic breathing, as well as measure levels of enjoyment and stickiness.

Building Resilience through Emotionally Responsive Gaming: Findings from a biofeedback video game RCT

September 21, 2016

An evaluation report describing the results of a randomised control trial run with 290 young people in The Billericay School, Essex.

Building Resilience through Emotionally Responsive Gaming: Findings from a biofeedback video game trial at St Angela’s Ursuline School

September 20, 2016

An evaluation report describing a trial with 30 girls at St Angela’s Ursuline secondary School, Newham, East London.

Naomi Stoll and Kathleen Collett

Playing with emotions

December 1, 2015

An evaluation report describing the results of a test of BfB’s biofeedback video game with two primary schools in Hackney, London.

Harnessing the power of games to improve wellbeing

March 18, 2015

An evaluation report describing the results of the first test of Shift’s biofeedback video game, which uses the player’s heart rate to reward players for staying calm under pressure.
Kathleen Collett and Naomi Stoll

 

 

Video games and wellbeing

March 1, 2014

Exploring the role and impact of video games in young people’s lives, and how video games and biofeedback can be combined in wellbeing interventions.
Kathleen Collett and Naomi Stoll

Promoting wellbeing: A practical way to improve public mental health

February 2, 2014

Outlining the scale and impact of mental health, who is most at risk, and the argument for focusing on wellbeing
Kathleen Collett

 

Survey of products and services which promote wellbeing

February 1, 2014

Evidence for interventions to improve wellbeing (mindfulness, gratitudes, awe and optimism) and examples of products and services which facilitate these.
Kathleen Collett and Tayo Medupin

Comment

Technology and Behaviour Change

How do these products and services work? Can they really encourage people to ‘be better’ long-term or do you need to change the system and society in other ways? ‘Who’ decides what’s better anyway? And when does behaviour change become coercion or something more controlling?

Tech for Good TV explore this in their latest podcast, featuring our Research and Evaluation Director Kathleen Collett, supported by Bethnal Green Ventures and Nominet Trust.

View here

@Shift_org

Coverage

Behind the tech of BfB Labs biofeedback card battler Champions of the Shengha
E Sports Pro, August 15th 2017

A game you play with your heart
Eurogamer, August 11th 2017

Champions of the Shengha is a fantasy card battler that relies on your emotions
Pocketgamer, August 8th 2017

Real-Time CCG Champions of the Shengha Comes With Special Hardware
Gameranx, August 2nd 2017

The £40 heart-tracking mobile game designed to be sold in shops
Games Industry Biz, August 8th 2017

Increase your mindfulness with the world’s first emotionally responsive game
Techly, November 18th 2016

Your Ability to Keep Calm Under Pressure Matters in Champions of the Shengha

Game Skinny, October 2016

And breathe: the computer games helping kids relax
The Guardian, October 31st 2016

2017: Best of consumer innovations
Medical News Today, March 13th 2017

Just Breathe While Playing “The Champions of Shengha”
Fox News Radio, December 16th 2016

The power and potential of emotionally responsive gaming
Tom Chattfield, November 18th 2016

This video game rewards players who master their emotions
Mashable, 11 October 2016

Keep calm! We’re testing emotionally responsive gaming.
Sky News, 11th October 2016

Win this game by controlling your stress levels
Gadget Daily, October 2016

Emotionally responsive gaming promotes mindfulness
Springwise, 18 October 2016

Stuff Innovators 2014: Health
Stuff Magazine, 25th October 2014

Charities help fill gaps in children’s mental health services
Guardian, 10 September 2014

A smartphone game to beat the blues
Sunday Express, August 10, 2014

Google just backed some new smart glasses…
Tech Radar, 31 July 2014

British charities to get £3.2m Google windfall
Telegraph, 18 July 2014

How would you change the world with half a million pounds?
Guardian, 18 July, 2014

Partners

c2vAn international research agency with specialisms in gaming and digital research. 2CV assisted in game testing and evaluation, bringing the rigorous games research used by larger game manufacturers to the project.

 

Billericay School, Essex - ­ The initial prototype of the video game was tested with 60 13 year olds at the Billericay School over a six week period.

      google       nesta

Awards

googleimpactFinalist in Google Impact Challenge run by Google.org and Nesta to support UK charities using technology to tackle problems and transform lives around the world.

Do you want to get involved? We'd love to hear from you
Email me - duncan.brown@shiftdesign.org.uk