Is Digital Gaming a Future Platform for Treatments?


University of Turku, Department of Psychiatry, Turku, Finland


New technologies, such as use of Internet and gaming, have been mostly viewed from the perspective of harmful use. It has been found that harmful use of the Internet is a global phenomenon and fairly common among adolescents and young adults. One of the main reason for problematic use has been gaming on the Internet. Recently, applications have been developed for monitoring progress in treatment, also virtual games have been devised for treatment purposes and videogames originally created for entertainment purposes have been studied as methods of treatment in psychiatric and brain disorders. In New Zealand a virtual game for treating adolescent depression based on cognitive behavioral methods was studied in a randomized controlled trial. The researchers found that the SPARX was an effective method in treating adolescent depression in primary care. Likewise, Super Mario was found to induce structural brain plasticity and gray matter changes implying that an entertainment-focused game might be used in treatment of e.g. PTSD. Additionally, a driving game has been found to attenuate cognitive decline in elders. So far the evidence is scarce and the number of studies small and more research is needed on the subject. Anyhow, it seems feasible to translate traditional evidence-based treatments into gaming formats for therapeutic change.