BrightMind Labs has combined Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with immersive gaming principles to create MyFriendQuest – a game that teaches children on the autistic spectrum to better recognise and respond to emotions from facial expressions (with a little advice from some of the InGame team).
Founded by experienced child psychologist Dr Yvette Ahmad and CEO Fraser Hurrell, BrightMind Labs is a social venture that seeks to redefine traditional mental health care delivery. They saw gaming as an opportunity to provide CBT in a more efficient manner than face-to-face therapy.
Each aspect of the game, from the colours chosen to the lack of eye contact presented, is designed with a deliberate, clinically sound approach. For example, research suggests that children on the spectrum respond more positively to animation than real faces, structure and patterns and spinning objects. The game is designed so it can be played with parents and neurotypical children too.
A pilot clinical trial, presented at the Royal Australasian College of Psychiatrists conference in May 2010, came up with positive initial results. Participating children had a ‘highly significant’ increase on the Social Responsiveness Scale, with improvement in their socialisation skills at home and school. A ‘significant’ result on the Revised Manifest Anxiety Scale showed a reduction in anxiety attributable to playing MyFriendQuest over the six week trial.