Gaming My Way to Recovery: A Systematic Scoping Review of Digital Game Interventions for Young People's Mental Health Treatment and Promotion

Manuela Ferrari, Judith Sabetti, Sarah V. McIlwaine, Sahar Fazeli, S. M. Hani Sadati, Jai L. Shah, Suzanne Archie, Katherine M. Boydell, Shalini Lal, Joanna Henderson, Mario Alvarez-Jimenez, Neil Andersson, Jennifer A. Reynolds, Srividya N. Iyer, Rune Kristian Lundedal Nielsen

Publikation: Artikel i tidsskrift og konference artikel i tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Nearly all young people use the internet daily. Many youth with mental health concerns, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, are using this route to seek help, whether through digital mental health treatment, illness prevention tools, or supports for mental wellbeing. Videogames also have wide appeal among young people, including those who receive mental health services. This review identifies the literature on videogame interventions for young people, ages 12-29, and maps the data on game use by those with mental health and substance use problems, focusing on evidence for the capacity of games to support treatment in youth mental health services; how stakeholders are involved in developing or evaluating games; and any potential harms and ethical remedies identified. A systematic scoping review methodology was used to identify and assess relevant studies. A search of multiple databases identified a total of 8,733 articles. They were screened, and 49 studies testing 32 digital games retained. An adapted stepped care model, including four levels, or steps, based on illness manifestation and severity, was used as a conceptual framework for organizing target populations, mental health conditions and corresponding digital games, and study results. The 49 selected studies included: 10 studies (20.4%) on mental health promotion/prevention or education for undiagnosed youth (Step 0: 7 games); 6 studies (12.2%) on at-risk groups or suspected mental problems (Step 1: 5 games); 24 studies (49.0%) on mild to moderate mental conditions (Steps 2-3: 16 games); and 9 studies (18.4%) focused on severe and complex mental conditions (Step 4: 7 games). Two interventions were played by youth at more than one level of illness severity: the SPARX game (Steps 1, 2-3, 4) and Dojo (Steps 2-3 and 4), bringing the total game count to 35 with these repetitions. Findings support the potential integration of digital games in youth services based on study outcomes, user satisfaction, relatively high program retention rates and the potential usefulness of most games for mental health treatment or promotion/prevention. Most studies included stakeholder feedback, and involvement ratings were very high for seven games. Potential harms were not addressed in this body of research. This review provides an important initial repository and evaluation of videogames for use in clinical settings concerned with youth mental health.
TidsskriftFrontiers in Digital Health
StatusUdgivet - 22 apr. 2022


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