Games as Therapy: DeepWell to publish games that benefit mental health

With the world living through the third year of a pandemic, many individuals have faced increasing mental health challenges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health issue or disorder during their lifetime, and The World Health Organization reports that COVID-19 has triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. Entertainment consumption has surged as people seek diversions or escapes, but what if that entertainment could be therapeutic? That’s precisely what Seattle-based DeepWell Digital Therapeutics is aiming to provide through the medium of gaming.

DeepWell was established by industry veteran Mike Wilson (co-founder of indie publisher Devolver Digital) and Ryan Douglas, founder and former CEO of Nextern, an international medical device company. The company also is bolstered by a robust advisory council composed of dozens of gaming and medical experts, including Lorne Lanning, Rami Ismail, Shahid Ahmad, Kate Edwards, and many others.

The company aims to “bring video games and medicine together in a way that neither field has ever truly contemplated before, prioritizing a level of patient engagement that has eluded most of modern medicine.”  Additionally, given the sheer number of games on the market that already may be beneficial, DeepWell will “open the company’s research-driven technologies to assist developers in designing and repurposing games to magnify their innate therapeutic value.”

Mental health treatment is unfortunately not always easily accessible or affordable for everyone, but DeepWell wants to change that by making therapeutic games available to anyone with an internet connection. The first slate of “DTx-enabled” games are scheduled to be released some time in 2023. DeepWell is encouraging game developers to check out the capabilities of its proprietary toolkit now and to get in touch with the firm if they wish to produce therapeutic games.

According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, a large number of gamers could benefit from DeepWell’s mission to foster better mental health. Over half of the US gaming population acknowledges often feeling anxious, while 46% often feel irritated, and 56% habitually hide their feelings. These data points are on par with the general population, so we clearly all could use a helping hand.