People fall in love with fictional characters all the time, in movies, books, and even games. In this session, entitled “Building Empathetic Games for Healthy Outcomes”, Mirriam Verburg and Elysse Zarek of Bloom Digital Media and Michelle Hamilton-Page of Centre for Addiction and Mental Health discussed the potential to use gaming to help improve mental and physical health outcomes.
One of the case studies they talked about was a new game called LongStory, an episodic dating adventure that triggers empathy as characters navigate the twists and turns of their teen years. While LongStory is fictional, it’s based on real stories of teens as they struggle to address complicated issues from mental illness and social anxiety to bullying and just fitting in.
This got me thinking about how we can use the empathy that happens quite naturally in games to further things like health education and overall wellness. What would happen if a player’s favorite character acquired a serious disease? Would the player develop an even stronger bond with that character? Would that empathy extend to those in the real world who are afflicted with that same disease? Would this emotional empathy encourage gamers to learn more about a disease? And ultimately, can fictional yet realistic situations help us manage our own lives?
Watch this video and delve into the world of gaming—from a healthy perspective.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Empathy in interactive games can be a real-life character builder.