Ninja Theory is using gaming to help people with mental health issues

epa07637718 The Xbox logo is shot on stage prior to the beginning of the Microsoft Xbox showcase at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, USA, 09 June 2019. This event happens ahead of the E3 which runs from 11 to 13 June. EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT

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A Microsoft studio is launching a project to use video games, technology and clinical neuroscience to help people with mental health conditions and promote well-being.

Ninja Theory, which was widely praised for making psychosis a key part of its popular title Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, believes that gaming could provide an effective and easy to understand way of helping people manage conditions such as anxiety.

The Insight Project sees the studio work with Paul Fletcher, Psychiatrist and Professor of Health Neuroscience at University of Cambridge, to research the benefits of gaming.

Matt Booty, Head of Microsoft Studios, said: “My hope is that the team at Ninja Theory uses the Insight Project to attract other pioneers in the mental health field and they collaborate on new approaches to developing new treatments. The Insight Project is a great example of the power of games to be a force for good.”

The team behind the project, which is currently at an early stage, are combining technology, design and clinical neuroscience to create prototype games that measure heart rate, breathing and eye gaze. In one game, the player must make a boat travel across a sea.

A higher heart rate will create a storm, the sea will become rougher and the boat will travel slower. By slowing their heart rate, the player makes the water calmer and the boat travels faster.

Another game is linked to a treadmill. The faster a person’s heartbeat, the quicker a piece of music is played, so they have to pace themselves and find ways to regulate their heart rate. By doing this, the music is played at its normal speed.

The hope is to create more story-led stories and challenges in the future.

Rather than deal with specific conditions, The Insight Project will try to help people with their experiences of mental health and the stress that often goes along with it.

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