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Startup tackles mental health through gaming

Words by Smiley Team

Video games have always been postured as escapist fantasies from reality, whether it be the bleak gothic horror of Dark Souls or the bright colors of Mushroom Kingdom.

Now, that escape might have some medical backing to elicit real treatment. 

Research has already shown that video games can help treat ADHD and depression, and in 2020 the FDA approved the first-ever prescription video game, “EndeavorRx.” The problem is that those games start development with treatment in mind and add things to make the games interesting or engaging after the fact. DeepWell Digital Therapeutics is looking to change that.

DeepWell is a new startup founded by Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson who is partnering with medical device expert Ryan Douglas, known for Nextern where he was the founder and CEO. 

“There was an amazing amount of science that had already been done,” Douglas told the Verge. “We started to recognize exactly how therapeutic these games already were.”

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Douglas’s partner, Mike Wilson, has more than a decade of experience in the gaming industry, helping found one of – if not the most influential – indie gaming labels of all time in Devolver Digital. Under him games like Hotline Miami, Inscryption, and Enter the Gungeon have made the rounds as commercial and critical successes and he’s helped publish over 100 more.

With that, DeepWell looks to develop games in house with a project slated for 2023. 

But DeepWell plans on expanding from just game development and wants to help other developers expand their games with therapeutic sensibilities in mind, and even identify games that they think may provide therapeutic value and then promote them. 

All this is is to combat a worsening global mental health, with the CDC saying that 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder in their lifetime and that number is growing. The WHO reported that there was a 13% increase in mental health disorders around the world in the decade preceding 2017.

DeepWell now has more than 40 creators, consultants, scientists, and researchers working on the project.

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: You can keep up with DeepWell on its website.

SUPPORT: You can also support Extra Life, an organization that helps fund children’s medical care with video games.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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