PLAY IT! SAY IT! is simple – we propose to use the existing communication functionalities of video games consoles (voice chat and messaging) to provide phone and online counselling to the people who use them.
The online video game community is larger than the population of Canada, and at least one 1 in 5 people playing have a mental health condition.
Beyond the existing benefits of online and phone counselling, consoles offer universal access points to ensure coverage, and the opportunity to develop rapport while playing simple games to support the sharing of concerns.
We value quality of life.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual's ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide, a tragic fatality associated with the loss of about 850 000 lives every year. 6
This means that every five years the world loses the population of New Zealand to suicide. 7
Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide.
It occurs in persons of all genders, ages, and backgrounds. 8
This is not a problem isolated to developing countries, for example, in Australia and America about one in five people with suffer from a mental health condition – the most common is depression and anxiety. Let's look at how the figures play out among Australian young people aged 12-24. 9
When you look at the number of people who play video games and the number of people who suffer from depression, it’s a 'no brainer': many people who play video games suffer from depression, have a mental health disorder, or are just suffering psychological distress.
Over and above this, some research suggests there is a link between gaming and depression. While some like to claim this link is causal 10, we tend to the view that there’s a non-causal relationship, for example:
An adolescent psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, said that one of the first signs of depression was withdrawal. "Watching TV or sitting in front of the internet is a very clever way to mask depression." 11
There is a range of research about the importance of support to help people through tough times. And that it’s harder for guys to access help than it is for girls. In fact there is a growing body of research in the United States to suggest that men are less likely than women to seek help from health professionals for problems as diverse as depression, substance abuse, physical disabilities and stressful life events. In the UK, previous research has revealed that the principle health related issue facing men is their reluctance to seek access to health services. 12
This group is the same group as the one that is most likely to play video games.
Video games are great – they provide fun, enjoyment and social interaction for millions of people all around the world. This social interaction extends to many families: in the United States, 48% of parents play video games with their children at least weekly. The top reasons for playing include:
In 2008, 88% of Australian households had a device for playing computer games; interestingly the majority of installed game devices were consoles (43%). 2
And many people are tapping in to the online opportunities of video gaming - it’s estimated that there are around 40 million Xbox Live and PlayStation 3 Network accounts around the world. 3
In January 2010 Microsoft announced that between Christmas and New Years Day, Xbox Live experienced its busiest week ever.
One of the real growth opportunities for video games, including consoles, is the aspect of community. When announcing their membership figures, Microsoft said that Xbox Live "is now an active community of over 20 million people".
To capitalise on this they’ve implemented a range of community functions to the Xbox Live experience:
"Nearly 10 million people have logged into Xbox Live's nongaming applications including Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Last.fm, Sky, Canal and Zune."
That’s right, you can access Facebook or Twitter through your Xbox console.
The industry is already massive - and it’s growing. Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move are bringing new dimensions to video game consoles, including full body play and voice recognition. 5
There is little doubt that this will bring new opportunities to make video game consoles even more integrated into our lives and our communities.
Interested in more stats about who plays video games, why they play and just how big the industry is? Check out these links and do your own research – you might be surprised:
Just like Skype and chat functions such as Instant Messaging, you can communicate through your console by sending messages or talking to people. You can even video chat.
There's a lot of flexibility around this too:
You can talk to people while your sitting on the front end screen of the console (the dashboard), watching a movie, listening to music or playing games. You don’t even have to be playing the same game as the other people you’re talking to.
Instead of a phone, you use a headset.
The Xbox even has a little qwerty key pad you can attach to your controller and links to Instant Messaging (IM).
Play It! Say It! is simple. It's about using this functionality to offer the same services of phone and online counselling through video game consoles.
Then, instead of a phone number, you have a friend request – here’s a picture of what a friend list looks like on the Xbox 360.
We already know it will be effective because it gaming consoles are used by many of the same people who are struggling with their mental health – that is, everybody. With a basis of around 40 million people, there’s as much opportunity to make a positive difference as there is in a country the size of Canada.
So, we hope you’re on board with us by this point. But, if you’re not, here’s a couple of other reasons why we think you should support Play It! Say It! -
One of the real problems with people accessing services is knowledge of them; where do I find out about them? With consoles, that problem disappears because everybody accesses the same dashboard that’s controlled by the company that owns the console – one strategically placed message and people will see it every time they’re on the dashboard.
Market coverage is pretty much complete.
The second reason is to do with guys and gender differences. As we talked about before – guys are less likely to seek help for things like depression. By the time they do, the problem is likely to be pretty bad.
If you think this is an idea worth 5 or 10 minutes of your time to share it with friends and have a look at the actions you can take to help make Play It! Say It! a reality on a console near you.
© Elizabeth Ure, Andrew Shaw & Adam Bass 2010 | Contact Us: email@example.com