Background: Digital or video games are played by millions of adolescents and young adults around the world and are one of the technologies used by youths to access mental health services. Youths with mental health problems strongly endorse the use of technologies, including mobile and online platforms, to receive information, support their treatment journeys (eg, decision-making tools), and facilitate recovery. A growing body of literature explores the advantages of playing digital games for improving attention span and memory, managing emotions, promoting behavior change, and supporting treatment for mental illness (eg, anxiety, depression, or posttraumatic stress disorder). The research field has also focused on the negative impact of video games, describing potential harms related to aggression, addiction, and depression. To promote clarity on this matter, there is a great need for knowledge synthesis offering recommendations on how video games can be safely and effectively adopted and integrated into youth mental health services.
Objective: The Gaming My Way to Recovery scoping review project assesses existing evidence on the use of digital game interventions within the context of mental health services for youths (aged 11-29 years) using the stepped care model as the conceptual framework. The research question is as follows: For which youth mental health conditions have digital games been used and what broad objectives (eg, prevention, treatment) have they addressed?
Methods: Using the methodology proposed by Arksey and O'Malley, this scoping review will map the available evidence on the use of digital games for youths between 11 and 29 years old with mental health or substance use problems, or both.
Results: The review will bring together evidence-based knowledge to assist mental health providers and policymakers in evaluating the potential benefits and risks of these interventions. Following funding of the project in September 2018, we completed the search in November 2018, and carried out data screening and stakeholder engagement activities during preparation of the protocol. We will conduct a knowledge synthesis based on specific disorders, treatment level and modality, type of service, population, settings, ethical practices, and user engagement and offer recommendations concerning the integration of video game technologies and programs, future research and practice, and knowledge dissemination.
Conclusions: Digital game interventions employ unique, experiential, and interactive features that potentially improve skills and facilitate learning among players. Digital games may also provide a new treatment platform for youths with mental health conditions. Assessing current knowledge on video game technology and interventions may potentially improve the range of interventions offered by youth mental health services while supporting prevention, intervention, and treatment.
International registered report identifier (irrid): PRR1-10.2196/13834.
Keywords: biomedical technology; mental disorders; mental health; mental health services; video games; virtual reality.
©Manuela Ferrari, Sarah V McIlwaine, Jennifer Ann Reynolds, Suzanne Archie, Katherine Boydell, Shalini Lal, Jai L Shah, Joanna Henderson, Mario Alvarez-Jimenez, Neil Andersson, Jill Boruff, Rune Kristian Lundedal Nielsen, Srividya N Iyer. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (http://www.researchprotocols.org), 24.06.2020.