Rejection Sensitivity (Scroll Quest, Stray and BrightVoid)
Humans have evolved a tendency to reject certain groups of people and develop behaviour to avoid such rejection to occur . Rejection and responses to rejection are part of human nature, but a problem occurs when people are overly sensitive to rejection (even when it's not there) and/or are continuously exposed to rejection. Prolonged stress that follows (perceived) social threat (like rejection) has severe physiological consequences , and can lead to sensitivity to rejection [3-6], which in turn has been linked to many mental health problems [5; 7-9]. Rejection sensitivity is “the disposition to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to rejection” [10, p. 1335]. In this PhD project we are developing games in which adolescents are exposed to rejection to help them overcome their sensitivity to it to prevent further problems to occur. One of these games is ScrollQuest, a multiplayer co-op game in which four players have to work together to defeat monsters and find gold. Other games (Stray and BrightVoid) are being developed by game design students at the Glasgow Caledonian University.
Mental Health Literacy (Moving Stories)
Between 66 and 82% of young people who are experiencing severe symptoms of depression or anxiety don’t seek professional help. The main reasons range from perceived stigma and embarrassment, to a preference for self-reliance and low mental health literacy [11-12]. The game Moving Stories aims to target mental health literacy to increase symptom recognition and improve help-seeking behaviour. At the same time, the game tries to decrease stigma by giving young people more information about mental health problems and bringing them into (digital and physical) contact with someone who has experienced a depression.
The game is based on the Australian Mental Health First Aid training, a programme that was developed to teach adults help-seeking strategies and supportive behaviours to use when they know someone who is suffering from mental health problems. A recent meta-analysis shows that the programme results in a decrease of negative attitudes and an increase of knowledge and supportive behaviours towards others with mental health problems . Recently, the developers of Mental Health First Aid created a version specifically for adolescents (‘teen Mental Health First Aid). A first pilot shows promising results . Moving Stories incorporates the five-point action plan of the training for adolescents and translates specific first aid messages  to actions in the game. Moving Stories is being developed by the game design company IJsfontein in close collaboration with the Trimbos Institute, 113online and the Radboud University Nijmegen.