Facing the Challenge Together: a Social Game for Emotional Resilience

Project Lead Category Project status
Anouk Poppelaars Resilience Preparation

Our research aims to transform young people’s mental health by developing and testing a social game for resiliency when facing stress events. Working in collaboration with the Award winning studio Aardman Animations, we want to harness the important mental health implications of both social support and mindsets, to develop a fun and engaging intervention.

Project team


Internalizing mental health problems (including loneliness, depression and anxiety) affect alarming numbers of young people, leading to substantial disease burden worldwide. Developmental theories suggest maladaptive stress responding is at the core of rapidly rising prevalence rates, with evidence showing that repeated or chronic exposure to stress can initiate biological, cognitive and behavioural processes that increase risk for both the onset and maintenance of mental health problems. Our research aims to transform young people’s mental health by developing and testing a video game intervention for resilient stress responding.

 In particular, we aim to capitalize on the moderating role of social support on stress responding. Research has emphasised that social support buffers the effects of adaptive and maladaptive stress on health. Importantly, interdependent target mechanisms through which social support, stress responding and mental health can be linked include perceiving, receiving and providing support. Whereas multiple studies have confirmed both receiving and providing support attenuate stress responding, perceiving support (i.e., one’s appraisal of the adequacy and availability of their support network) is expected to be most crucial of all. This because the Social Baseline Theory posits that humans are adapted to social environments and therefore our baseline or default context is one where social support is expected to be proximal. Perceptions of support falling short of baselines induces a downward shift in the perception of personal bioenergetic resources. As a result, stress events are more readily appraised as threats and accompanied by maladaptive physiological and behavioural responding. In contrast, adequate levels  of perceived support increases one’s perceived capabilities to cope with stress events, and promotes resilient responding.

Moreover, besides building up social support, we belief the actual practice of facing in-game stressors head on and learning to overcome them may feed into young people’s growth mindset (i.e., the core belief that personal attributes are not fixed, but instead can develop through dedication, flexible strategies, and help of others). In a similar vein to social support, studies suggest benefits of having a growth mindset, suggesting among others that it can motivate young people to embrace and master challenging situations.

 In sum, our research aims to harness the important mental health implications of both social support and mindsets, to develop a novel, virtual intervention benefit stress responding.


All publications

Project team

Anouk Poppelaars title=
Anouk Poppelaars

PhD candidate interested in using social regulation of emotion and multidisciplinary game design to promote mental health in youth. Disheveled multi-tasker and provider of snacks.




E-mail Anouk

Maaike Verhagen title=
Maaike Verhagen

Assistant Professor within the Developmental Psychopathology group of the Behavioural Science Institute


Assistant Professor


E-mail Maaike

Isabela Granic title=
Isabela Granic
Director of GEMH Lab

Professor and Chair of the Developmental Psychopathology department in the Behavioural Science Institute; writer; voracious podcast consumer; mother of two upstanding little gamers


Professor at McMaster's University


E-mail Isabela

Ken Koontz title=
Ken Koontz
Creative Director of GEMH Lab

Game designer, artist, producer, anime enthusiast and lover of games. I bring diversity, design experience and the NOISE!!!!


Founder of Koontz Interactive


E-mail Ken

Want to keep up-to-date with our research?