SPARX is a computer game for young people who show signs of depression. It recently won a World Summit Award 2011 in the category of e-Health and Environment, which honors excellence in multimedia and e-Content creation. Forty winners are selected from 100 countries.
(SPARX video game introduction)
SPARX is a self-help computer programme for young people with symptoms of depression. The programme has been developed by a team of specialists in treating adolescent depression from the University of Auckand. The project was led by Associate Professor Sally Merry. Metia Interactive designed the software. Funding has been provided by the Ministry of Health.
In order to actively engage young people, SPARX uses a 3D fantasy game environment and a custom-made soundtrack. The programme teaches skills to manage symptoms of depression, in a self-directed learning format.
Young people learn cognitive behavioural therapy techniques for dealing with symptoms of depression (e.g. dealing with negative thoughts, problem-solving, activity scheduling, and relaxation). It can be used with minimal oversight.
Users are able to customise their avatar and journey to the seven Provinces, each with a unique set of challenges and puzzles.
Science fiction fans show great flexibility of mind when it comes to computers helping people stay on an even keel. Fans of Philip K. Dick of course recall Dr. Smile, the time-sharing computer psychologist from his 1965 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch:
And there in the next room by the sofa sat a familiar suitcase, that of his psychiatrist Dr. Smile.
Barefoot, he padded into the living room, and seated himself by the suitcase; he opened it, clicked switches, and turned on Dr. Smile...
The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile, connected by micro-relay to the computer itself in the basement level of Barney's own conapt building in New York, the Renown 33, tinnily declared, "Ah, Mr. Bayerson." "Mayerson," Barney corrected...