Games on Virtual Reality headsets are the newest craze these days. But did you know that these games are also being used to manage anxiety? If you are worried about everyday stress, a new VR game can train you on how to deal with it.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, collaborated with a video game company called Ninja Theory to develop a VR game that coaches the user to focus on their breathing as they get confronted by a scary monster. The goal is to teach people to apply this technique during real-life stressful situations and overcome anxiety.
How does Anxiety treating Game work?
To play this game, the user is bound to the chair and the VR headset is set in place. A heart-rate monitor is linked to their finger, indicating their pulse rate on the dial. The user can see the dial at the upper corner of their vision, through the headset.
The game begins on a boat which is slowly rowing in a quiet lake at sunset. A peaceful voice encourages the user to take slow breaths as the boat gently moves forward. The pulse rate slows down as the user becomes relaxed.
After about five minutes of this, starts the next stage of the game: The Dungeon. The immersive nature of the game transports the player into a prison in a gloomy dungeon. Suddenly, a grey-skinned, blindfolded, bloodthirsty monster appears. The humanoid monster cannot see the player so it hunts by sensing the player’s heartbeat.
Image credits: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian
The Logic is simple: the faster the heartbeat, the easier the hunt. Any change in the heart rate due to anxiety is immediately indicated on the dial which is visible to the player. In case the player is unable to calm down, the monster hunts them down and the game is over. So the only way to survive this mortal danger is by using the calming technique to slow down the heart rate.
Is this Game an alternative to Therapy?
Gamification of this process might motivate people to utilise these techniques more efficiently rather than having to rely on their internal will. Virtual reality makes it possible to completely alter the environment that people are in, which is useful in inducing them to practice calming techniques.
According to Lucie Daniel-Watanabe, the lead scientist of this research, this game might be a resource that people could use to learn some basic techniques in the meantime if they were on a waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy.