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SPARX: New video game designed to help combat teen depression

A new video game may be the solution to teen depression.

SPARX depressionEnlarge
A screengrab of the SPARX videogame aimed at helping teens overcome depression. (Youtube/YouTube)

A New Zealand team of researchers hopes one teenage habit may actually help combat depression: playing video games.

A gamed called SPARX, designed by Metia Interactive, was created with funding from the Ministry of Health in New Zealand to help treat depression in young people, WebProNews reported.

According to the AFP, the game's final release details are still being set, but adolescent therapist Sally Merry, who led the research team, said she would like to make it available through schools, doctors and youth centers to make it an easily accessible resource for teenagers struggling with depression. Merry told reporters that 75-80 percent of adolescents who suffered depression currently receive no help at all. 

Merry also noted that there may be opportunity to release SPARX and specialized versions of the game such as Rainbow SPARX aimed at gay youth on the Internet so it can be played on iPad and Android tablets.

Merry told Australia's News.com, that the game aims to deal with mental health issues without being too serious. "You can deal with mental health problems in a way that doesn't have to be deadly serious. The therapy doesn't have to be depressing in and of itself. We're aiming to make it fun."

According to News.com, SPARX has seven levels, each lasting 35-40 minutes, or the same as a general counseling session. It is is aimed at 13 - 17-year-olds.

The game introduces players to a guide, or mentor, who helps them through the levels, each of which has a lesson embedded in it teaching skills such as anger management, conflict resolution and breathing relaxation exercises.

SPARX even has a game trailer: 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/120731/sparx-new-video-game-designed-help-combat-teen-depression