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Rochester Institute of Technology – Henrietta, New York

Therapy and Video Games

RIT and St. John Fisher team up to create therapeutic game

RIT and St. John Fisher College have teamed up to develop a computer game that enhances the experience of therapy for young people with anxiety. Team members include, back to front and from left to right, Dr. Laurence Sugarman, Robert Rice, Kenneth Stewart, Stephen Jacobs, John McDonald and Ivy Ngo.

Researchers say tuition and pressure to achieve top grades are just a few of the reasons that today’s young people suffer from increased anxiety and seek therapy.

In order to enhance the experience of therapy, a team of students and faculty from Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College is designing and building a groundbreaking computer game to help young people improve their everyday skills in self-control.

“The use of physiological controllers in a personalized game platform allows us to help our patients help themselves in a new way,” says Dr. Laurence Sugarman, director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-Regulation in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology.

RIT game design and development students Ivy Ngo, Kenneth Stewart and John McDonald will work under the supervision of Sugarman; Stephen Jacobs, associate professor of RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media; and Robert Rice, assistant professor at St. John Fisher College’s Mental Health Counseling Program.

The game starts with assessments that help the players learn about and describe their anxieties and repetitive behavior by turning the players into game characters. Using physiological sensors that are built into the game hardware, players then learn how to monitor the physiological manifestations of anxiety and stress, or what is commonly called their fight or flight response. Finally, the players use those same sensors as controllers to move themselves through the game by monitoring and controlling their characters and the stress responses they represent.

“The game was inspired by clients and will involve client input and feedback throughout the development process,” says Rice.


From America’s Best Kept College Secrets

“RIT offers a zillion clubs and activities, a full slate of varsity and intramural sports, and a very active social scene.  Club level sports are widely supported; the school’s roller hockey club, for example, went all the way to a national championship.  Of the many extra-curricular activities, two of the most highly reputed are the active theater program and the excellent weekly magazine.

There’s no football at RIT, but the Division I hockey team is powerful and its fans are zealous in their support.  The ice arena is famous/infamous for the Corner Crew, a loud and determinedly obnoxious cadre of Tiger hockey fans.  School spirit is at its highest during the hockey season, and the place rocks when the Tigers are skating….”

Find the full profile of R.I.T. in America’s Best Kept College Secrets.

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