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Study: New Video Game May Help Teens Overcome Depression

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – One video game has teens fighting more than bad guys and monsters.

Sparx, a video game engineered in New Zealand, was developed to help young adults fight depression, TV 10-55s Katie McGee reported.

Like typical video games, Sparx includes missions, explosions and levels of increasing difficulty. But this game is anything but typical.

“Through the story line, we try to demonstrate the principals of cognitive behavioral therapy,” said one game developer.

As players advance through each level of the game, they are introduced to certain coping skills, such as anger management, conflict-resolution, and anxiety-fighting breathing exercises.

Early testing of the game has generated astounding results. Researchers say that 44 percent of teens who played the game regularly had their depression go into remission.

Dr. Igor Galynker, a Psychiatrist at Beth Israel Medical Center, said he believed the video game will be a powerful tool in fighting teen depression.

“It’s very much a step in the right direction,” he said.

Galynker said computer games can provide a sense of control and companionship for those feeling isolated and depressed.

Esther Loor, owner of Local Battles, a gaming center in Fort Lee, N.J., said she wasn’t surprised at the results of the Sparx study. She said the skills players develop in gaming can translate into the real world.

“In a lot of role playing games, you have to make social connections, you have to make sure your health is good, you have to make sure your character is able to kind of overcome these options, and that’s some of life’s themes,” Loor said.

Sparx players agree, attributing feelings of happiness and positively to successful game play.

“You start to feel a lifting like ah, I’m good, I’m getting better,” said one male player.

Despite the positive results, Galynker offered one caveat. While video games can be a great tool, they can never replace human interaction.

But with roughly 80% of depression-struck teens not receiving treatment, the hope is that Sparx, will help those who are too embarrassed to ask for help or who can’t afford traditional therapy overcome their depression.

Would you buy this video game for your teen? Share your comments below.