Gaming My Way to Recovery: A Systematic Scoping Review of Digital Game Interventions for Young People’s Mental Health Treatment and Promotion
Ferrari M, Sabetti J, McIlwaine SV, Fazeli S, Sadati SMH, Shah JL, Archie S, Boydell KM, Lal S, Henderson J, Alvarez-Jimenez M, Andersson N, Nielsen RKL, Reynolds JA and Iyer SN (2022) Gaming My Way to Recovery: A Systematic Scoping Review of Digital Game Interventions for Young People’s Mental Health Treatment and Promotion. Front. Digit. Health 4:814248. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2022.814248
This review summarized literature on video game interventions for young people (ages 12-29) and mapped the evidence for game use to support mental health and substance use treatment for youth people, how stakeholders were involved in program development, and potential harms or ethical issues. Forty-nine studies testing 32 digital games were identified. An adapted stepped care model based on illness manifestation and severity was used as a conceptual framework for organizing target populations, mental health outcome, video games, and study results. Ten studies (20%) targeted mental health prevention or education for undiagnosed youth (Step 0), 6 studies (12%) targeted at-risk groups or suspected mental health problems (Step 1), 24 studies (49%) targeted mild to moderate conditions (Steps 2-3), and 9 studies (18%) targeted severe and complex conditions (Step 4). The majority (66%) of studies targeted youth (19 years or younger) , as opposed to young adults. 11 of the games made clear efforts to promote equity and inclusiveness in focusing on minority youth and low-resource settings. Eleven studies were mixed method or qualitative studies. Two-thirds of quantitative studies (N=38) reported significant improvement on at least one key mental health outcome. The review also found evidence of high user satisfaction and program adherence. There were a range of identified issues such as limited game elements, storylines, lack of personalization or cultural fit, and lack of therapist support. Most studies included stakeholder feedback in developing and evaluating videogames. Results indicated the need for greater attention to participation of young end-users in game development to improve engagement, and to eliciting participation by service providers and family to promote the integration of games as standard tools for mental health treatment for youth.