DEEP-VR: A stunning virtual reality game for anxiety and depression (Pt. 5) by Isabela Granic - DEEP-VR screenshot Imagine any of the following situations: Your boss just reamed you out in front of all your co-workers. Youre totally unprepared for the final exam youre just about to take. Its the last day of classes and you really really want to ask out the woman youve adored secretly from your back row seat. Youre about to visit your doctor for biopsyresults Now imagine you could snap your fingers and immediately be transported to a beautiful serene underwater world that responds to your stress with soothing resonance and gently guides you to take those desperately-needed deep breaths. This isDEEP-VR. In the last post in this series I promised to start introducing you to the artists and designers were working closely with to design games for emotional and mental health. These collaborations this constant dialogue between art and science that I wrote about before is what keeps me up at night (in a good way) and has me on a steep creative learningcurve. Participant in a pilot study withDEEP Think of DEEP as virtual scuba diving but with a mind-bendingly beautiful twist: the controller in the game is your own breath. With each inhale you glide upwards and with each exhale downwards. The deeper your breaths the further youre propelled in this gorgeous seascape. As with all great VR experiences talking about them (or writing) and 2D videos dont do the experience justice. But to give you a smalltaste Take a look at this video from EnGadget covering DEEPs expo at Tribeca Film Festival last April 2016. The artists/designers/engineers Owen Harris and Niki Smit (of Monobanda) take you through the story of why DEEP was developed and the uniquely embodied experience it provides (Owen's voice could also serve as the most awesome meditation guide). Near the end they discuss our collaboration. After experiencing an early version of the game I approached Owen and Niki with a proposal to integrate some additional evidence-based anxiety-reduction techniques into DEEP. These techniques include exposure therapy and modeling methods pulled from clinical and behavioural science which we then transformed into game mechanics. These mechanics encourage users (through play not didactic lessons) to practice tolerating managing and eventually overcoming feelings of anxiety and depression. The training happens organically while players follow their curiosity to other-worldly but strangely familiar spaces. As they explore for themselves the nooks and crannies of this underwater playground they also come to understand the crevices of their own emotional landscape. Ultimately the goal is not to use DEEP as a tool to get rid of anxiety and depressive feelings altogether but rather to embolden players to become aware of the ebb and flow of these emotions and ride them through. Eventually after repeated experiences with DEEP we hope players retain the muscle memory of deep diaphragmic breathing and the optimism that they can ride through future stressful experiences. Working on this DEEP VR project is one of the highlights of my career. In addition to Owen and Niki the team includes Andy Mooney (audio genius) and Bryan Duggan (awe-inspiring creature creator) as well as Joanneke Weerdemeester (PhD student) and Marieke van Rooij (Assistant prof). Here we are pictured below at our DEEP retreat inIreland. DEEP team: Andy Niki Bryan me Owen MariekeJoanneke I am so honoured to be on this ride with such talented and committed folks. Theres loads more to tell you about the design development and scientific testing thats being carried out and how close were coming to using games for emotional and mental health impact. I also know there are games already on the commercial market that people play to help them feel less anxious. So I've got a question foryou: What commercial games have you played that have helped you calm down feel more relaxed and helped you overcome anxious feelings? I'll go first (not counting DEEP): Flower by ThatGameCompany. Yourturn Check out previous posts in thisseries: Part 1: Video games for emotional and mentalhealth Part 2: Video games can do better than therapy for anxiety and depression Part 3: Who would want to play a serious game? Part 4: A psychology professor confesses the real reason she studies anxiety: It'spersonal DEEP-VR: A stunning virtual reality game for anxiety and depression (Pt. 5) was originally published in Its Your Turn on Medium where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.