Students at University of Utah create therapeutic video games

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News)- Students at the University of Utah’s Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab (The GApp Lab) say a video game they created can help elderly patients with depression.

The game, called “Neurogrow”, will be on display during the university’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering program event called “EAE Play” on Friday, Dec. 7th 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the EAE Master Games Studio, Building 72 located at 332 South 1400 East.

Studies show that elderly patients suffering from depression can experience a decline in memory function and inhibition control. As a result, their response to treatment with medication and therapy can begin to deteriorate.

“Neurogrow” is a unique game for Android tablets that can teach these patients how to control and adapt to changing conditions to help maintain their memory and exercise better control in decision making.

Players do things like water flowers with a watering can where they are asked to only water certain colored plants. Every level the tasks get more complicated.

“After just four weeks of playing this type of game as part of a treatment regimen, patients who had not responded to antidepressants saw decreased depression rates and improved cognitive functions in roughly a third of the time it would normally take to respond to medications,” said GApp project manager Greg Bayles.

In addition to therapeutic games like “Neurogrow,” EAE will demo more than 40 student games currently under development by this year’s crop of students. These include games from graduate students as well as undergraduate senior capstone projects.

Some of the titles under development that will be on display include:

“VOLTA” — An augmented-reality game where players manage and direct a fleet of self-driving cars in order to beat out rival rideshare companies.

“Split” — A puzzle game where the character is split into three separate bodies: skin, skeleton and muscle. Each body has unique abilities, and each can assist the other to solve puzzles.

“Opulent” — A virtual reality escape game where things are not always as they seem.

“The Night Shift” — A virtual reality game about a murder. Only the player isn’t charged with solving the homicide but to clean up the crime scene.

“Archipelago” — A series of islands are dying and it is the player’s job to restore them to their natural beauty. As you wander through a maze of tropical jungle, interact with the atmosphere to enliven color, the wildlife, and find your way home.

“Pandascape” — A story of a panda which tries to run away from the zoo to its natural habitat. Zookeepers and obstacles try to stop the animal, and it’s the player’s responsibility to either let the panda reach its home or get caught by the zookeepers.

“The students are very excited to share their games with the public and see what can be improved in each one to make them highly successful,” says U School of Computing professor Robert Kessler, who is EAE’s founder and director. “This is an important part of the process — to observe the public playing their games and use that information to turn them into award-winning games.”

To see a list of many of the game demos on display during “EAE Play,” go to: https://games.utah.edu/blog/eae-play-games/.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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