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Improving health training through gaming

  • 29 Sep 16
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  • Jemima Dunlop
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hero first session

Bachelor of Games Development students and lecturers from SAE’s Brisbane campus have teamed up with University of Queensland (UQ) researchers to create serious games that are helping psychologists transition from the classroom to consulting room.

SAE games lecturer and technology innovator, Dr Ralf Muhlberger, said a key focus of the serious games component of the Bachelor of Games Development was to get students thinking about ways to improve health and wellbeing through gaming.

Enter UQ’s Master of Psychology (MPsych) program, which engaged SAE games students to develop new ways to help psychology master’s students by creating virtual mental health environments and clients.

Ten students were involved in the project, including seven games students and three from audio, design and animation. The team spent over three months conceptualising, designing and programming engaging and interactive games that teach key therapeutic skills to provisional psychologists who are working with mental health clients for the first time.

“It’s all about learning through play,” Dr Muhlberger said.

“There’s plenty of talk about the negative effects of playing video games, but less about the positive things that can be achieved. All the research tells us that information is better understood and retained if taught in a fun way.

“Our students developed games specifically for psychology masters students who had just completed a four-year degree and were about to start treating real patients under stressful situations as a relative novice.

“The games were designed to help the students with real-life training before they start to see patients. The training games focused on the foundation skills they learnt at University by simulating real-world situations.”

UQ School of Psychology Placements Manager for the MPsych program and Psychologist, Gillian McGregor, said the serious games project was already kicking goals, identifying new ways to help students share and retain information, learn new skills and build confidence once they’ve left university.

“There are a number of key skills that these students need to acquire before being deemed ready to work with actual clients,” she said.

“Typically, these are taught in a blitz orientation week, and students are inundated with information. Experience tells us that they struggle to retain information during this time and need more opportunities to practice their skills before working with clients.

“With new gaming technology designed by the SAE students, our psychologists will be able to test their skills on virtual clients – and ultimately build confidence in their capacity to assess mental health conditions.”

After presenting the SAE training games to the UQ psychology department for testing and feedback, five were selected for clinical trial and two are progressing to commercialisation.

First sesssion game by SAE Institute graduate Ben Lovegrove

Photo: Screenshot of First Session in action

Games graduate Ben Lovegrove, 25, who developed one of the games selected by UQ - First Session - said his focus was to help trainee psychologists simplify conversations, view feedback from peers and build confidence in diagnosing clients. Testament to its potential as an interactive tool for psychologists, First Session was recently selected as a finalist in the 2016 Serious Games Showcase at the Australasian Simulation Congress.

The Australian newspaper recently published a story on SAE and UQ's collaboration on First Session – have a read of the story here.

  • 29 Sep 16
  • |
  • Jemima Dunlop
  • |
  • 0 Comments

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