Thrive is a web app whose purpose is to game-ify behavioral therapy for people dealing with depression. The basis of Thrive is a set of three “games” that target specific problems for depressed people: self-assertion, thought patterns, and inactivity and listlessness. Thrive uses a user’s input and sophisticated logic to plot an appropriate curriculum.

This project was particularly exciting for me because I got the chance to apply concepts from online education and gamification. The education component formed the backbone of content. In order to teach the user to play the games for maximum effect, the content had to be presented in a format that was structured and interactive.

The gamification aspect was an interesting challenge in that the stereotypical gamification tropes of “points, badges, and leaderboards” have no place in such a serious and personal – application, and at any rate, are faddish. Instead I aimed for “deep gamification”. Rather than the superficial elements of games, I sought to evoke the deeper aspects of what make games powerful: constant feedback, narrative, and balancing mounting challenge and reward as the user would get new “toys”, i.e. data points on their dashboard to go with increased expectations.

Multiple choice quiz

The site gauges users’ state of mind and progress with self-assessments. The multiple choice model can be configured to ask any question

Video lessons

The majority of the site’s content is in video format. The site uses logic and the user’s responses to dynamically generate a curriculum for the user.

Mixed media

The curriculum includes more than non-interactive video. Content can be of many media types on each page. Video, graphs, self-assessment questions, and text can be presented to the user together.

Big, friendly controls

Another form of self-assessment is the one-dimensional scale, in which a user selects a value along a spectrum. The controls are designed to be extra large, as is the rest of the content and design, to create a friendly, non-demanding environment.

Dashboard design

The user’s dashboard is the hub of the gameified experience. The mood scale chart tracks the user’s state of mind on login and after sessions of the mood-improving games, and lets the user see the progress they have made.

The “modules” section tracks the user’s progress through the various games. First the user learns about the technique in a format similar to other online education platforms, then begins to “play”.

Users can switch between games if they need. The encouraged path for users is to stick with a single game, and the tabs to switch games are de-emphasized, but for users who wish to mix techniques, the interface makes it possible.

Rewarding Activities

One method of treating depression is to coach the patient to engage in positive activities that elevate the mood and self-esteem. Users who take the “rewarding activities” path can schedule activities over a 72-hour period. The system remembers favorite activities and recommends others based upon similarity.

Constructive thinking

Another game is Constructive Thinking in which the user names all of the negative thoughts that plague them, identifies why those thoughts are irrational, and then counters them with constructive thoughts.

Shown here is the screen on which the user names their negative thoughts. It is based on the template for similar list management modules in Thrive.

One of the challenges was how to create a familiar interface and consistent visual style that was adaptable to considerably different functions across several behavioral therapy games.

More dashboards

Constructive Thinking has its own dashboard, called My Thoughts. Unlike Rewarding Acitivites and Assertive Communication, this game deals with persistent objects, the specific negative thoughts that bring down a depressed person.

The user can see their progress in each of their thoughts, switch between negative thoughts for when they want a different challenge, and add new ones as they identify them, if necessary.

The bottom section displays any thoughts that have been defeated. Seeing the lifeless carcass of a once-bothersome foe, the negative thought, provides strong encouragement for the user whose very condition leads them to believe they are helpless and hopeless.

Assertive Communication

Assertive Communication is a game focusing on the user’s troubles with self-esteem. Depressed people lose the will to stand up for themselves, and after some time, may even forget how to do so. This game sees the user identify people in their life whom they will likely encounter, then helps them come up with a script for assertive communication and provides a recording tool so they can rehearse.

This screenshot is from a practice session where the user is given a hypothetical scenario and challenged to come up with and practice a response out loud.


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