Clinical Psychology Student Hopes to Launch Online Game to Help Those With Depression

HappyMart imageA clinical psychology student at Pacific University is developing an online game to help people who may be suffering from depression and their family members and friends to better understand the condition.

Halley Farwood, a third-year student within the university’s School of Professional Psychology, is hoping to secure necessary funding of $4,500 through crowdfunding site Kickstarter to launch Happymart, a video game about living with clinical depression, later this spring. The game is being created as part of a research project examining the efficacy of a video game as a tool to increase understanding and empathy towards people with depression.

"Happymart is for anyone who would like to know more about depression, especially individuals with depression and their families and close friends," Farwood said.

Players will take on the role of a depressed person trying to go to the grocery store. The experience is expressed through art, game mechanics and monsters that represent the player’s symptoms. Happymart illustrates common struggles associated with depression, like being unable to get up in the morning, feeling overwhelmed by small tasks and struggling to relate to loved ones.

"Although the theme is heavy, the tone of the game is hopeful," Farwood said. "Happymart is intended to start conversations about mental health within families and friend groups and raise awareness about mental illness. Additionally, this game models coping methods to help alleviate depression symptoms, and constructive ways for family and friends to give emotional support."

Happymart will be free, easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and may be more engaging than a book or pamphlet, Farwood added. So far, she has raised more than $3,600 with just over two weeks to go before the Kickstarter deadline of March 22.

Initial support for Farwood’s project came from the Berglund Center, an entity within the College of Business that supports multidisciplinary creativity, scholarship, entrepreneurship and the development of leadership skills through the incubation of ideas, products and services.

The Berglund Center is funded by an endowment from Pacific University alumni Drs. Mary and James Berglund of La Jolla, California. The center is launching an annual Inspired Ideas Competition open to all Pacific University students to compete for fellowships, awards and practical experience unique to launching a new start-up endeavor with the support and mentorship of experts in a safe academic environment. Farwood is one of seven students to receive a Berglund Fellowship for the 2014-15 academic year.

Applications for the Inspired Ideas Competition, and corresponding Berglund Fellowship, for 2015-16 are being accepted through Friday, March 20. For more information, please visit the Berglund Center's Inspired Ideas Competition web page  or contact director Andy Soria at jasoria@pacificu.edu.    

Mar. 6, 2015