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We’re almost ready to ClearFear

The ClearFear game is in its final stage of development and testing. Supported by an additional grant from the RSA Catalyst Fund, the ClearFear game aims to bring people together in a fun and engaging way to tackle anxiety.

The fun began last year when a small grant from the RSA Catalyst Fund brought together researchers from the Connecting People Study, members of Kingston RISE and an international group of players led by Playmakers Industries to develop the game. You can find out more about the background to the project and the development of the game in previous posts.

In brief, though, the ClearFear game permits adults to play together and lose their inhibitions in a natural way, which medication or therapy is not able to. ClearFear is not a board game. Using ‘superhero’ narratives, ClearFear draws upon our inherent assets and views players positively, who set each other challenges and support one another to overcome fearful situations. Playful interactions broker connections between people and provide a supportive context for people to address anxiety.

Early play-testing and evaluation suggest that the game helps people to connect with one another more effectively than traditional groups and allows them to engage with their inner child through its playfulness. However, more work was required to make it ready for public release.

I recently obtained a second grant from the RSA Catalyst Fund to enable us to refine the game and complete final play-testing this spring and summer before its public launch in the early autumn. The process continued this weekend with a game design lab in Vienna.

Similar to game camps we held in London last year, a game design lab is a space for playful interactions which produces creative ideas to develop the game. Having new groups of people involved in refining the game brings new ideas and helps us ensure it can be played by a diversity of people. Early reports from the lab indicate that it created a very organic flow of ideas, experiences and knowledge. One idea to emerge was the introduction of ‘action cards’ to challenge or reward players. We discussed this idea in game camps last year, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves.

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The work then continues in Brazil where Philippe, my collaborator at Playmakers Industries, will be gaining ideas from other players, including children, about how to ensure the game is fun and not therapy. Final play-testing will occur in the UK with people recovering from substance misuse issues from Kingston RISE and RSA’s Whole Person Recovery programme in West Kent.

We are developing a website (clearfeargame.com) to let everyone know what the game is and how to play it. (It is still under development – hence no hyperlink). It will feature links to virtual spaces to play the game and provide a way for players to connect and share progress. The website will also be a platform for our funding campaign, through which we aim to crowd-source funding to help make the website and game sustainable beyond this year. Finally, we aim to publicly launch the game in early autumn.

Underpinning the development of the game and its future sustainability is an evaluation which I’m leading. This will explore players’ experiences and will measure the extent to which playing the game is associated with changes in empowerment, well-being and social anxiety. If the findings are positive we will seek funding for a more robust evaluation of its effectiveness in due course. Who knows – perhaps the future of mental health services is play and not therapy!

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