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CAMH releases video game parody to teach youth about healthy video gaming

Over 100,000 Ontario students report symptoms of a video gaming problem

Soul Crush Screenshot

TORONTO, October 22, 2014 – Fighting fire with fire, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario (PGIO) today launched Soul Crush Story, a video game designed to be an engaging way for educators to deliver health promotion messages related to video gaming to a generation of gamers.

Today’s video games are getting more difficult for people to stop playing. That’s intentional. Many games incorporate ‘hooks’ that include advertising, inducements to spend money, violence and simulated gambling. Developed as a tool for professionals working with youth; teachers, health educators and social workers can use Soul Crush Story to build awareness about how video games can manipulate the user’s behaviour, while encouraging an open dialogue about healthy levels of gaming.

Problematic video gaming is an emerging public health issue. CAMH’s recent OSDUHS Mental Health and Well-Being Report revealed 10 per cent of Ontario middle and high school students (an estimated 105,600) report symptoms of a video gaming problem such as preoccupation, loss of control, withdrawal, disregard for consequences and disruption of family or school. Males are four times as likely as females to have a video gaming problem (17 per cent vs. 4 per cent).

“There are physical, behavioural and mental health signs that video gaming may be a problem,” says Lisa Pont, a PGIO therapist who specializes in training and counselling in the area of gaming, gambling and Internet overuse. “Excessive preoccupation, sleep difficulties, poor eating habits and decreased interest in school can signal there may be a problem.”

The PGIO surveyed 43 problem gambling treatment agencies across Ontario where excessive video gaming was also identified as a concern within their communities. Soul Crush Story was developed to fill a need for research-informed resources to help address these concerns.

Soul Crush Screenshot

The PGIO worked closely with Algoma Games for Health, an Ontario-based game development studio, to develop and design the video game. In Soul Crush Story when the player tries to make a move in the game, an exaggerated “consequence” of the move takes place. In the final chapter of the game, players are presented with typical life-choice scenarios that allow them to make healthy or harmful choices with regards to video gaming. The dramatic name ‘Soul Crush Story’ was chosen to draw attention to potential negative impacts of video gaming.

Soul Crush Story is designed to be a fun way educators can encourage youth to make healthy choices around their video game play. “Setting priorities, turning off devices and taking part in sports or socializing with friends face-to-face are just a few ways to balance video gaming and overall health,” says Lisa Pont.

There is no cost to use the game and facilitator manual, and it can be accessed on ProblemGambling.ca from any computer with an internet connection. The project was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Click here for Soul Crush Story Game and Facilitators' Manual

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Media contact: Kate Richards, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015; media@camh.ca

The Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health brings treatment professionals and leading researchers together with experts in communicating and sharing knowledge. Our focus is on collaboratively developing, modeling and sharing evidence-based solutions to gambling related problems, within Ontario and around the world.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centres in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.


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