Christian A. de Luna | Communication, Media and Learning Technologies Design | Mathematics Science and Technology

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Communication, Media & Learning Technologies Design

In the Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology

A Games-Based Perspective on Depression: Relating Affective Experiences through Digital Games

Christian A. de Luna, M.A. in Instructional Technology and Media

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide with an estimated 350 million people afflicted by it (Fact sheet N°369). Though the disease is treatable, many individuals do not seek help for a number of reasons including beliefs that they can handle the disease by themselves, fears of social stigmatization, and perceived weakness in the eyes of their peers (Finkelstein & Lapshin, 2007; O'Kearney et al., 2006).

Such barriers arise in part from a limited degree of understanding of the effects of the disease. Many of those who suffer from the disease often believe that the feeling is purely emotional in nature and are unaware of its biological and chemical components (Solomon, 2012). This ambiguity deters individuals who may need treatment from seeking it as they believe they only need to better regulate their emotions. Additionally, as depression is not a disease that outwardly manifests itself, the general public may not understand how the disease debilitates those who suffer from it and may underestimate the severity of its effects.

This thesis project analyzes current interventions designed for raising mental health awareness and understanding. Learning objectives are coded according to the cognitive, behavioral, and affective dimensions of mental health stigmatization outlined by the Unitary Theory of Stigmatization (Haghighat, 2001). The analysis discovers that cognitive and behavioral learning objectives are regularly conveyed through current interventions, but affective learning objectives are often underrepresented.

To remedy this deficit, the author argues that games-based interventions may be an effective approach for conveying affective learning objectives. Games are being more explored as a venue for experiencing perspectives that an individual would otherwise be unable to experience during their lives (Kolko, 1999; Lee & Hoadley, 2007; Gee, 2003) including health disorders (Rusch, 2012; Rusch, 2013; Lu et al., 2010). As depression is one such experience that many individuals may never suffer, and therefore can never truly comprehend, this project proposes the development of games-based experiences that may help convey some of this inexplicable pain in order to reduce societal stigmatization of Depression.

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