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"Reach Out Central" - NFP Plays Serious Internet Game

8 October 2007 at 4:01 pm
Staff Reporter
The Inspire Foundation's 'Reach Out' mental health website for young people has launched a sophisticated 'live' Internet game with a serious message.

Staff Reporter | 8 October 2007 at 4:01 pm


"Reach Out Central" - NFP Plays Serious Internet Game
8 October 2007 at 4:01 pm

The Inspire Foundation’s ‘Reach Out’ mental health website for young people has launched a sophisticated ‘live’ Internet game with a serious message.

Reach Out Central or ROC is a place where young people can learn skills other games can’t teach; such as decision-making, resilience and coping techniques to enable them to get through tough times.
ROC has been developed in consultation with psychologists, young people, gaming experts and with the support of beyondblue: the national depression initiative.

It combines cutting-edge technology with the established principles of cognitive behavioural therapy to provide a series of interactive modules that help young people aged 16 – 25 develop life skills critical to managing depression, coping with anxiety and preventing poor health outcomes.

Reach Out Central is one of the first “serious games" designed in Australia. Serious games use the entertainment platform of gaming with a serious message and have been used for training, health and education purposes worldwide.

Inspire Foundation’s Director of Programs, Jonathan Nicholas, says Reach Out Central is about promoting positive health messages, primarily to young men.

Nicholas says research has found that 72% of young males and 48% of young females play some kind of electronic game. RPOC is the first to bring mental health information to them in the gaming environment.

He says the aim is to have a positive impact on young men who are traditionally hard to reach and the most at-risk group. It’s a case of taking the message to them rather than trying to get them to seek it out via traditional community based
health services.

Funding for Reach Out Central has been provided by Sony Foundation Australia, which contributed $500,000 through its Project Rainbow program and substantial financial support has also been provided by beyondblue: the national depression initiative, NSW Health, Teen Spirit Foundation and Golden Stave Foundation.

ROC is a single-player role play game with innovative 3D graphics that requires broadband access. In the game play, the young person makes decisions, controls the direction of play and makes friends with characters in the Reach Out Central town.

The game design also features integrated mobile phone technology which sends text message reminders and hints about the game environment to players.

The site had more than 6000 visitors in the first four days after its launch.

An independent evaluation of Reach Out Central will be undertaken by Swinburne University that will gauge the mental health outcomes of players and results of the study will be available in early 2008.

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