ADHD occurs in 3-5% of children, rendering it a common disorder. Behavioural therapy and, where necessary, medication are the standard treatments geared towards supporting children with the condition. The assumption is that by training certain skills they are better able to function and feel more content. Could a serious game give a helping hand to children with ADHD aged 8-12?
Together with pharmaceutical firm Janssen Pharmaceutica/Healthy Solutions (part of Johnson & Johnson), the Yulius Academie, a mental health care institute and the Flemish Society for Parents of Children with ADHD, Ranj investigated the relevant skills that such a game ought to develop. By means of a comprehensive test program, Ranj subsequently developed the serious game Plan-It Commander along with the target group. Children are able to play this game independently in the comfort of their own home. As it turns out, the children enjoy the game and are able to achieve better results in the game if they play it more often.
Adventure game with ample room for interaction
In close cooperation with the client, an attempt was made to join forces with research partners specializing in psychiatric outreach services for children with ADHD and research in this field. Together with experts, Ranj laid the foundations for the Plan-It Commander.
The game takes the form of an adventure game and centres on a situation involving considerable problems, a solution to which must be sought. Within the overall narrative, the player practises dealing with problematic aspects of ADHD in subgames. Furthermore, he/she will learn to enlist the right help from his/her team at the right time. There is also ample room for interaction within an internal community. Children can watch and rate each other's actions, can help one another and give advice. The time that the children can spend on the game has been limited to a well-considered maximum number of minutes a day.
Significant step in scientific research into efficacy of serious games
On the whole, the initial user survey yielded positive responses. A playable version of ten missions has been available since September 2012. In June 2013 the Dutch version of the game became commercially available. This marks the start of a new phase in the continuing development of the game. A clinical follow-up study will measure the progress of a new group of over 200 children within the full version of the game. The study will concentrate on the impact of the game on the children's day-to-day lives. Do the skills trained in the game have a measurably positive effect on day-to-day functioning? Which elements have most impact? These results constitute a unique opportunity and a significant step in scientific research into the efficacy of serious games.
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