Virtual therapy

Magazine layout

Today’s gaming scene is even therapeutic

Long gone are the days when video games were just another outlet for children to develop lackadaisical habits, poor eyesight and pre-arthritic thumbs. Today’s gaming scene is taking on a new approach: fresh, active and even therapeutic.

Whangerei’s BrightMind Labs, founded by CEO Fraser Hurrell and clinical director Dr Yvette Ahmad, is a social venture that seeks to improve the lives of children with mental health issues. By combining Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with immersive gaming principles, BrightMind Labs is redefining traditional mental health care delivery to provide greater access for all—especially in places where child mental health services are expensive or scarce.

Magazine layout

“The idea was Yvette’s brainchild and has evolved over the past couple of years,“ says Hurrell. “We saw an opportunity to provide an alternative approach to CBT that is more efficient than face-to-face therapy.”

BrightMind’s first product release is MyFriendQuest, an animated game that teaches four to eight-year-old children in the autistic spectrum to recognise emotions from facial expressions. Each aspect of the game, from the colours chosen to the lack of eye contact presented, is designed with a deliberate, clinically sound approach—without boring the gamers. “Most game therapy products are typically academic in nature,” says Hurrell. “Our point of difference is that the product is designed around a gaming environment, where the kid wants to play on his own merit.”

In April, BrightMind Labs won the Best Social Impact Assessment Award at the world finals of the Global Social Venture Competition at Berkeley University, San Francisco. The award recognises social ventures that are most likely to succeed in accomplishing financial and social terms. “This award gives us great credibility in the US market, which will be a primary target for our marketing plan,” says Hurrell.

MyFriendQuest will be released in August and sold for US$40 at

What’s next? Helping more kids, of course. Brightmind plans more games to reach children under ten years old who suffer other mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).