Devolver Digital founder Mike Wilson is teaming up with medical machine specialist Ryan Douglas to launch DeepWell Digital Therapeutics, an online gaming company that will both develop video games that address health issues. The company can also help outdoor businesses create current video games that have therapeutic value, the founders say.
Instruments based on video games can help in situations such as depression and ADHD, reveals the analysis. DeepWell Digital Therapeutics plans to build on this research. “There was an incredible amount of science that had already been done,” Douglas says. “We started to recognize exactly how therapeutic these games were already.”
Often a game used as a cure can be designed as a cure first, with fun or participatory play components layered in, he says. But DeepWell wants developers to build games in the most participatory way possible – then come in and check to see how they can help manage health issues. “The developers figured out how to bring in a level of engagement and get people to do things with an intensity that we struggled with on the medical side,” Douglas says. “Pleasure really is the most therapeutic thing.”
Video video games have been hailed as the way forward for drugs for no less than a decade – they would be accessible, easy-to-use instruments that would bring a cure into people’s properties. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the first online prescription game, licensed to treat children with ADHD, in 2020. The company has licensed a handful of different digital therapeutic a few years ago, and the company gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic when the FDA let companies market digital health products without going through the normal review process.
DeepWell intends to develop its own in-house video games focusing on psychological well-being. He has one in improvement that he aims to have ready in early 2023. (Douglas declined to share details of that mission.)
But the company also aims to help online game makers without a particular focus on health creates video games that would benefit people’s health. Wilson has already extensive experience working with a variety of notable indie game creators through Devolver, which has revealed hits like Hotline Miami, Inscryption, and Reigns. DeepWell would be looking to see if there were any elements of a current or in-development recreation where a player had to make choices in a way that might overlap with methods used in cognitive behavioral therapy, for example. Next, it may be helpful to determine if there were logical ways throughout the recess to ask the participant to breathe in a safe way or think in a safe way to enhance therapeutic potential.
“We don’t necessarily make the game therapeutic. Games are therapeutic,” says Douglas. “And we can offer it as therapy.”
DeepWell would establish these conditions in video games and help companies get video games approved by the FDA as a medical machine. The company wants to go through the FDA first – not to develop video games that could be marketed as wellness products however could not make any medical claims. This is necessary so that video games can have a clear language describing their profit, says Douglas. “We wanted to be able to say the things we needed to say to attract the people we thought we could help.”
A problem for digital therapy in all areas is analytics – companies are still figuring out one of the easiest ways to verify whether the games run reliably as remedies. Products are always new, and it will take rigorous work and analysis before patients, doctors, and other stakeholders feel reassured about how problems like video games fit with other common remedy choices. .
Digital therapies do not have to undergo the same rigorous testing as drugs. Drugs should cross a better bar as they are often more harmful than something like an online game if they don’t work or can have harmful side effects. Douglas says a lot of video games will undergo FDA review “substantial equivalence” course” – meaning they might get clearance because they’re like current instruments, not because they’re confirmed to work on their own. He says DeepWell will rely on current analysis of games video and mental health.”Then, of course, we will study our products as they become more available in the marketplace,” he says.
But even when they’re able to show that video games work well, therapeutic video games aren’t an alternative for therapists or other mental health interventions, Douglas says — video games are an extra layer, and the goal, for now, is to focus on mild and reasonable psychological well-being situations. “There are some things that only a very well-trained clinician and therapist can do,” he says. “But there are a lot of places where there are gaps where we can be of help.”