Grounded in core principles of positive psychology, iThrive is facilitating the development of engaging, evidence-based digital games that help teens more successfully navigate the path to adulthood.
Adolescence is an immensely stressful time as teens struggle to find their identity, develop healthy relationships, navigate increasingly demanding academic environments and complicated social situations, and discover what role they wish to play in their communities. iThrive is a bold new approach to reaching teens that will help adolescents not just survive, but thrive, by repurposing a medium most of them already favor – digital games.
By teaching skills such as empathy, gratitude, resilience, persistence and mindfulness, positive psychology-informed activities can provide adolescents with tools for addressing the various stressors that confront them at school, at home, and in their communities.
iThrive is taking a three-pronged approach to creating a vibrant, cooperative, data-driven eco-system to strengthen adolescent well-being with games.
- Involve Youth as “Prosumers”: iThrive is involving youth and youth organizations in all activities, including inspiring a new generation of youth game developers with the principles and techniques of positive psychology. We are partnering with leading youth organizations so that adolescents and those who work with them every day are integrally involved in supporting the developing, testing, and improvement of games, and their use in a broader context of youth support.
- Pushing forward the Practical Science: iThrive is building a community of youth development and mental health experts, leaders in the psychology of gaming, and game development experts, including partners from leading universities, to develop an efficient, rapid learning and dissemination system that includes a clear positive psychology framework, metrics, and real world testing for game developers to use.
- Facilitating Game Development: iThrive is seeking to find and support games that are effective at promoting positive psychology. We will work with game developers to provide the positive psychology research expertise, exposure, investment, youth involvement and testing, and other factors needed to create effective games (while developers keep their IP). Activities may include public competitions, creative game idea generation, education, public gatherings, co-development of games, and sharing of processes, proposals, and game development practices. The result will be a new and constantly improving system of games that strengthen and support adolescents. iThrive is a non-profit initiative of CRI and will not itself create or own games.
The iThrive Team
Dorothy Batten, President, D.N. Batten Foundation
Dorothy Batten drives the overall strategy and direction for iThrive. Through the foundation, she makes grants to support innovative approaches to tackle mental health and environmental conservation issues, as well as supporting community programming in Charlottesville, VA. Ms. Batten serves on the board of the Women’s Initiative, the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation, the Amazon Conservation Association, the Alumni Board of Trustees and the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia. She served for 10 years as a Director of Landmark Media Enterprises LLC. Previous board experience includes involvement with the University of Virginia Arts Council, University of Virginia Art Museum, Norfolk Academy, Peabody School, and the Paramount Theater. She received her master’s degree in counseling from Capella University, her MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, and her B.A. in Economics and Business from Hollins University.
Tom Doub, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Centerstone Research Institute
Tom Doub, PhD, is the Chief Executive Officer of Centerstone Research Institute (CRI), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving healthcare through research and information technology. Dr. Doub joined CRI as Vice President of Research in 2003 and served as its Chief Operating Officer before being appointed CEO in 2012. He received his PhD in both Clinical and Quantitative Psychology from Vanderbilt University. Under Dr. Doub’s leadership, CRI has established a unique blend of research, technology and evaluation services, with expertise that balances technology with humanity to enhance the quality of care while enriching the patient experience. The organization has been awarded $100 million in research grants, established partnerships with prominent universities and research institutions across the nation, and has been involved in 150 groundbreaking studies. CRI’s technology innovators are creating the next generation of tools to transform healthcare organizations’ data into functional, insightful information to improve operations, reduce costs, and enhance patient care.
Susan Rivers, PhD, Executive Director
Susan E. Rivers, PhD, is executive director of iThrive, the non-profit committed to transforming youth through the power of games. Susan oversees the strategic direction and execution for iThrive and fosters the development of programs and a cooperative ecosystem of youth, game developers, researchers, parents, mental health experts, and investors and donors. She uses her expertise in emotional intelligence to enhance the social and emotional well-being of adolescents by accelerating the development and widespread adoption of interactive, evidence-based digital products. Prior to joining iThrive, Susan served on the research faculty at Yale University for a decade in the Department of Psychology. While at Yale, she co-founded the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and served as its founding deputy director. Susan devised and co-developed the RULER framework for teaching emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning, reaching an estimated 500,000 children in schools across the globe. She also has evaluated the impact of RULER in dozens of schools and published evidence showing its significant positive impacts on students and teachers. Susan is a graduate of Skidmore College, earned two master’s degrees and her doctorate in social psychology at Yale University, and was a Visiting Fellow in Human Development at the Department of Human Ecology at Cornell University. She has published and spoken widely on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband and three children, who are excited she is becoming a gamer!
Jane Lee, Project Manager
Jane Lee has been with CRI since 2010. With a background in research and evaluation, Jane has worked with youth on several grant-funded programs studying substance abuse and teen pregnancy prevention. Her research interests include adolescents and “Third Culture Kids.” An active gamer, Jane is thrilled to combine two of her passions in her new role as the iThrive project manager. Jane was born in Australia, went to high school in Singapore, and received her B.A. in Psychology from Syracuse University.
Leslie Kirby, Positive Psychology Lead
Leslie D. Kirby, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Professor and Senior Lecturer at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Kirby received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Vanderbilt, and then received a National Research Service Post-Doctoral Award (NRSA) from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She currently co-directs the Appraisal, Stress, Coping and Emotion Lab (ASCE) at Vanderbilt. Dr. Kirby’s research focuses on human emotions, with a particular interest in the differential motivational functions served by various positive emotions. Recent projects have explored the use of positive emotions as a buffer against stress, relational models of appraisal which examine the specific circumstances under which individuals are likely to experience particular emotions, and the influence of emotions on subsequent behaviors. Dr. Kirby’s research has been funded by the Positive Psychology Network and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and she is a co-editor of the recently released Handbook of Positive Emotion, published by Guilford Press. She also teaches popular courses on Social Psychology, Emotion, and Positive Psychology at Vanderbilt.
Heidi McDonald, Creative Director
Heidi McDonald (“DeathBow”) broke into the gaming industry at the age of 41, having previously had career experience in communications, events management, local government and professional musicianship. Winner of Women in Gaming’s Rising Star Award for 2012, McDonald has spoken at conferences all over the world and been academically published with her independent work on romance in single-player RPG’s. In her four and a half years as a Game Designer at Schell Games in Pittsburgh, PA, she worked on seven titles as designer, audio and/or narrative designer including some award winners: PlayForward: Elm City Stories, a game used in a study by Yale School of Medicine to measure the effectiveness of teaching HIV prevention to teens using a game, and The World of Lexica, a game to teach language arts skills to grades 6-8, in cooperation with Amplify Education. Orion Trail, a game she was one of the main writers for, earned Honorable Mention for Excellence in Narrative from the IGF in 2016. She served on the board of Pittsburgh’s IGDA for three years, is involved in a number of professional game developer associations, regularly judges game contests and speaks at schools, and is a mentor and advocate for women, minorities and LGBTQ players and developers. Heidi holds a double BA from Chatham University in Communications with a concentration in Professional Writing, and in Film & Digital Technology. She is obsessed with Dragon Age, and can sing a mean karaoke.
Alex Spriggs, Community Coordinator
Alex has been developing games for 4 years at his independent studio, Lost Engine, and has been playing video games his entire life. With a background in the game industry, Alex has also worked closely with young adults throughout his career after founding the Chicago club AlphaLab, which aims to teach people of all ages how to develop video games. Throughout his life games have helped shaped him into the person he is today and he strongly believes that they can better the lives of anyone who plays them. He is excited to be a part of iThrive to help adolescents through games just as games helped him at that age. Alex has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Programming from Columbia College Chicago.
Sense of appreciation and goodwill, disposition of act, pay forward.
Pathways thinking, making meaning from adversity, hope and persistence
Present focus, awareness, reduced judging
We have our winners!
Congratulations to the following teams and their games for winning the iThrive Empathy Challenge!
1st Place – ShapeQuest – A Quest To Help Battle Social Anxiety
2nd Place – Guide
3rd Place – Dreamers Paradise
And thank you to everyone else who participated!
For it’s second year, iThrive is partnering with Games4Health to invite gaming and health teams from across the globe to develop games that strengthen adolescent well-being through digital game applications of empathy.
The contest is open to developers worldwide, with no entry fee. Each team must contain at least one student; games must be digital and available to play on the web, and in English.
During the competition, iThrive experts will provide guidance to competing teams on empathy, and how its elements may be applied to transformational games for adolescents. iThrive and the Sorenson Center are assembling a team of well-known game developers and youth development experts to judge the contest.
Winners and finalists of the iThrive Empathy Challenge will qualify for additional mentoring and support throughout the spring and summer to prepare them for potential display in iThrive’s “Psyched Up” Arcade, which will have a presence at multiple respected gaming conferences. This support will include mentoring from experts in psychology and game development, ongoing diverse playtesting, promotional support by iThrive partners, and coaching for entrepreneurs who wish to commercially release their products as tools that build positive emotional capacity in adolescents.
Submissions for the iThrive Empathy Challenge are due March 11th 2016, and winners will be announced March 31, 2016.
Sheri Graner Ray
Sheri Graner Ray started as a designer in the game industry in 1989 and has worked for such companies as Schell Games, Electronic Arts, Sony Online Entertainment, Cartoon Network, and many others. She has worked on many award winning titles such as Daniel Tiger, Star Wars Galaxies, Nancy Drew, Ultima, and GeoCommander. She is author of the book Gender Inclusive Game Design, Expanding the Market, and is one of the game industry’s leading experts on gender and computer games. She established and chaired the first Women and Games conference held in the US, was one of the founding members of WIGI and established the IGDA’s Women In Games Special Interest Group. In 2005, she was awarded the IGDA’s Game Developers’ Choice award for her work in gender and games. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the IGDA and the IGDA Foundation. Currently she is the CEO and Founder of Zombie Cat Studios, Inc. in Austin Texas
Sam Lewis has over 30 years experience in the game industry. His design credits start with paper games and include the DC Heroes, BattleTech, Renegade Legion, Earthdawn and Shadowrun lines. These lines included board games, pen and paper RPGs as well as CCGs. He also was series editor for 3 novel lines, and produced CG segments for the BattleTech cartoon show. Starting in 1995, Sam ran Kesmai Corporation’s live service, GameStorm. He also was a producer for EA.com. At Sony Online Entertainment, Sam worked on Star Wars Galaxies both as a senior systems designer and content designer. While at Cartoon Network, he was the lead designer for FusionFall and worked with both US and Korean based teams. In his latest project, Sam was a senior systems designer for Elder Scrolls Online where he was in charge of all non-combat systems. In 2013 Sam retired and started hiking the Appalachian Trail. 600 miles later he decided to take a break and help out in friends at Big Noise Games.
Some Things We Have Done
Remember Me – Kevin Rivera
In the Summer of 2015 iThrive helped lead Columbia College Chicago’s High School Summer Institute Intro to Game Development course. During this class, the students learned how to develop video games and designed them around key positive psychology elements. One of those games was Remember Me. Here is what the developer, Kevin Rivera, has to say about the game:
Remember Me is a simplistic free roaming world with 5 simple objectives that each explain the story little by little. The game is supposed to resemble someone battling depression and feeling like life is repeating, desolate, and broken.”
If you are on a Windows machine, you can download and play Remember Me here.
iThrive sponsored Columbia College Chicago’s annual 24 hour game jam in May 2015! Here is a video highlighting the event.
Centerstone Research Institute Names Susan Rivers as iThrive Executive Director
Rivers will provide strategic direction and managRead more
For immediate release: Nashville, March 11, 2016 -- On February 22, 2016 the iThrive Initiative issued an RFP for the development of electronic games and game modifications that advance empathy in adolescents. All the relevant information to respondRead more
iThrive has a challenge in the University of Utah's Games4Health Competition again this year! People from anywhere can enter, as long as at least one student is on each team. Digital games must be playable on the web, and in English. Competitors can earnRead more
In December 2014, iThrive held its inaugural workshop during the annual mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. This half-day event brought together leaders from the gaming industry, adolescent mental health experts, and teens—including those listed below—to eRead more
Batten Foundation and Centerstone Research Institute Launch iThrive, Announce Competition for Game and App Developers : February 2015
Unique initiative to foster development of digital games and apps to engage youth and promote mental and emotional well-being Nashville, TN – The D.N. Batten Foundation in partnership with Centerstone Research Institute (CRI) launched iThrive, an initiRead more
Nod to iThrive in Forbes Online article “Playing Media Games With Wellbeing (And I Don’t Mean Dr. Oz)” July 2015
"...One particularly interesting initiative is called iThrive. According to Dorothy Batten, its leader (and a part of cable royalty as the daughter of Weather Channel founder Frank Batten), iTRead more
For more information about the iThrive iniative, please contact iThrive manager, Jane Lee, using the form below.
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