Looking Ahead | 2018

Looking Ahead | 2018

01/10/18 iThrive Games

Through our work in 2017, we reaffirmed our mission to use and design technology that empowers teens to thrive. Today’s teens are digital natives who both face unique challenges and have incredible insight and potential as change-makers in an uncertain world. Through our programs and initiatives, we meet teens where they are, in physical and virtual worlds, and leverage the power of games to engage teens in their own social and emotional development.

Here are some of the highlights of 2017 as well as a taste of what we’re planning for the upcoming year.

Elevating Teen Voices

All of our work centers on engaging teens by creating shared spaces for them to express their points of view and co-design interactive experiences that are meaningful to them. We can’t design for teens without teens. In 2017 we:


Teens collaborate to design and prototype in Game Design Studio.

Developing Meaningful Games

We continually strive to spark the development of more meaningful games for teens. Through our 2017 collaborations and game jam events, we are proud to have contributed to or inspired several games that incorporate themes crucial for teen thriving:

  • Quilko’s Song is an in-development game to help enhance growth mindset, the belief that anyone can learn and improve their abilities with effort and good strategies.
  • CYCLES of Empathy is a game to raise awareness about cognitive biases that impact empathy.
  • Companions is a Minecraft mod designed to support empathy skill-building.
  • Soteria VR is a virtual reality game designed to deliver an evidence-based therapeutic approach to help patients face their anxieties and practice strategies in a safe environment.
  • A Normal Lost Phone is a story-based indie game that debuted in 2017 and drew inspiration from an iThrive Games design prompt at the 2016 Global Game Jam. (Watch for our next prompt at GGJ 2018!)
  • Game Jams, events that bring together diverse game developers to generate prototypes of meaningful games, were host to more than 100 game developers last year. Ultimately, 22 new game prototypes were produced across the country incorporating themes of Kindness, Empathy, Gratitude, Optimism, Purpose, and Zest inspired by iThrive’s Design Guides. Look for us at a location near you in 2018!  

Innovating in Mental Health

Supporting teen thriving means empowering teens to take charge of their own well-being. This includes enhancing skills that prevent mental health issues, but also providing resources for teens who need treatment. In 2017, we:

  • Launched our Mental Health Games Initiative in partnership with Centerstone Research Institute, the largest provider of behavioral health services in the country. Together, we are exploring how digital games can make therapy more accessible and effective for teens than ever before.
  • Won an Audience Choice Award for the in-development anxiety-management game, Soteria VR, that we designed with partner Dr. Doris C. Rusch of the Deep Games Lab. The award came from the Stanford Laboratory for Brain Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Brainstorm competition [You can watch our pitch here!]. Also with Dr. Rusch, an expert in designing for empathy, we continue to refine our design process to ensure we create experiences that resonate with teens who struggle with mental health issues.

Collaborating for Impact

Interdisciplinary collaboration is key to using and designing technology for positive impact. In addition to ensuring that our team represents a wide range of expertise, in 2017, we continued to build new and enlightening relationships with respected game developers, teen development experts and educators, and mental health professionals to ensure a well-rounded and holistic approach. In 2017, we:

  • Hosted 11 new game developers at our intensive 3-day think tank events, #iThriveDesignHives. We were lucky to learn from the brilliant minds of Dr. Barbara Chamberlin, Brie Code, Paul Darvasi, Dr. Luke Dicken, Lindsay Grace, Dr. Chris Hazard, Dr. Mitu Khandaker, John Krajewski, Colleen Macklin, Sheri Graner Ray, and Jason VandenBerghe.
  • Collaborated with teen development expert, Dr. Diana Divecha, and other scholars to develop a framework for interactive experiences that support teen thriving. The two white papers we produced continue to guide our efforts to design with teens’ unique developmental needs and amazing learning potential in mind.
  • In cooperation with Carnegie Mellon’s ETC Press, we put out a call for written pieces for a special peer-reviewed issue of the Well Played journal, focusing on the many ways games can support positive growth and meaning. Editorial Board Members for the issue include:

Look for the issue in early 2018!


2017 Design Hive Collaborators & iThrive Games Team Members

Looking Ahead

We accomplished a lot in 2017 and there is so much more work to be done.

Teens today face more challenges and are under more pressure than ever before. But they also are hungry to express themselves, learn and grow, and leave their unique mark on the world. When we intentionally use and design games with and for teens, teens can build their strengths, raise their voices, and feel respected and empowered. We invite you to continue to be a key part of our efforts to expand our reach and create more meaningful experiences with and for teens in 2018 and beyond.

Join our community of researchers, game developers, studios, teens, and mental health professionals on Facebook, Twitter, and by subscribing to our newsletter.

Let’s thrive!


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