Creating compelling experiences with positive influence


Interested in exploring the intersection of game development and mental health? iThrive’s resources are for developing games that are both compelling and meaningful. These tools are created through a process of collecting of evidence-based practices, hosting think tanks with experienced game developers, and testing their impact on design with our game jams. The result of this work is a set of developer tools explaining the language, techniques and frameworks for seamlessly making games that integrate social and emotional learning opportunities that we hope players will practice – empathy, kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, and more.

Use these free resources to discover concepts, curate a lens through which to view design questions, and develop new and interesting ways to think through design challenges.

How have these resources been helpful in your practice? What would you like to see more of? What is most useful for your design work? We welcome your feedback on all we have curated and created!


These free resources are created through a multi-stage process;

A team of social scientists, mental health professionals, and game developers collect, curate and disseminate the most compelling research and findings on a focus topic.

A think tank made up of game developers and scholars identifies games that exemplify a focus topic, pinpoints common themes and/or mechanics, and recommends methods of expressing these common components.

The recommendations from the Hive are used to create design tools, frameworks, and other resources.

When appropriate, the new resource and items made with the help of the resource are subject to testing.

As the science evolves & game development approaches advance,  new information and upgrades are incorporated into the resources.


The information presented here is not intended to be prescriptive, but rather, is presented as food for thought and inspiration towards making games that support social and emotional learning. These are recommendations pulled from the latest scientifically vetted research, industry professionals, and other experts.


iThrive Games develops tools to support game designers in crafting design experiences which complement and support players’ strengths and abilities. Encouraging creators to take a strengths-based approach to design generates games that focus on and encourage positive practices and skills rather than focusing on fixing problems or changing behavior. . .

It’s important to give players the tools to arrive at solutions for themselves: a kind of co-authorship of the game experience between players and designers that helps unlock abilities and potential already existing in players, and supports a journey of self-discovery and personal insight rather than pushing a specific agenda.

Things To Keep In Mind When Using A Strengths-based Approach:

  • It values the potential, intelligence, skills, and capacity of the individuals the work is targeted toward. (Reference: Carol Dweck)
  • Focusing on strengths is not the same thing as ignoring challenges, turning struggles into strengths, or failing to acknowledge basic inequalities present in society.
  • Focus on a whole person, not on “the broken part.” Respect your players and think of them as capable and knowledgeable rather than as people who need to be taught a lesson.

For more on strengths-based approaches:
Principles of Strength-Based Practice
Kids do well if they can: a strength-based approach


Video games are rich, immersive, engaging, and motivating — and they’re where people spend a lot of time. Browse these highlights for an overview of iThrive’s game development resources and processes.


Explore concepts like empathy, kindness, and forgiveness while learning how and why to integrate them into your game design approach. 


iThrive’s peer-reviewed academic journal explores the intersection of game development, mental health, and education.


Get a high level view of what we’re up to at iThrive Games. 


iThrive’s game development tools support developers in creating compelling experiences with a focus on social and emotional learning and positive outcomes.  

Curated Games Catalog

A list of commercially available games & their potential applications in the classroom

Design Kits

Guides to spark inspirations for designing fun and engaging games for players to build strengths for thriving.

Ten Things to Know When Designing for Teens

A printable handout on using the science of adolescence to create better spaces for teens.

Global Game Jam

Details on our participation in the 2019 Global Game Jam where we sponsored the diversifier, Forgive & Fortify. 


iThrive and our partners in game development explore how and why games advance us and how we can advance games in return.

The 2018 Design Hive: Plenty of Buzz, and a Real Bee

The 2018 Design Hive: Plenty of Buzz, and a Real Bee

iThrive Design Hives are annual retreats with veteran game developers and scholars in the field. The iThrive team, along with these folks, works to identify best practices in game design, on various topics, after we review the scientific literature around components...

Sea of Thieves: Anchored in Positive Design

Sea of Thieves: Anchored in Positive Design

Sea of Thieves (SoT; rated 13+ years), a pirate-themed, open-world game, launched in March of 2018 with over 1,000,000 players ready to set sail on day one. What initially sparked my interest in SoT was an article in US Gamer about how Rare, the development studio,...

How Games Change the World by Modeling the Truth

How Games Change the World by Modeling the Truth

“How can a game change young people’s minds in a positive way?” There’s a hopeful idea underneath this question. It’s hidden beneath the words, and it’s one any parent would recognize: “I believe that my message to my children will be heard.” Certainly, parents’...