Applied Sciences (Apr 2023)

Applications of Serious Games as Affective Disorder Therapies in Autistic and Neurotypical Individuals: A Literature Review

  • Fahad Ahmed,
  • Jesús Requena Carrión,
  • Francesco Bellotti,
  • Giacinto Barresi,
  • Federica Floris,
  • Riccardo Berta

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 8
p. 4706


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Affective disorders can greatly influence the everyday lives of neurotypical and autistic individuals. As platforms that promote engagement, computer-based serious games (CSGs) have been previously proposed as therapies to treat affective disorders for both populations. However, these CSGs were assessed on a wide variety of experimental conditions, and there is a lack of comparative studies on their effectiveness. In this study, we identified and analyzed 37 interventions of CSGs for affective disorders in autistic and neurotypical individuals from 507 initial search results from four databases (Embase, Scopus, Web Of Science and IEEE Xplore), using concepts such as ‘serious-games’, ‘affective-disorders’, ‘autism’ and ‘neurotypical’. A total of 21 different CSGs were identified that were evaluated with 30 different outcome measures in the reviewed interventions. A positive impact was reported in 22 of them; specifically, all instances of depression interventions reported a positive impact of CSG therapies. Our comparative analysis indicates that CSG applications could be effective in treating affective disorders in autistic and neurotypical individuals. Additionally, our analysis identifies CSG design characteristics that might be useful in applications involving depression, anxiety and phobias. Based on these characteristics, we provide a set of recommendations for CSG interventions for affective disorder therapies.