In 2012, a team from the University of Auckland began developing a digital tool to help NZ youth repair their mental and emotional wellbeing. First, we pulled together proven strategies to combat depression and anxiety, inspired by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Then, in order to reach youth with maximum impact, we combined these therapeutic strategies with online gaming and storytelling.
In 2013, the team began randomised controlled trials (RCT) and by 2014, the first version of the SPARX game was live; the name representing our goal to promote Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts. From the outset, SPARX was specifically designed to be relevant in Aotearoa, incorporating a fantasy wawata setting with the use of Māori-styled graphics.
In 2018, further milestones were made when SPARX became available on mobile, getting our e-therapy programme into the hands of even more youth, locally and internationally. By 2021, the second iteration of SPARX was launched; the further refined version of the game, with better support for LGBTQI+.
SPARX has far surpassed expectations, reaching communities far and wide, with new international partnerships and adaptations in the works.