Prescription from health clinic: Play this startup’s videogame

  • TECH
  • Sunday, 18 Jun 2017

Litesprite's first game, Sinasprite, is designed to help people who are struggling with stress, depression and anxiety. (Litesprite/TNS)

BELLEVUE, Washington: Videogames can be used for more than just entertainment, and one US startup thinks they can help improve mental health. 

Litesprite develops games to help people dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. Its first game, Sinasprite, encourages players to journey with Socks, a fox who wants to be a Zen master. 

Players complete activities such as journaling and meditation to unlock different rooms and scenery within the game. 

"Through the experiences, players learn more about themselves," said CEO and founder Swatee Surve. 

Litesprite's customers are health-insurance companies, academic institutions and clinics, including Seattle-based Cascade Behavioural Health. The institutions pay to license the game for patients to use. (Consumers can also directly download a free beta version of the game to try.) 

Patients play, and clinics get information about which coping mechanisms seem to work best for each person. Health professionals can then decide on treatment options. "I realised if you really want to impact health, you really need to get to a person's individual motivation," Surve said. 

Surve started the company in 2012 after years working in various program and product-management roles at Nike, Microsoft, and Premera Blue Cross. 

Sinasprite doesn't just help with mental health, Surve added, noting that the game can also help decrease general health costs. Mental-health conditions can exacerbate other diseases such as diabetes, she said, meaning higher costs for patients and insurers. 

Eventually, Litesprite wants to expand beyond its first game and build games to help treat more chronic health conditions, including cancer and diabetes. 

Litesprite's team of four works remotely in Bellevue, and is raising a seed-funding round. Litesprite recently joined a health-care technology accelerator based in Nashville called Jumpstart Foundry that will help it connect with mentors and expand the business. — The Seattle Times/Tribune News Service

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