When your ABCs impede your BCTs: The role of educational videogames for managing depression and moving more


Depression is currently the leading cause of disability in the world. Although exercise has repeatedly been shown to have positive psychological and physiological impacts on mood and anxiety, 70-85% of people experiencing depression fail to meet the ACSM's physical activity guidelines. For those managing depression, resolving their maladaptive affects, behaviours and cognitions (ABCs) around exercise may assist in implementing more traditional behaviour change techniques (BCTs) to support their physical activity. To do so, a novel intervention rooted in psychotherapy principles comes in the form of educational videogames, which have demonstrated preliminary evidence to support their implementation in the management of several mental illnesses. Still, there remains a paucity of literature examining the use of educational videogames in depression. The goal of this scoping review was to provide an overview of the literature surrounding the use of educational videogames in depression. A systematic search for quantitative or qualitative articles from Scopus, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and MEDLINE was conducted on December 7th, 2021. Twenty-two eligible studies were identified. The four main findings are: 1) among all videogames implementing a theoretical framework, exclusively CBT was used, 2) methodology remains inconsistent in assessing depression, 3) certain elements of game design can increase the videogames' appeal and effectiveness, and 4) the context of the intervention (e.g., the feasibility and acceptability of the game) has a high degree of influence over the research outcomes. In an effort to get individuals experiencing depression more physically active, easily accessible digital psychotherapy may be an indispensable first step.