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Achilles Initiative

On commission from the rehabilitation department of the Dutch Ministry of Defense, a team of nine students – known as 9Vision – from the HKU developed a game for servicemen suffering from trauma, for the physical installation CAREN. In the game, the player is transported to a virtual science fiction world, where he is faced with nerve-racking challenges. The game is underpinned by an existing form of therapy – called 3MDR – for people with post-traumatic stress disorders.

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What is 3MDR?
When people encounter life-threatening situations a severe stress response can ensue and this can lead to a medical condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is a potentially debilitating psychiatric condition causing severe distress and significant loss of quality of life. People suffering from PTSD experience amongst others intense fear, anxiety and they relive the traumatic experience commonly on a daily basis. Proven non-pharmacological therapy consists of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and imaginal exposure. A relatively novel and very promising treatment is called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), which uses a principles from exposure while a distraction task (e.g. eye movements) to enhance memory reprocessing and neutralizing the experienced trauma is added. The above mentioned therapy forms, although effective, are considered extremely intense, highly intrusive and boring. Also they have a relatively high dropout from therapy. Recently, the Dutch military have developed an immersive virtual reality sequence (3MDR) where they include elements of CBT, exposure and EMDR for the treatment of this disorder. In this sequence the patient’s own highly stressful trauma specific pictures are loaded into the game. Furthermore, the patient is physically active during therapy: the patient isn’t sitting in a chair anymore, but is actually walking. From the first patient series it is known that patient and therapist satisfaction is very high. Gamifying PTSD therapy has never been done before, but with 3MDR there is a valid virtual reality protocol that could be used and translated into a game. By adding the benefits from game mechanics and dynamics to regular therapy and virtual reality, patient outcome from this severe disorder can be improved, where possible normal life resumed and quality of life restored.

What is the storyline of the game?
Your timeline has been changed. You are somewhere in time where you are not supposed to be. Your mission is to return to the past to fix the present.

You start in the control room where you are asked if you want to start the mission. If you accept you are first transported to the safe zone, The Nexus. Here you will encounter your helper robot “ReVa”. After a few minutes when the control room has identified the exact mission coordinates you are teleported to Sector 1. Here you have to first battle robots that come in your way. After having successfully fought them you will enter the reprocessing space. Sector 1 will show the first of your 5-7 “achilles heels” and try to install intense fear in you. When your fear has become maximal ReVa will help you neutralize your distress after which you can smash the picture to pieces and continue with the rest of your mission objectives.

Having completed them all you will be transported back to The Nexus, where you will see the positive changes in your timeline. After walking for a few minutes and when the control room has locked on to you, you will be transported back to the control room. Congratulations on fixing the present.

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What did I exactly do during this project?
As project manager I oversaw the smooth running of the project. I established a budget, coordinated the process of the game, led meetings both with the team and the client and also organised several playtests for the game. Besides I tested the quality of the game during its development and promoted the game on the occasion of a marketing plan.

What was the result of the project?
After four months we presented the result to our client. The client was very pleased. They now want to use the game among people with post-traumatic stress disorders. They also have plans to expand it with new features. Therefore they want to establish a new project in corporation with the HKU. Curious how the game turns out to be? You can see the result in the video trailers below.


Important to know is that the game has been nominated for several event. For example the game has been nominated for the Spin Awards 2013 and the Accenture Innovation Awards 2013.