How Might We Co-Design and Evaluate a Game-Based Approach for Youth Social Anxiety? 


My research revolves around the question: How Might We Co-Design and Evaluate a Game-Based Approach for Youth Social Anxiety? 

Having seen how little there is in the way of targeted resources for social anxiety, I wanted to explore what existing practices there are to support people with social anxiety to lead fulfilling lives, and what the current state of technology-supported assistance is. 

This leads me to look at the intersection of games + virtual reality as a support and exposure tool for anxiety. I will involve people with lived experience of anxiety in my design process, co-facilitating design activities with community mental health groups and including youth, clinicians, and support staff in the process at most stages of the research journey. 


Zoë Platt-Young

 Zoe Platt-Young

My target group is primarily youth between the ages of 14-18 who experience social anxiety. Additionally, I’m involving adults with lived experience of anxiety for an additional lens on the work, and involving clinicians for their perspectives and ideas regarding usability and the translation of therapy elements such as exposure into VR game prototypes.

  1. How might we determine the user experience requirements and design an engaging XR-game-based intervention for improving engagement with treatment for youth social anxiety?
  2. What can we learn about what’s engaging from existing mixed reality interventions in the field of anxiety?
  3. What are some guidelines for effective and inclusive design that can be proposed for work with youth in a mental health context?
  4. What are some of the unique accessibility and usability requirements for the design of such game-based interventions in the space of youth social anxiety?
  5. Which best practice psychological treatments for social anxiety may translate well to game and immersive-technology interventions?
  6. To which extent can games be used as effective mechanisms for delivering treatment for social anxiety disorder?

Project execution

Participatory and co-design principles, community engagement, game elements, exposure therapy, and virtual reality.


The Covid-19 related situation poses a challenge because the co-design workshops are envisioned as in-person workshops. The specific target group also asks for open-minded and creative research approaches, where only little examples can be found for.


The envisioned outcomes are a better understanding of the needs in terms of technology-assisted therapy for the target group, including the development of co-design approaches. In the end, this will hopefully lead to the development of immersive technology, inspired by game elements, to support the group.


Although social anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health challenges, it is largely ignored in terms of clinically-vetted technological applications for people to access. My work is interested in exploring why Virtual Reality Exposure Therapies (VRET) are understood to be an effective form of exposure therapy for SAD, yet are not commonly used in practice. I’m passionate about understanding this from a usability perspective and defining what such game-based virtual reality tools would need to have, to meet the needs of both players and clinicians, as well as those around them such as whanau.