A Mightier Interview: Bioresponsive Games for Emotional Kids

A Mightier Interview: Bioresponsive Games for Emotional Kids

Emotions are pesky and learning how to manage things like stress and anger can seem impossible to children who don’t have the proper tools. Enter Mightier to save the day! Mightier is a bioresponsive gaming application designed to teach kids ages 6-14 how to control their emotions through play. After doing our research and digging into the science of Mightier, we were taken with the positive impact that it can have on children dealing with complex emotional struggles. Their website shares that after 12 weeks with the Mightier program children’s emotional outbursts are reduced by as much as 62%. With support from Boston Children’s Hospital, Partner’s Healthcare, and others it’s easy to see why many are embracing this alternative educational tool. We spoke with Mightier’s Co-Founder Trevor Stricker of Neuromotion Labs to learn more about why the platform works.

Before we share our interview, let’s first establish what Mightier is and why we at Mammoth Gamers want you to know about it. Mightier is a sum of parts that include a mobile application (available on iOS and Android), a branded heart rate monitor, and a personal coach that will help guide you and your child through your first 12 weeks with the program. When a child plays a Mightier game they are also wearing their Mighty Band, the heart rate tracking wristband that’s connected to the games available in the application. As your young gamer plays, the biometric data gets fed into the app, and that in turn controls the games difficulty.

Fall in love with Kitty and embark on a flavorful journey! Stare down challenging boxes atop a magical path of cakes, but don’t get too excited or they will go over the edge. Kitty needs your help to learn and grow!

A kid’s heart rate goes outside of optimal range, that’s reflected by the in-game gauge, and the difficulty increases. If they want to succeed and get passed a tough spot in their game, they have to acknowledge this gauge and work to lower their heart rate by control their breathing. When the heart rate is level again, the difficulty decreases. This teaches that when dealing with upsetting emotions, they should take the time to calm themselves down, and try again with a level head. Only rather than being told that this is something they have to do, the game play makes it mandatory and the difficulty adjusting lets them see their success in real time. Through repetition this positive behavior will be reinforced by seeing the results in their game. The idea is that in time, this will become second nature and a valuable life skill that can be applied every single day to any stressful situation that they encounter.

Now that we know what Mightier is (awesome) and why we care so much about it (because it’s awesome AND it helps kids), here’s a more indepth view from Co-Founder Trevor Stricker!

Mammoth Gamers: To some of our more industry savvy readers Trevor Stricker is a name that may ring a bell or two. Can you give us a snapshot of your personal history is video games? And how did that experience lead you to creating Mightier?

Trevor Stricker: I’ve made games professionally for 20 years, since the Dreamcast, but have been making games as a way to procrastinate school work and hang out with my friends for a decade or so before! I’ve had the opportunity to make “mammoth” games like NBA 2K, unique Japanese games like Panzer Dragoon and smaller Indie games like Jungle Rumble. To play is to learn, and to learn is to play! The heart of what we’re doing at Mightier is building a game mechanic that incorporates someone’s inner emotional state. It took me two decades to feel comfortable taking on a challenge of this magnitude.

MG: Was Mightier designed to help kids with specific medical conditions or can any child learn how to better manage their emotions with the platform?

Stricker: Any human can benefit from better emotional regulation. Mightier grew out of research into helping kids with impulsive behavior. However, it developed into something with much greater impact. Kids who struggle with outsized emotions have benefited and families have been able to grow by engaging with Mightier’s coaching team. Everyone can improve how they manage emotion and benefit from having a safe space to practice those skills. Mightier’s games work for kids because they’re family friendly, easily accessible and intriguingly challenging. The games certainly aren’t limited to kids though: I’ve had my fair share of long games of Brick Breaker where staying calm was quite a challenge!

Once upon a time there was a Swamp, a Princess and a Toad. Rain or shine, day or night, Toad is on the run! Toad is searching for new powers, exploring the Swamp and uncovering secrets every step of the way!

MG: Mightier is an ambitious product, but calling it a product feels like it’s underselling its potential to change lives. What do you personally see Mightier as being first and foremost: a gaming platform, an educational tool, or a form of medical treatment?

Stricker: Mightier is a product, but with a range of stakeholders. Parents buy Mightier and not a PS4 because we demonstrate scientifically validated claims about kids’ emotional growth. For players, Mightier is about video game play, pure and simple. So, while the science is the foundation, day-to-day it’s the fun video games. And, like anything else, it only works if people want to (and do) play it.

MG: The Mighty Band controls the difficulty of the game that’s being played in the app. But what type of biometric data, if any, does it track and save? Can that information be accessed by parents or doctors?

Stricker: The Mighty Band is tracking heart rate. Parents have a web based dashboard they use to track their child’s biometric data while playing, which they can discuss with their kid, share with their doctor and use as part of their treatment plan.

MG: Aside from helping children learn how to better manage their emotions, what other positive impacts can Mightier have on families?

Stricker: One of the key impacts measured in our clinical research was the Parental Stress Index—a measure of how much stress was experienced at home. We measured an almost 20% reduction in stress at home after children started playing Mightier.

MG: There are a lot of video games that are designed to teach kids various skills. What makes the games available through the Mightier application different?

Stricker: The primary differentiator is that Mightier games were designed, first and foremost, to be games. We partner with game developers, who often have children of their own and believe in our mission, to bring their games to the Mightier platform. One thing I’ve learned over two decades of making video games is that making something somebody will want to sit down and play is very, very hard. We focus on the emotional learning side of things because that’s what we do exceedingly well.

You are a solar-powered craft. The burning hot sun is your death timer. You’re in a fast paced, futile race against time!

MG: Last question, and this may be a tough one, but what games are you playing or looking forward to right now?

Stricker: The gamer-with-job part of me really resonates with Minit, it’s an adventure game you can play minute by minute. I have also been enjoying Make Sail, a game where you build a sail boat and use it to explore a world. Being a uniform wearing member of “team Indie,” I’m also really excited for the release of Double Kick Heroes. And, with 10+ years of console development, I’m excited to get some time with my friends’ work, Yakuza 6.

In closing, as adults we have the benefit of knowing that an increased heart rate is associated with emotions like anxiety, stress, fear, and anger. That association isn’t always intuitive for children, it’s something that they have to learn and the learning curve can be steep for some through no fault of their own. They’re upset, but they have no idea why and they lack the tools to control their outbursts or even understand what triggered them to feel the way that they do. In addition to that, kids with developmental conditions such as Autism or Asperger’s are often put in a position of having more feelings than they know what do with. Mightier not only serves to helps kids learn better self-control over their emotions, but it shatters the stigma that video games can’t be used as positive outlets. With Mightier kids get to have fun first and foremost and learning a valuable life skill ends up being a wonderful side effect of that.

To learn more about Mightier and whether it’s a good fit for you and your family visit their website for more information and pricing. For more gaming news, reviews, and other things that make you smile, keep it locked right here on Mammoth Gamers.

Laura Mazerall

Laura Mazerall is a founding member and contributing Editor for Mammoth Gamers with a background in community management and digital marketing. Proud best friend to a Pomeranian and owner of a velociraptor tattoo, you can follow her on Twitter @Vamphlet to talk shop about video games, comic books, and coffee!