The PLAY project’s objective is to design and develop a 3D virtual world using a gamification-based approach in which university students will anonymously engage in activities that will help them be better prepared for the academic side of University life and, ultimately, help them reduce their anxiety while also monitoring their own mental health. Inside the environment, students will engage in gamified activities that usually induce anxiety such as preparation for an exam. Visualization of activities that can potentially causes anxiety through the virtual world will help the participants to learn skills and be prepared for the real life situations as they arise. Successfully completing the activity in the virtual world will reduce the anxiety in the real life situation.
Psychological skills will be taught within the virtual environment using typical situations that arise in a University setting. The 3D virtual world environment presents numerous benefits for teaching psychological skills, as it provides a safe setting to practice these skills. The student in the convenience of their own space (campus or home)- can log in in the environment and be represented by virtual avatars that can be customized as the individual user wishes (appearance, outfit etc.). Furthermore, the virtual environment will provide a visually appealing and relaxing setting consisting of rivers, mountains, waterfall, flowers, trees, beaches etc. Additionally, the environment provides anonymity for students with anxiety that are afraid to engage in traditional face to face psychological counseling.
Finally, the Counseling Center of each University can monitor the overall mental health of their students by examining students answers in virtual world surveys. Students will be given the choice to participate in these online surveys.

The project will have a significant impact on students, educators, university counseling centers and mental health professionals. The final version of the environment will be multilingual, open and expandable to other languages and game scenarios, allowing potentially broader long-term benefits.

A few words from the partners about the PLAY project: