BLOG - Minecraft therapy project kicks off!

The first kick-off meeting between Blockbuilders and the wider CancerCare team was a great success, with lots of enthusiasm for the project in evidence and imaginative ideas being bandied about.

There’s no doubt about it, this is one of the most innovative things to have happened in the CYPS service in recent years.  The service usually relies on traditional face-to-face contact and group sessions occurring with everyone together in the same room.

Since lockdown, many therapists have adapted to provide sessions either on the pone or via Zoom while the Re-Fresh Peer Support Group have kept in touch via social media.  However, the concept of providing meaningful, engaging and creative support services within a videogame is nothing short of revolutionary. 

The meeting was attended by Chief Exec Alison Stainthorpe, Head of Services Alison Dixey, Youth Workers Lou Andrews and Chris Wadeson, Information Officer (and avid gamer) David Haworth and project lead Paul Duncan. BlockBuilders co-director Joe Palmer began by giving some insight into Minecraft, how they have used it in various other settings and gave a brief tour round a cityscape they created to encourage young people to become interested in engineering as a career.

Until then, for those keen on the concept but unfamiliar with the workings of Minecraft, it had been hard to visualise how it might work. Trying to describe it as “a video game version of Leg”o never seems to do the almost limitless scope of the game justice.

However, seeing Joe manoeuvre his character around the world and interact with other characters and the world at large, everyone became palpably excited. Then the questions and ideas began to flow.

“Could it do this?” “Would the young people be able to do that?” “Could the therapists do the other?”

Joe’s idea of creating bespoke worlds for each of the CancerCare centres, and the various ways each could be personalised and represented creatively, found favour with everyone.  Driving submarines at the Barrow centre, climbing fells at Kendal and playing on the beach at Lancaster and Morecambe.  All are possible in Minecraft.

The Re-Fresh Young People’s Support Group’s outdoor activities could also be replicated by creating mini-games within the platform including archery and quad-biking. Recreating the group’s outdoor den at Slynedales as a special “chill out” space for toasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate was also a winner.

The possibilities of art and music spaces and in-game chat rooms were also put forward but, without doubt, the winner of the “idea of the day” accolade was Alison Dixey’s suggestion of an “anger wall”  a place where the kids could go express their emotions and let off steam either through words, art or TNT!

The serious side of the project was also paramount in everyone’s mind and there was a lengthy discussion on safeguarding and online security issues and the possible uses of it for face-to-face therapy.

To this end, the next meeting will include several children’s therapists who will give their own expert input into how they feel the project could benefit them, and the children they see, in a therapeutic setting.

Exciting times ahead!

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