Six Wing Studios is a new player in the world of video games. For the last three years, Dr. Gabe Pappalardo has been creating a company that focuses on both entertaining and helping their customers maintain their mental and emotional well-being. 

Inspired by his own experiences with depression and a rising national mental health crisis, Dr. Pappalardo founded Six Wings Studios with the vision of aiding people who suffer from anxiety and depression, “There has been a sharp rise in anxiety and depression, particularly in young people. There has been a 63% increase in depression diagnoses in 12-17 year olds in the last three years,” said Dr. Pappalardo. “I’ve always been a gamer, and video games have become a bigger industry than Hollywood, with 60% of Americans playing some sort of video game everyday. So, we decided to leverage the medium of video games to share self-care content with the world.” 

Six Wing Studios is built around the ambitious goal of creating a series of video games called The Fog of Maya. The video games will explore mental health topics and introduce players to self-care practices like mindful breathing, meditation, and gratitude journaling. These techniques have been proven to have positive effects on mental health and building resilience against stress, depression, and anxiety. 

After years of experimenting with different ideas, Six Wing Studios is launching its first game in the series, Amaru: The Self Care Virtual Pet. “So we went out to the National Alliance for Mental Illness meeting and interviewed around 30 people. We asked them about their l lives and daily struggles. What we heard was, ‘I want to get better with my mental well-being so that I can help others.’ So there’s this motivation to get better to be of service to others.” This inspired the team to focus on a style of games based on building a supportive relationship.  “Amaru is a virtual pet, similar to Tamagotchi, Neopets, or Webkinz. The notion is that you check in every day to take care of and build a relationship with Amaru,” explained Dr. Pappalardo. “You check in with your pet, and then you check in with yourself.”

Amaru, like any other pet, requires attention and care. While gamers feed, pet, and play with Amaru, they are rewarded for engaging with self-care techniques. “We took the idea of a virtual pet game and embedded things like guided meditations for calming and centering yourself and a gratitude journal,” said Dr. Pappalardo. “Then we gamified a scaffold around it so that when people engage in their self-care practice, they are rewarded for sticking with it. We did this because the number one thing that is hard about using self-care practice as a relief mechanism for anxiety and depression is that you have to stick with it.” 

Amaru: The Self Care Virtual Pet is now in its testing phase with a downloadable beta/test version available through iOS and Android. “About 1,200 people have downloaded it so far, and we have received a lot of positive feedback. People just love Amaru, and it’s really amazing how people are engaging with this creature,” said Dr. Pappalardo. “People are also writing to us and on social media about how the game is really helping them.”

Six Wing Studios is wrapping up a pre-seed investment round and launching a Kickstarter allowing people to pre-order their game. For more information or to download the test version of Amaru, visit their website and follow them on Instagram, Patreon, Twitter, and Facebook @fogofmaya.