Shaped : exploring wellbeing through play, virtual reality, and abstraction : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design, Massey University, Wellington

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Happiness and wellbeing are of increasing value in today’s society. Maintaining balance in personal wellbeing is an ongoing challenge as there are many causes to unbalance the scales. These range from an increase in the focus society places on personal responsibility that is pushed by modern liberal humanist culture, to the rise in use of social media, social isolation and global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change. Young people aged 18-25 are especially vulnerable as they are still forming crucial components of mental capital, or capability to deal with challenges in life, and their abilities to maintain high levels of wellbeing (Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, 2008; Kvalsvig, 2018; Marks et al., 2021). Happiness and wellbeing are growing areas of importance for governments and researchers alike (World Happiness Report 2022). There is a need for innovative wellbeing initiatives that appeal to younger people. These need to avoid the typical conventions and connotations of “treatment,” and approach wellbeing as a fluid state. Video games, a popular pastime, is currently a promising area through which to increase young people’s investment in wellbeing. By exploring the positive psychological elements of game design and utilising the immersive and intuitive interaction capabilities of virtual reality, this project aims to combine elements of wellbeing in game design into an approachable experience.
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