Most teens are having to social distance from their friends due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, high school seniors are missing their senior proms and graduation ceremonies. Both of those are causing teens to feel anxious, depressed and isolated.
Enter Shadow’s Edge. It’s a free mobile app designed to help teens get over those feelings and turn to positivity. Shadow’s Edge is basically a video game for your phone. The premise is a bad storm engulfed a city called Shadow’s Edge and players are asked to complete challenges to bring the city back to life.
I spoke with Shadow’s Edge CEO and Producer Rosemary Lokhorst via Skype. She currently lives in Switzerland and has appeared on Fox News and the CBS daytime talk show The Talk.
“I think teens nowadays are much more technology savvy then we were,” Lokhorst said. “I would advise them to use all of the good things that technology can bring to connect with others in a positive way. I know that there’s a lot of teens out there that game for example. There has been a lot of talk about negativity in gaming communities. Especially in situations like we are in now, that can actually change. To reach out to people in whatever medium they are comfortable with. I think that’s something that would really help them.”
Please tell me more about your mobile game Shadow’s Edge and what it does to help teens during this strange time.
“It was originally developed to help young adults with health issues–chronic issues such as cancer, diabetes, Lyme disease. As we started developing, we really worked from the start with teens and young adults. We started noticing that there are a lot more issues that teens are facing like pressure, anxiety, depression. We started asking, ‘How can we help more teens and what they are going through?’ The American Psychology Association says 27 percent of teens self reported that they have at least had one depressive episode. Seventy-five percent report they can use some emotional help. I think that’s where Shadow’s Edge comes in.
“We use a medium that they’re comfortable with, gaming. That’s where they are on their mobile devices playing games. Shadow’s Edge is a city that’s been hit by a storm much like what we’re going through now. In fact, the world looks in the game like it does in our world now with streets being desolate and empty. You have to help the character you meet find the pages in the journal that’s been scattered across town. And then you start working through your emotions by answering the questions in those pages. That’s where the psychology influence comes in. As you start doing that, the city comes back to life. Plants will start growing, animals will come back, people will show up. The world heals itself by you working through whatever it is you are dealing with.”
Is Shadow’s Edge compatible with Apple and Android phones?
“Yes, that’s correct. It works on any Apple and Android devices, tablets, phones. It is downloadable on the App Store and on Google Play. There’s no in-game advertising either. If you do the work in the journaling, you have the impact on the world. You also get tools to spray paint and really create street art. That’s really popular with our players as well. We have about 30,000 players at the moment. As you start leveling up and you gain more tools through your journaling, you can start posting that in the in-game sharing platform called Shadow Gram. It’s like an Instagram within the game. You can see what other people do, you can comment back on them and you can share it to your social media as well. Especially now with Covid-19 and isolation, that’s become quite popular. It’s a judgment-free zone where teens can share their feelings, they can vent, react to others and start following others. Some place safe where they can reach out to others in a comfortable environment.”
Is Shadow’s Edge a game where teens can play with their friends or is it more single player based?
“It is mainly single player so you do your journaling by yourself. Explore the world by yourself. As you explore the world, there are psychological wisdoms to be found. There are puzzles that you will start to solve. Also, we have this sharing platform. This community where you can post things and react to others. That part is multiplayer–you can see the art of everybody in the game. We will do a lot more in the coming months where you can follow specific themes and specific people. We run a lot of challenges. We’ve had a couple of COVID-related challenges. If they do those and post their experience to Shadow Gram, then they get in-game rewards to level up and create more.”
I understand you worked with 250 teens to develop Shadow’s Edge.
“From our first workshop where we started talking about…’How can we make a game where we have emotional strengths that rebuild in the form of a game that is cool enough?’ We had a teen with Diabetes type one. We saw the input that came from her and we decided from the very first drawing of the characters that by the way look nothing like they did then. We had over 250 young people work with us. We still have new people working with us. We just started working with my high school the STEM class. We’ll be testing the COVID-related features over the next coming months as we start releasing those as well. We keep working with the teens. It’s for them. We’re not doing this for us. It’s a project to help them. Apart from the psychological content, we have to make sure it’s something they like doing. It brings them something for their everyday life.”
How do we all move forward once the COVID-19 pandemic ends?
“Even if the pandemic ends, there is a lot of frustration that will still be lingering. For one, there is the political situation, the economical situation. Just for these young people, their lives have been uprooted. They may not have that balance that you and I might have of…we’ve been through things like this before. Not specifically this, but we’ve been through tough things before and we know that this shall pass. In this age where they are just becoming independent having them be locked down and having that independence be stripped away, that is really tough for them. I believe over the coming months there will be PTSD-like symptoms still showing up. For us to help our teens and our young people, it is going to take a lot of encouragement. It is going to take a lot of help to give them that confidence back. To help them across the hurdles that are coming. They have missed school, they have missed classes. There’s insecurities about when they are going to join classes again. Friendships are up in the air. It really helps them to be able to have a place to turn to talk about those things. We just want to get our tools out to as many young people as we can as quickly as we can. We want to do that for free.”
Is there anyway that parents can help their teens during this time?
“Absolutely. We just ran a series of webinars on the topic. I think trying to make this situation as fun as possible and really meeting them where they’re at is something can be helpful. I know this is out of the comfort zone for a lot of parents but if your kid is a gamer, try to play one of their games with them. If your kid is somebody that likes writing, try to write a story with them. Try to do things that they like doing instead of trying to come up with activities that the whole family can enjoy. One of the things that we see in young people now is that they go back to what is comfortable for them. For me, it was writing. Some people are artists and like to draw. Some people are gamers and like to game. I think making that effort and trying that can help the connection.”