A Serious Game for Hemophobia Treatment Phobos: First Insights

  • João PetersenEmail author
  • Vítor Carvalho
  • João Tiago Oliveira
  • Eva Oliveira
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering book series (LNICST, volume 265)


This paper addresses the development process of a serious game - PHOBOS - for hemophobia treatment. Hemophobia, also known as blood phobia, is the fear of blood, wounds, injuries, amongst others. The game addresses the issue through applied-tension exercise combined with exposure therapy on a virtual reality environment. One of the main challenges was to design a game that reconciliate in a balanced way an immersive narrative and plot with the treatment of a phobia that causes great tensions and find the best mechanics to allow a gradual exposure to blood. Artistically we wanted to create the more realistic environment possible, in tune with the sound design. This process was done with the help of a team of psychologists that in conjunction with the team of game developers created a plot that helps the player to adjust his discomfort and challenge himself in his path to deal with this phobia. We present an early stage development process of a virtual reality phobia game, from the brainstorming concept of the game to the development to the first prototype with its requirements and hardware used.


Serious game Development process Programming Game development Hemophobia 


  1. 1.
    Puri, B.K.: Blood-injection-injury phobias. Int. J. Clin. Pract. 61, 358–359 (2007). Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pitkin, M.R., Malouff, J.M.: Self-arranged exposure for overcoming blood-injection-injury phobia: a case study. Health Psychol. Behav. Med. 2(1), 665–669 (2014). Scholar
  3. 3.
    Engel, G.L.: Psychologic stress, vasodepressor (vasovagal) syncope, and sudden death. Ann. Intern. Med. 89(3), 403–412 (1978). Scholar
  4. 4.
    Wolitzky-Taylor, K.B., Horowitz, J.D., Powers, M.B., Telch, M.J.: Psychological approaches in the treatment of specific phobias: a meta-analysis. Clin. Psychol. Rev. 28(6), 1021–1037 (2008). Scholar
  5. 5.
    O’ Reilly, G., McGlade, N., Coyle, D.: David Gnatenborough’s Island. A computerised cognitive behavioural therapy-programme for children & adolescents. Version 1.0 (2009)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cuijpers, P., et al.: Computer-aided psychotherapy for anxiety disorders: a meta-analytic review. Cogn. Behav. Ther. 38(2), 66–82 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Andrews, G., et al.: Computer therapy for the anxiety and depressive disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: a meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 5(10), e13196 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Griffiths, M.: The therapeutic value of videogames. In: Goldstein, J., Raessens, J. (eds.) Handbook of Computer Game Studies, pp. 161–173. MIT Press, Boston (2005)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Coyle, D., et al.: Personal investigator: a therapeutic 3D game for adolescent psychotherapy. Interact. Technol. Smart Educ. 2(2), 73–88 (2005)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Brezinka, V.: Treasure hunt-a serious game to support psychotherapeutic treatment of children. In: Andersen, S., et al. (eds.) eHealth Beyond the Horizon—Get iT There, SHTI, pp. 71–76. IOS Press, Amsterdam (2008)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Grime, P.R.: Computerized cognitive behavioural therapy at work: a randomized controlled trial in employees with recent stress-related absenteeism. Occup. Med. 54(5), 353–359 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    MacGregor, A.D., et al.: Empirically grounded clinical interventions clients’ and referrers’ perceptions of computer-guided CBT (FearFighter). Behav. Cogn. Psychother. 37(01), 1–9 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Powers, M.B., Emmelkamp, P.M.: Virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis. J. Anxiety Disord. 22(3), 561–569 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Riva, G.: Virtual reality: an experiential tool for clinical psychology. Br. J. Guid. Couns. 37(3), 337–345 (2009). Scholar
  15. 15.
    Krijn, M., et al.: Fear of flying treatment methods: virtual reality exposure vs. cognitive behavioral therapy. Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 78(2), 121–128 (2007)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Meyerbröker, K., Emmelkamp, P.M.G.: Virtual reality exposure therapy in anxiety disorders: a systematic review of process-and-outcomes studies. Depress. Anxiety 27, 933–944 (2010). Scholar
  17. 17.
    Rothbaum, B.O., Hodges, L., Smith, S., Lee, J.H., Price, L.: A controlled study of virtual reality exposure therapy for the fear of flying. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 68(6), 1020–1026 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wilson, C.: Brainstorming and Beyond: A User-Centered Design Method. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco (2013)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Öst, L., Sterner, U.: Applied tension - a specific behavioral method for treatment of blood phobia. Behav. Resl Ther. 25(1), 25–29 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    The Stonefox, VRTK, April 2016.

Copyright information

© ICST Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • João Petersen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vítor Carvalho
    • 1
    • 2
  • João Tiago Oliveira
    • 3
  • Eva Oliveira
    • 1
  1. 1.2Ai Laboratory – School of Technology, IPCABarcelosPortugal
  2. 2.Algoritmi Research CentreUniversity of MinhoGuimarãesPortugal
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoGuimarãesPortugal

Personalised recommendations