EndeavorRx is FDA's first game-based therapy approval

Computer games get a bad rap for their addictive elements and violent content but those conveniently ignore the wide variety of genres, content, and purposes available in such a broad medium. Even discounting explicitly educational games, there is still a long list of games that go beyond entertainment. The latest and perhaps strongest proof of games' potential for good is the FDA's approval of the EndeavorRx mobile game for kids diagnosed with ADHD, the first time the agency has given its thumbs-up to a game.

The way games are able to hold people's attention with audio-visual stimuli, punishment and reward systems, and carefully crafted challenges almost make them the perfect tool for those with attention problems. The FDA's marketing permit isn't a blanket approval for all games nor does it claim games can cure ADHD. In fact, it takes a special kind of game to even come close.

Akili's EndeavorRx designed to address the needs of kids 8 to 12 years old with primarily inattentive of combined-type ADHD. Computer-based tests approved by the FDA revealed that there have been improvements in these children's sustained and selective attention but not so much when it came to the hyperactivity part of the ADHD spectrum. The FDA uses studies, some of which may have been conducted at Akili's behest, to approve the game's marketing.

Even so, the FDA notes that there are some negative responses from the kids, though nothing serious to warrant disapproval. Those include frustration, headaches, and even aggression that even normal gamers feel. EndeavorRx isn't meant to be a cure for ADHD in toddlers, anyway. It is simply a therapeutic device to aid more conventional forms of therapy and medication.

EndeavorRx itself is simply part of the company's larger ADHD treatment system that includes a mobile tracking app and personal support services for caregivers. The game itself isn't something you can acquire off the shelf and will be provided only on a prescription basis.