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June 13, 2016

“I’m like an astronaut who’s spent a lot of time in space but is still pondering the nature of the universe”: My Introduction to BCH | Yuko Okabe, Illustration BFA 2017

by yokabe94



The above quote was taken from one of the responses I got from my teammates to the question, ” Would you consider games as an art form?  A narrative form? Why?”   Earlier in his answer, he also reflected:

Games are interesting (to me, at least) because they cause your mind to twist, to try, to explore places that aren’t intuitive right in front of you. They force your mind to grapple with things in ways that aren’t the default way… Maybe games can activate neural pathways that are there but underused? Maybe games can rewire behaviors? I think it’s fascinating.

I asked a number of questions like this to my internship teammates this past week, and all of the answers have been insightful, witty, and very honest- I wish I can share them all!  I think it goes without saying that I feel very baffled and grateful for such a community that has opened its doors to the likes of a curious little Illustration student like myself.

Just to provide a bit of description, for the next ten weeks (or nine now) I will be collaborating with the Boston Children’s Hospital and their Psychiatry Department’s start-up called Neuro’motion to help develop characters and narrative to accompany their mobile therapy games.  My supervisor and I came to the agreement during my Maharam application process that children would be more stimulated to engage in therapy if they had a welcoming character to accompany them on this metaphorical journey.  The point is to design someone who can be a coach and even a friend; a human or creature who can track their progress and be there to give help.  To go about this research, I will interview individual children as well as gain feedback from hospital staff regarding psychiatric practices and its sensitivities.

A First Week:  Meetings, Introductions, and Fun People


Home space for the following weeks.

To illuminate on my initial experiences, on the very first day, I met up with my supervisor at his office space a few blocks away from the main hospital.  After some quick tours and introductions, we sat in his office space which he shares with Neuro’motion’s software engineer.  Both of them asked me to think of three things 1) Deliverables to the Team for Week 1, 2) How to Interview Children to Gain their Feedback, and 3) Questions for the team.
I took these tasks and organized my answers into a Powerpoint ( selected slides below).  I explored themes around character design while also trying to apply some innate therapeutic senses into my reasoning.  I wondered how to depict the character as “strong” and how that would compare to a character that would be either “comforting” or even more abstractly “heroic.”  What sort of personality would best help guide a child through therapy?  I also wondered what sort of resistance a child could have towards a main character:  “Why should I listen to him/her?”  “How do I trust them?”  “Will they make me feel stronger?”  “Will they make me feel too dependent?”  Coming from an Illustration background, I’m interested in learning the finer and more sensitive points about creating this character, and how he/she/they can both represent and advocate for an audience of children struggling to control their emotions.

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I’m scheduled to speak with the Children’s Hospital’s outpatient adviser next week so that she could help me organize my thoughts about how to go about interviewing and speaking with her patients.  I have ideas to make it an interactive dialogue by having drawings and word associations to help the child visualize who their ideal “coach” would be like.  I guess there’s also the question to how much depth the character should have.  Should the character be 100% confident all the time?  Should the character be more attuned to a child? Should they be deceivingly weak but end up being strong?  These are my hovering questions:  it’ll be interesting what feedback the kids will have!


A selection of character silhouettes I created for my first interview stages: “Which character seems strong to you?  Why?”

Back in May, I actually met up with the team just to get introduced to the hospital setting so I already knew everyone in the room.   Nonetheless, I was both overwhelmed and fascinated by all of the high-speed and articulate business-speak that these guys whipped out onto the table.  Of course, in the foggy and looming universe we know as the “real work world,” this obviously happens all the time.  But, being the scrawny collegiate with just a summer sublet and a handful of RISD workstudies to my adult name,  I found (and will continue to find) these meetings super eye-opening and helpful.

When it came to my presentation, I admittedly felt a bit strange transitioning  the topics from marketing and product testing results to my artsy thinking around character designs.  But it was pleasant to see how interested and excited everyone became.  They also appreciated the questions I had to the team and encouraged me to ask more along the way.

There’s a lot more I could reflect on, but I’d rather not overwhelm my first post.  However, I would like to share a sweet video about Hospital Empathy I learned about from a required “High-Reliability, Error Prevention Training” I attended this week.  Though more geared towards employees in the clinical setting, it was fascinating to get some insight and first-hand knowledge and transparency of the Hospital.

I will update in the coming weeks about my findings after interviewing patients.  Also, here are a few Q&As from this week ( I summarized answers for my own purposes):

What are the most vital components to successful therapy? What needs to be improved upon?

  • Self-efficacy
    • Seeing and celebrating progress
  • Supportive environment
    • Building external supports
      1. And then slowly taking away scaffolding
    • Good relationship
    • Invested therapists
    • Difficulties
      • Hard to measure outcomes with therapy
      • Hard to tell “good” therapy
        1. How to be a successful therapist
        2. Clients become skeptical


How do you balance a child’s desires with what a parent/clinician/(teacher) says is best for them?

  • Convince that they’re playing a positive role
  • Kids’ desires and parents’ desires are one in the same
  • Kids often realize, by being in therapy, that something is “wrong”
    • they want to be “normal”
  • Sometimes, a concordance about “presenting problem” and what is “clinically best”


What are three things a child should have to be truly happy? How has this changed since you were a child?

  • To feel loved
  • To feel safe
  • Growth
    • Intellectual
    • Emotional
    • Physical
    • The “Self”
  • Freedom and space
    • Exploring interests
  • Material answer
    • Blocks, legos
    • Access to water
    • Something to read
  • “80s, early 90s, kids could be bored and that let them think about things. Now it’s really hard to be bored.”
  • Basic necessities
    • Maslow’s hierarchy







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