MyStride Positive Play: using gamification to enhance player protection

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When thinking about player protection, orthodoxical thinking may err towards preventing players from using gaming platforms. After all, therein the game lies potential dangers for the player. 

But Dr. Mary Donohue, CEO of the Digital Wellness Center, has other ideas. She has developed a new platform titled MyStride Positive Play, a gamification tool to help rebalance the dopamine levels in players’ brains to prevent risky betting patterns. 

The tool, to be integrated into betting and casino apps, interrupts a player’s gaming activity to provide another game that is not tied to real money, in a bid to rebalance the player’s dopamine levels. 

Dr. Donohue, who works out of Toronto, knows all too much about how problem gambling can impact victim’s – and their family’s – lives. 

Speaking with SBC Media on the Player Protection Day series of webinars, Donohue outlined how the inspiration for the MyStride Positive Play platform came from a painful experience too close to home. 

“I observed my younger brother engaging in sports betting during our family’s traditional American Thanksgiving gathering. This had always been a fun and social activity for us. However, I noticed a stark change in my brother’s behavior. He seemed increasingly irrational, forsaking the enjoyment of the gathering to obsessively focus on the game. This was entirely out of character for my normally easygoing brother.

“As I delved deeper into the situation, I discovered that he had placed a staggering $17,000 bet on a single game. It was a revelation that shed light on the extent of his gambling habits, which he had considered entertainment throughout his adult life. However, I had never witnessed him under such immense stress. I realized that my brother’s distress was closely linked to the fluctuations in his dopamine levels.”

Dr. Donohue comes from an academic background and has had a career in academic education around psychology. She had clients including some of the world’s biggest companies such as Microsoft, American Airlines, and Walmart.

With her scientific nouse and lived experience of gambling harm, she set to work on developing MyStride. Using gamification to help tackle problem gambling may challenge the status quo, but there is scientific theory behind the practice. 

Donohue explained: “This rollercoaster of emotions and dopamine fluctuations can significantly impact decision-making, often leading to impulsive or irrational choices. Here’s where the MyStride Positive Play platform intervenes. It effectively serves as a mood regulator, moderating the highs and lows experienced by players during their gambling sessions. Through gamification and mood-enhancing technology, the platform seeks to create balance in players’ emotional states.

“Players will still experience the excitement of winning and the disappointment of losing, but MyStride Positive Play’s mood-enhancing technology ensures that these emotional swings remain within a healthier and more stable range. The platform incentivizes better decision-making through rewards, interactive challenges, and gamified elements, ultimately encouraging players to make informed choices and gamble responsibly.”

It is abundantly clear that academia is still a burgeoning passion for Dr. Donohue, and her research is well underway for the MyStride platform. The Digital Wellness Center conducted a literature review of all the research the firm could find on the relationship between dopamine levels and gambling, finding several conclusions. Those are: 

1. Motivation to Gamble and Dopamine: The study found that the motivation to gamble is strongly influenced by the inability to predict when rewards will occur, leading to fluctuations in dopamine levels in the brain.

2. Dopamine Imbalance: Excess dopamine in certain brain regions, along with lower levels in others, can lead to mood changes, decreased impulse control, and heightened competitiveness. This imbalance is associated with risky gambling behavior.

3. Addressing Dopamine Imbalance: The study suggests that addressing this dopamine imbalance is crucial in promoting responsible gaming. This involves restoring normal dopamine levels in the brain.

The research is not over, either. Dr. Donohue and the Digital Wellness Centre are launching a new study of 300,000 participants who will use the MyStride platform to help temper problem gambling and find out more about the human brain when it comes to gambling. 

Dr. Donohue explained: “Today, we stand at a juncture where, by collecting extensive data, we can provide the perfect microbreak to the right player at the precise moment, effectively preventing harm in the future. This is why science is crucial. It’s about recognizing patterns, not forming opinions.

“Our vision for the MyStride platform is nothing short of revolutionary. We are on a mission to harness the power of cutting-edge machine learning to deliver not just any break, but the perfect break precisely when it’s needed during gaming. Our aim is nothing less than to eliminate the risks of gambling and make every gaming experience a source of pure joy and well-being.”

You can watch the full webinar featuring Dr. Mary Donohue, CEO of the Digital Wellness Centre, who talks extensively about the psychology and neurology of gambling and the MyStride Positive Play platform, by clicking here.