Gabriel Pappalardo

Founder/Creative Director, Six Wing Studios
Dr. Gabe Pappalardo is the Founder and Creative Director of Six Wing Studios, a Raleigh-based creative studio devoted to tackling our nation's mental health crisis by creating video-games and immersive experiences that entertain players while empowering them with real-world, well-being skills. Dr. Gabe is a lifelong gamer, PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and certified yoga and meditation teacher.


Our country is in the midst of a mental health crisis. ADHD is up. Anxiety is up. From 2013 to 2016, depression went up 63% in adolescents aged 12-17 years old. Suicides and overdose are at an all-time high. These are trends that shouldn't be allowed to continue, and fortunately, there are forces in and alongside the videogame industry that are taking action.

This talk will highlight recent initiatives from around the world that have recognized the opportunity to use games as a medium to enhance mental well-being. We'll look at examples of games where mental health narratives have resonated strongly with gamer audiences such as Celeste and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. We'll explore industry movements such as Take This, an initiative to decrease the stigma of, and increase the support for, mental health in the game enthusiast community and inside the game industry, and The Insight Project, an ambitious combination of technology, game design and clinical neuroscience brought together with the aim of generating strategies to alleviate mental distress. We'll share tech design trends recommended from The Center for Humane Design or how to create "non-abusive" technologies that support human psychology (i.e., respecting sleep cycles, limiting addiction mechanics).

Finally, we'll share our own work on the first installment of our Fog of Maya series: Lotus Village, a self-care virtual pet that supports players to develop well-being habits like mindful breathing and gratitude journaling alongside a virtual pet. Our purpose is to highlight the good that's being done and attract others to get involved.