A wise teacher once said, “Technology is about intention, not just invention.” And while yes, we love playing with all the newest, most cutting-edge bleepety-bloops in creative tech, we really love it when the work is in service of meaningful change.
Our partners at ThinkArgus—a marketing and branding agency focused on public sector and purpose-driven organizations—came to us with a prompt from the MA DPH Bureau of Substance Addiction Services: Create a radically engaging digital tool to teach 11- to 13-year-olds mindfulness practices. We had to think hard about the “digital” part; being online no doubt adds to the stress our kids experience today, and we didn’t want to become part of the problem.
But like it or not, around 95% of US teens have access to a smartphone. So while a million risk factors for harmful behaviors are at our kids’ fingertips, we saw an opportunity to plant the opposing force—the “protective factors”—there too. To build something affirmative into young teens’ digital habits, and to sneak some beautiful art and positive reinforcement through the cracks of these dopamine factories.
We looked to research from professional experts, along with the insight of REAL experts (our *fellow kids*) to hone in on a series of activities that would have the most impact on young teens’ mental health (box breathing, music making, journaling). We scripted fresh versions of these exercises and corralled them into four distinct worlds, which began, organically, to take the shape of an interactive game.
Our team developed a suite of characters (Frank the Narwhal made it, Paul the Rolling Meatball did not); landed on an age-appropriate visual style, and honed in on an avatar who could take the kids inward. Our Inner Wanderer needed to exude internal peace—to demonstrate that the tools young people seek out to bolster their own well-being are already inside them. That the game is just practice, and that the habits themselves, once mastered, won’t rely on a screen after all.
From the depths of the Sea of Serenity to the quiet corners of the Zen Garden, our brave (young, digital) pioneers spent hours learning breathing exercises, writing positive affirmations, and composing simple melodies to help them find a sense of focus and calm, and to help us refine and perfect our MVP.
There’s still more to do (welcome Phase II: the statewide App version), and the learning so far has been immense. Join us as we go inward, see how our work came to life, and visit the nerd zone breakdown below, if you dare…
Wander is a space for, well… wandering. For letting go of all the "have-to’s" and "should-have's" in life—and just doing what feels right. Choose a codename, travel to different sub-worlds, complete activities, learn new skills, collect tips + tools, and level-up your emotional awareness as you go (in the Real World™ too!). You are in complete control: of this place, your body, your mind, your world.
Your Inner Wanderer
We all have one! It’s here to guide you through all the ups, downs, and acrosses of this place. Wherever you wander, it goes, too—and as you gain knowledge, it gains strength. The coolest part is, even when you have to stop playing, your Inner Wanderer will always be there to help you apply those new skills in any situation.
Sub-worlds & Activities
Discover in-the-moment tools, positive thinking, mind-body connection, and creative output activities in each sub-world. So, where to next? Maybe you'll create your own music in the Island Studio, breathe easy while floating in the Sea of Serenity, or even meditate with a narwhal named Frank.
Feeling stressed? You’ll find in-the-moment tools within the Sea of Serenity that help you breathe easy, slow your heart rate and unwind your mind.
A little positive thinking goes a long way. Wander into the Bright Meadow for a confidence boost and a side of feeling good about yourself.
Train your body, train your mind. In the Zen Woods, you’ll learn simple mind-body connection tools that can help you cope with anything that pops up.
Welcome to Inspiration Island. This is your place to create: music, art and a feeling of calm.
We worked very closely with our partners at ThinkArgus to ensure useful data collection while maintaining youth privacy throughout the pilot program. The findings were heartwarming to say the least:
Branding + Initial World Concepts
Landing Page Designs
World Map + Launch Zone
Intro Video Storyboards
Early Pitch Work
(RIP Lumpy World)
C r e d i t s L i s t