Ellie Beagle: Therapy Dog

Role: Developer, Game Designer
Platform: Unity, Fungus Plugin

Ellie Beagle, Therapy Dog is a narrative adventure game created to satisfy the Game Design Masters’ capstone requirement at American University. Play as Dr. Ellie Beagle and help your fellow pups learn about defense mechanisms and overcome their canine challenges.

Screen capture Dr. Beagle's office and first patient, Mister Toots.

Play as Ellie Beagle, a therapy dog who helps her canine clients gain insight into their struggles.

You are Ellie Beagle, a therapy dog with her own private practice. Your first client is a Golden Retriever named Mister Toots who has started barking at the mailman again. Your second client is a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Collie, who are experiencing marital difficulties. Last is Rizzo, a Pitbull arrested for “conduct unbecoming a good dog.” Ellie investigates the memories of each client and uses skills of deduction to uncover what ego defense mechanisms (as defined by Freud) each client is using to cope with their current stressor.

The game has been piloted with both mental health professionals and students. Player feedback has focused mainly on empathizing with the dogs in the scenarios. Players have also been able to verbalize an understanding of the topics presented after the play session. The game does not require previous psychological knowledge to play, understand, or enjoy.

Future ambitions for the game include building out more episodes, gathering funding, and developing the game for classroom use over a wide variety of psychological topics.

The goal of Ellie Beagle: Therapy Dog is to…

  • Introduce and engage players to basic processes involved in therapy
  • Provide introductory information about psychological phenomenon, specifically defense mechanisms and how they manifest in the therapy room
  • Create interactions which model complex therapist-client interactions including rapport and confidentiality
  • Demonstrate the potential for the game as a teaching tool for topics related to fundamental psychological knowledge and ethics
  • De-stigmatize mental illness and the therapeutic process through abstraction (i.e. the use of cute dogs) and investigative play

The Cast

Behind the Scenes