The Therapy Behind The Game

The gameplay of Imaginhero is built on underlying principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Each part of the game works to instill patterns of positive thinking, develop empathy, and encourage players to visualize new ways of thinking about challenging situations.

A core element of the game is that there are no villains. There are 12 playable characters and, just like in life, any of them can be the hero and any can become overwhelmed by negativity. In each round you’re battling another character, but you’re battling to save them - not defeat them.

The therapy techniques incorporated into the gameplay start with the ‘power’ cards. Each of these, from Freeze Blast (which helps block negativity) to Magma-Pop (which helps channel anger into an energy for change) is a metaphor for healthier patterns of thinking and a way to develop a positive response to stressful situations.


Hero cards can be dealt as both the playable characters in the game, and as those friends who are being overwhelmed by Echoes.

Each card shows the character’s inner voice. The illustration represents who they really are, how they see themselves deep down. Whether it’s the shy kid who’s really a born performer, the fierce warrior who’s always there for their team, or an explorer who can’t keep their curiosity contained.

By rescuing a friend card from an Echo, you free them from the negativity of the echo. They can return to being who they really are; a kid waiting for a chance to be a hero. Once rescued, they become a Hero card the player can use.

The gameplay in Imaginhero shows that we are all susceptible to act in ways that are damaging to ourselves and to others. That there are no ‘bad people’, only people struggling to deal with pain. That we should not label (ourselves or others), and are all, with help, able to overcome negative patterns of thought and become our best selves.


Echoes are personifications of negative behaviors and patterns of thinking. Echoes are able to overwhelm any of the Hero characters in the game; when this happens, it’s up to their friends to rescue them.

Echoes each have a number of Pain Points. These aren’t a measure of the pain they inflict in their attacks, but a measure of the pain they are in. To defeat an Echo and release the character they’re overwhelming, players must use their empathy points to reduce their friend’s pain.

Each Echo draws its strength from a different vulnerability. If the vulnerability of the Hero they’re fighting matches the Echoes source of pain, then their attack strength increases.

Let’s take Distort, for example. Distort represents the way we obsess over how others see us. We can worry so much about appearing to be what everyone wants us to be, that we start to only see the bits we think are wrong. Like a spider in a web, Distort lures you in and surrounds you with screens, overwhelming you with twisted versions of yourself. 


The Imaginhero powers are used by players to confront friends who are being overwhelmed by Echoes and reduce their pain. Each power conveys an underlying technique or CBT principle that can help a person deal with anxiety, aggression, stressful situations, or negative thoughts.

Each power has a level of Empathy Points. The more empathy a player can employ against an Echo, the greater their chance of reducing their friend’s pain.

For example, if a player uses the Sweet Beats card, they invoke the power of awesome tunes, pounding an Echo with blissful bass as well as benevolence. Music is an acknowledged method of regulating emotion, lifting mood, and enabling focus. This Imaginhero power reminds players they can access positive thoughts at the click of a play button.


Trigger cards are activated at certain points in the game. Each card represents a type of situation that, depending on the person, could trigger either anxiety or inspiration. Depending on the cards in play, a Trigger could help or harm a player’s chances of overcoming the Echo.

Among the Trigger cards are Volcano, representing a volatile, explosive emotional presence. Runaway Train, which charges forward with the sense of a situation that’s out of your control. The Bridge represents choice, and the opportunity of trying or becoming something new.


Each Hero card has a vulnerability. These vulnerabilities are also sources of pain for the Echoes. If an Echo’s source matches a hero’s vulnerability, that Echo attacks with increased strength.

There are five vulnerabilities: Entitlement; Insecurity; Rejection; Powerlessness; Resentment. These are all potential sources of anger in our lives. If a situation, rooted in one of these emotions, is left unresolved it can cause emotional pain, or trauma.

It’s not a bad thing to be vulnerable, but sometimes our vulnerabilities can be used against us. And that’s exactly what the Echoes do. Each Echo is developed from an unaddressed trauma rooted in one of these vulnerabilities.


Just as each Hero is susceptible to a particular vulnerability, they each also have a source of strength. These sources, which can give them gameplay boosts in certain situations, are based on creative outlets: Music, Narrative, Nature, Movement, and Art.

The Dice

The deck includes a card that can be cut and folded into a playing dice.

When using an Imaginhero power, you are encouraged to “place the dice on your palm. Breathe in, visualize the Imaginhero power, and blow the dice to roll.” Each of the power cards contains an underlying technique or principle that helps deal with stressful situations. Through linking the breath to rolling the dice, it encourages a player to pause, slow their breath, and visualize the Imaginhero power of the card they’re playing.

At each turn of the game, players have the opportunity to slow their breathing and visualize a CBT technique. Controlling your breath is an important component in dealing with stressful situations, and has benefits that include reducing stress, lowering your heart rate, and encouraging relaxation throughout your body.