Many people around the globe experience symptoms of mental illness in silence. Some may not have any resources near them for help, while others might think that no one can help them. As a result, people might try spending time on their hobbies, such as playing video games.
Video games can be seen as an escape from reality, and for some, those games could be a way to distract themselves from their problems. However, there are many thoughtful video game creators who develop projects to help share stories about various topics, including mental health.
In one example, a Dungeons and Dragons panel at SDCC explored how D&D can help those who work through their trauma by being exposed to stories about mental health disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Apart from games, credited resources can help you detect signs of depression in teens and find solutions that can help you live a satisfying life.
There are some incredible games that share stories about mental health for the benefit of their audience. If you are curious, please continue reading to learn about just a few titles from creators courageous enough to share their stories with the world.
Some people may feel drawn to Celeste’s gameplay and narrative about overcoming anxiety. The game stars Madeline as she resolves to climb a mountain known for its difficulty in the hopes of beating her anxiety and learning to love herself in the process.
The difficult gameplay coupled with various emotional beats throughout the story expose Madeline as a scared girl, afraid of never becoming a better person, but she works through her fears by never giving up as she climbs the mountain.
In one particularly memorable moment of the game, Madeline’s anxiety gets the best of her, but as the player, you help her calm down by controlling a feather and trying to balance it as best you can. The creators combine gameplay with a story to make the player feel like they are actively trying to help Madeline overcome her anxiety.
This game shares the story of one character overcoming their anxiety, not necessarily trying to be an instant fix. According to Tim Schafer, founder of Double Fine Productions, he believes that showing people a story about someone healing and managing their problems can be a positive step, rather than a magic solution that solves everything.
When Celeste won Best Independent Game at The Game Awards 2018, Matt Thorson, one of Celeste’s game designers from Matt Makes Games, made a small speech. During his speech, he stressed that for those who messaged him, saying that Celeste helped them overcome their own issues, it was in fact each person’s own choices that made their life better, not because of Celeste itself.
Games can be a way to show stories of others persevering through their own hardships and serve as a reminder that you are not alone and that you can make profound life changes.
While Celeste tells its story through dialogue, Gris shares its narrative without any dialogue, using music and visuals to express itself to players. The game is about a young woman exploring her mind, returning color to her world by solving various puzzles.
Gris does not tell you what the young woman is trying to accomplish. You as the player can draw conclusions as to what the story is trying to say. For some, Gris is about a woman experiencing depression after losing a loved one. Others may see the story as an individual overcoming their insecurities.
Games like Gris can help normalize mental health struggles. According to Tara Voelker, one of Xbox’s accessibility program managers, the more examples of people with mental health issues, the more normal it becomes. In turn, people may become more comfortable talking about their struggles and most importantly, finding help by talking to loved ones or a professional.
Inspiring music and visuals help incentivize players to not only help the main character complete her journey but to also make the player think of their own mental health status.
Dungeon and Dragons: Gardens of Fog
You can also partake in creating a story yourself that can help with mental health struggles with Dungeon and Dragons: Garden of Fog.
In the game, adventurers must jump into the mind of someone experiencing mental health issues. Throughout the game, you not only confront the issues of the person you are helping, but you may also come face-to-face with personal topics that you deal with as well.
When Bill Benham, a writer of Gardens of Fog, described the game in more detail during a video, he mentioned how he channeled his personal experiences helping people overcome their mental health struggles in creating something fun for players to experience. Benham hopes players can internalize their personal experiences while playing the game so that they can learn something more about themselves in the process.
Becoming a better person
Games will not immediately help you cure mental health struggles, but video games can grant you the opportunity to see stories about others overcoming their issues that you may not have seen otherwise. Thus, you may consider playing games to experience incredible stories while using them as a chance to explore yourself more as a person.