Discover the captivating world of video games as an artistic medium. Although they may not surpass other mediums in certain aspects, games have a unique power: interactivity. By engaging players in a way that no other medium can, games have the potential to create extraordinary and unforgettable experiences.
The impact of games on psychological health is difficult to overestimate. You may well find games for mental health or video games for depression. What benefits can games give: mental stimulation, feeling accomplished, social interaction, emotional resilience.
Try the following games that stimulate positive psycho-emotional outcomes.
Anxiety disorders are extremely common, and they receive significant attention in the media. Fortunately, in the realm of gaming, many portrayals of anxiety disorders are positive and helpful, such as the game Celeste. In Celeste, players follow a young woman named Madeline as she embarks on a challenging journey to climb the mysterious Celeste Mountain, confronting her inner demons along the way to reach the summit.
While similar to Adventures with Anxiety, Celeste takes a deeper and more unique approach, incorporating gameplay that effectively conveys its message. The game features challenging gameplay that encourages players to persist and overcome obstacles.
Experience the perfect portrayal of trauma in the rare game, Omori. As an RPG, you’ll navigate a troubled young teenager’s journey through both a mysterious dream world and the real world. Delve into repressed memories and uncover the truth behind their struggles. Omori’s story flawlessly captures the impact of trauma on memories and one’s perspective. Dive into the immersive world of Omori to understand the true struggles and effects of trauma.
Psychonauts 2, a 3D platformer, explores the concept of mental health in a refreshing manner. It allows players to dive into the minds of different characters, solve their problems, and uncover their pasts to save the day. Unlike its predecessor, the sequel puts a greater emphasis on respectfully representing various mental issues while finding innovative ways to depict them. This evolution showcases the game’s dedication to addressing the topic with care and sensitivity.
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Immersion plays a significant role in the ability of games to portray mental health effectively. It allows players to empathize with the struggles of others, gaining a new perspective on their own experiences. Disco Elysium, for example, follows the story of a washed-up cop who has lost their memory due to heavy drinking. The player must help the protagonist pull themselves together and solve a murder case.
Disco Elysium is a game that journeys through the path of mental health recovery, as the protagonist faces the daunting challenge of navigating life amidst tormenting voices, perpetual self-stumbling, and haunting demons in their dreams. Their pursuit of stability becomes an arduous struggle, ultimately shaping the narrative. Despite the game’s remarkable quality, its exploration of the protagonist’s mental health struggles only occupies a minimal role compared to other games.
Not all games need to rely solely on their unique aspects to be excellent representations of mental health. Sometimes, presenting a beautiful story from a fresh perspective, like in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, is enough. In Hellblade, players step into the shoes of Senua, a Norse warrior struggling with mental health issues, embarking on a journey to Viking Hell to save their lover’s soul.
The game serves as a metaphor for psychosis and challenges the stigma surrounding it. Players experience the struggles of someone with psychosis, including hallucinations, constant voices, and incredibly difficult and gruesome obstacles.
Depression Quest is a 2013 text adventure game developed by American video game developer Zoë Quinn. The game, created in Twine, revolves around a protagonist struggling with unhappiness. Praised for its accurate portrayal of depression, Depression Quest has garnered acclaim from the New Yorker and other sources. Throughout the game, players guide the protagonist’s actions, experiencing firsthand the limitations imposed by depression. Unlike traditional games, the primary purpose of Depression Quest is to educate players about this mental health condition.
Released in 2018, “Gris” is a puzzle platform-adventure game that revolves around a young woman named Gris. Faced with the loss of an important person in her life, Gris undergoes a journey to retrieve her voice and combat her grief and depression. Praised for its stunning watercolor art style, this indie game portrays Gris’ mental state through her gradual regaining of abilities, bringing color back to a once-gray world. As she traverses the expansive planet, she unlocks new capabilities and ventures into unexplored territories.
Released in 2017, Night in the Woods is a story-driven adventure game that revolves around a young zoomorphic woman named Mae. After dropping out of university, she decides to return to her small town. While staying at her parent’s home, Mae discovers that her friend Casey has mysteriously disappeared, along with several other individuals in the town. This prompts her to embark on an investigation with three of her other friends.
In addition to uncovering the secrets of the town, players will also unravel the mysteries surrounding various characters in the game, including Mae herself. Eventually, the truth behind the disappearances is revealed.
There is no single “right” way to portray mental health in games. Each of these examples has its own unique approach that sheds light on this often-overlooked topic in an interesting and thought-provoking way. Whether through stunning animations or gripping stories, gaming can be a powerful medium for exploring mental health issues and raising awareness.
MindOwl Founder – My own struggles in life have led me to this path of understanding the human condition. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy before completing a master’s degree in psychology at Regent’s University London. I then completed a postgraduate diploma in philosophical counselling before being trained in ACT (Acceptance and commitment therapy).
I’ve spent the last eight years studying the encounter of meditative practices with modern psychology.