The Garnet Mine

Video Games Designed to Help With Depression and Anxiety

Back to Article
Back to Article

Video Games Designed to Help With Depression and Anxiety

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Imagine playing a video game where you are the main character, navigating a partly submerged city while facing a multitude of red-eyed scaly creatures.  You soon realize that the your own demons are more terrifying than any monster you may encounter.  You come to understand that the creatures you encounter are humans who turned into monsters when they became too lonely.  To save yourself, you must fight to overcome your own loneliness.  You might be surprised to learn that this video game, Sea of Solitude, was designed to help individuals affected by depression.  The main character, Kay, was designed by Cornelia Geppert of Jo-Mei games, who battled depression after a breakup in 2013.

The underlying message of characters in video games similar to Sea of Solitude is not simply one of battle heroics or surviving an apocalypse.  Take This is a nonprofit organization that educates video game developers on best ways to go about portraying mental health, and was founded in 2013 after the suicide of a video game journalist sparked a debate about the issue.  Eve Crevoshay, executive director of Take This, expressed, “Mental health is becoming a more central narrative in our culture, with greater efforts to normalize mental health challenges.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five American adults lives with a mental illness.

Many in the industry applaud the incorporation of mental health struggles into video games, as it is the interactive nature of games that make them more effective than film or television.  The embodiment of a character who suffers from depression leaves a deeper impression of the illness among players.  Raffael Boccamazzo, a mental health practitioner for Take This, called video games a “more effective way of bouncing back from negative moods than passive forms of media like TV and movies.”

Sam Rodriguez, a 26 year old freelance writer in Atlanta who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018, said that playing video games like these helped ease her feelings of isolation.  She played the video game Night in the Woods, which follows a college dropout who returns to her hometown but has difficulties reconnecting with family and friends.  Rodriguez noted how she related to the main character of the game: “I was able to experience the world through the eyes of someone like me, who felt helpless and aimless in life.”

The main character of A Night in the Woods finally returning home.

More in the video game industry are aiming to develop games that are specifically designed to promote better mental health.  For example, Orpheus Self Care Entertainment, a start-up that was founded last year, has begun publishing virtual reality games in which players can practice mindfulness and meditation through activities like dancing.  Relaxing patterns and shapes that move and change color throughout the game are an interesting incorporation of creativity that many players find relaxing.  IThrive Games Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to improve mental health in teenagers through games, is also developing new mobile games for teenagers who suffer from anxiety.  Currently experimenting with different game styles like role-playing to choose-your-own-adventure, IThrive hopes to test the game by next year.

The importance of mental health has made its way well into the video game industry.  As more companies begin to take initiative and develop games designed to ease the effects of mental illness, society is bound to foster more awareness on the topic of mental health and its importance.

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
The student news site of Rye High School in Rye, New York
Video Games Designed to Help With Depression and Anxiety