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Ninja Theory and Neuroscience Team Up to Combat Mental Health Throug...
Steve Farrelly
AusGamers Editor
Sydney, New South Wales
8348 posts
A common misconception is that if you're feeling depressed, escape the world and jump into a videogame -- "it'll fix you right up".

It won't. And it doesn't. Trust me.

Having lost my best friend to suicide, then dealing with my own onset PTSD as a result, while working in the games industry professionally (so access to almost every game around), I can tell you it simply isn't a quickfix for mental health. But study and purpose are now being applied to the science and design in how it can be, thanks to Ninja Theory through a research collaboration with neuroscientist Paul Fletcher, Psychiatrist and Professor of Health Neuroscience at University of Cambridge.

This collaboration aims to build "a program of gaming, technological and scientific development" targeted directly at helping victims of mental health being able to at first "become an expert at recognising" any signs of mental unrest, and hopefully being able to respond to and be be capable of "controlling their own fear, anxiety and other negative subjective experience".

Hell Blade: Senua’s Sacrifice won multiple awards as a videogame, not just for being a fantastic game, but also for how it depicted mental health in a light often ignored across myriad media.
The game received universal acclaim for its depiction of a warrior with severe mental health issues and was described by Wellcome as the best representation of psychosis in any media. It went on to win widespread acclaim, including five BAFTAs, three The Game Awards and a Royal College of Psychiatrists award.
Through a continued partnership with Paul Fletcher who collaborated on Hell Blade: Senua's Sacrifice to ensure the game's depiction of mental health was honest and accurate, Ninja Theory has developed the "The Insight Project" which aims to "plan a programme of gaming, technological and scientific development that will lead to self-contained, individualised and absorbing game experiences within which people can become an expert at recognising, responding to and, ultimately, controlling their own fear, anxiety and other negative subjective experience. The work will be underpinned by rigorous scientific principles to ensure its effectiveness and validity and it will adhere to strict standards of ethics and data management".

Mental health is both a disease and a curse. It is debilitating across numerous aspects of active life, from motivation to basic function and beyond. It comes in different forms and affects each and every person afflicted in uniquely dynamic ways. Too many people still sit in the "harden the f*** up" camp -- a camp I once used to frequent until the disease stopped by and sung me a number of depressive, motivation-affecting campfire songs. It is very real, and just "playing games" isn't a fix. However, games are transformative, so this type of research can lead to them being more helpful in someone's journey out of the darkness and into the light.

Watch a video highlighting the initiative talked about above, embedded below. Kudos, Ninja Theory. Thank you.

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