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Sidekick: The Video Games Mental Health Journal

Safe In Our World and Peregrine Coast Press present Sidekick: The Video Games Mental Health Journal

Sidekick: The Video Games Mental Health Journal is both a journal and a resource focused on improving the mental health of those in the games community (and anyone who needs it). By connecting you to the games you love so much, Sidekick will feel like a familiar friend who’s there for you when you need it. Whether you need some time to free write and color or want some targeted help for what you’re going through in the form of breathing exercises and journaling prompts, Sidekick will be with you!

“Sidekick has the potential to raise money for a charity with the potential to affect real, institutional change,” said Eryk Sawicki, PCP Project Manager and Designer. “The video games industry is notoriously unhealthy so playing a small part in changing that is pretty exciting!”

The project is co-led by Sky Tunley-Stainton and Harry Stainer, Peregrine Coast Press’s Marketing and Community Manager. Rosie Taylor, SIOW Content & Community Manager, co-wrote the journal alongside the two project leads and Eryk Sawicki designed the journal. Megan Dobbyn and Tristan McGuire both contributed illustrations.

“I remember we were having a discussion about wanting to produce something physical to support folks in the games community that could give them the tools and information to support their mental health,” said Sky Tunley-Stainton, Safe In Our World (SIOW) Partnerships & Training Officer and SIOW Project Lead for Sidekick. “Then Rosie [Taylor] suggested a journal, and we were immediately sold.”

Journal Features

  • 140 pages filled with video game and mental health related activities, prompts, and free journaling pages. Lovingly created with the goal of helping ease your mind and connect with your love of gaming!
  • Printed by Standart Impressa on 110gsm uncoated paper, the dot grid will let you journal and doodle to your heart’s content without getting in the way.
  • Inside these pages are resources and advice on how to manage your own wellbeing. This book isn’t just a companion – it’s a safe space to look after yourself and write whats on your mind.

“I’m always pushing to destigmatize mental health, especially in the workplace setting, so I hope our little journal has an impact on that,” Harry said. “Even if it makes one or two people feel a little less overwhelmed, we’ve done our job.”


Corporate Orders

'Sidekick' Teh Video Games Mental Health Journal - Corporate Orders written on a yellow/blue background, with journal outlines.

We’re now accepting corporate orders for Sidekick! We can provide your team with original or bespoke orders for Sidekick for you and your teams.

If you’d like to be notified of when Sidekick is available, sign up to the Peregrine Coast Press Newsletter.

If you’d like to register interest in a Corporate order, contact the Safe In Our World team.

Read PCP’s Blog Post about the Journal Collaboration.

Skills utilised:

Supporting Mental Health Through Flexible Work

Guest post by Farah Ali, SEO & Content Lead at Flexa Careers


The demand for flexibility has increased over the past few years, with a staggering 80% of games industry professionals expressing their desire to work flexibly, and it’s been driven by employees in search of a better work-life balance. 

The pandemic initially shook things up by forcing employers to embrace flexibility and quickly figure out how to function remotely for business to continue as usual. Following Covid-19, companies have had to adapt to a flexible working approach to meet the demands of employees. Companies that have failed to adapt quickly enough have likely been faced with the struggle of retaining valuable talent due to employees seeking more supportive work environments. And with 1 in 4 of us set to experience mental health challenges at some point, looking at how businesses can help support their teams is more important than ever. 


The top 4 benefits of a flexible work culture


Having a flexible work culture means valuing employees’ needs and understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the case. Instead, it gives employees choices around when, where and how they work. So what are the benefits, and how can flexible work support company goals?

Improved work-life balance

Flexibility means employees can spend more quality time with family and friends or make time for hobbies that boost mental well-being. It makes it easier to schedule medical appointments, counselling sessions and manage daily life. 

Increased job satisfaction

When employees feel that their employer genuinely cares about their well-being, they are more satisfied with their job. Having a flexible work culture shows employees that their employer is willing to listen and adapt to support their needs, which can create a more positive work environment and increase morale. And for companies, this means the benefit of more productive team members, higher retention rates and lower recruitment and training costs. 

Boosted productivity

When employees have more control over their work schedule, including where, when and how they work, they are more likely to be motivated and productive. If someone is more productive in the morning, they can adjust their hours to what works best for them or start later if their concentration is better in the afternoon/evening.

Better recruitment and retention

The more flexible a company is, the more attractive they are to future employees. Particularly those who truly value work-life balance. This means that companies can gain access to a wider pool of talent with a more diverse set of skills and experience. 


Flexible work arrangements that boost mental well-being


For many employees, a strict work schedule where they are required to be in the office every day can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. Having the flexibility to work from home, adjust work hours, or share job responsibilities with another employee can help to bring down stress levels and improve overall mental well-being. There are plenty of different flexible work arrangements that companies can offer, but it’s important to find options that work well for both the company and its employees. 


Remote-first provides employees with the freedom to choose their preferred work location. With working from home as the default option, employees who enjoy remote work full-time are encouraged to embrace it. Other employees, however, may have feelings of isolation and loneliness; this is where remote-first can be advantageous to strike that balance of socialisation. 

Fully remote

Fully remote work removes the time and costs associated with the daily commute and allows employees to work in an environment they are comfortable in. It makes it easier to manage the endless daily chores, which can be difficult when you’re in an office full-time. Instead, it can give back more time for activities that boost mental well-being, whether that be going on a walk or to the gym. 

Fully remote work can also be particularly helpful for those with anxiety, who could benefit from a flexible schedule to avoid the draining daily commute and the added pressure and worry of socialising when not feeling up to it. 

Flexible hours

Flexible working hours take work-life balance to a new level. It allows employees to choose when they start and finish as long as they complete their required hours. This can be especially helpful for employees with parental responsibilities who need to do school pick-ups and drop-offs or those who simply enjoy having flexibility for other reasons.

Job Sharing

Job sharing is another option for workplaces that are looking to become more flexible. This means two or more employees share the responsibility of a single role; it can be great for those who want to work part-time due to having other commitments. And it’s a solution for those who cannot take on a full-time role due to more severe or unpredictable mental health struggles. 


Workplace flexibility is key to supporting mental health and well-being, creating a happier and more productive team, and it can unlock the potential to attract and retain top talent. Embrace the power that flexibility has to offer and make that step towards creating a healthier and more fulfilling work environment. 


Want to see how your current workplace environment stacks up in supporting mental health? 🤸

Start by taking the free workplace benchmarking quiz to find out – it only takes 2 minutes. 

Take The Quiz


Skills utilised:

Norwich University Students Mental Health Games Showcase

In January 2023, Norwich University of the Arts game students were given an extended live brief in collaboration with Safe In Our World linked to the positive impact that nature has on well-being.

The students ranging across specialisms including game development, concept art, and asset design created original content based on a brief set by Games Course Leader Steven Coltart influenced/ inspired by the music track ‘With Nature’.

This is a continuation from our collaboration in 2022 with the University of Hertfordshire, where we worked alongside Steven to brief students for a music showcase, which you can listen to here.

Oli Paul

Game Development

Dog Walking Simulator – Made in Unreal Engine

Matthew Wright

Game Development

Quintessence – Made in Unreal Engine 5

I wanted to make a game to help people; offering a fun and tranquil experience giving a sense of freedom that is an extended metaphor for each of our journeys. A key theme I want my game to grant a player is serenity.

Megan Griib

“I decided to take inspiration from woods in my local area and the positive effects of walking in nature for mental health. Around March/April time, a particular area of woods where I walk become blanketed by beautiful bluebells and the sunlight dappled through the trees creates sparkles in the air – it really feels like a sanctuary.

When listening to ‘With Nature’, these are the things that came to mind, particularly in the soft twinkly sounds and strings, so my goal was to capture this feeling in a snapshot of an environment.  I think that being in nature is like escapism from the everyday, and so I wanted to take a fantasy approach in the art style, which is why I took inspiration from games like ‘Tearaway’, to make the entire scene as though it was made out of paper. This scene was presented and rendered in UE5.”

Salene Tarling

Concept Art

“The story behind the scene is that the two characters have returned from a perilous quest, a final battle, and as they reach the outskirts of their home city, it snows for the first time since everything has ended. They take a moment to sit in the flower field and appreciate”.

Annabelle Greenaway

Concept Art

Caroline Camara

Concept Art

Andre Lubi


Mora Pickford

Concept Art

Vicky Luu

Concept Art

Megan McCarthy

Concept Art

Skills utilised:

Speakers for Mental Health Games Summit with BAFTA Announced

This May 22nd, we are partnering with arts charity BAFTA to host a mental health summit for games industry professionals, and we’re delighted to announce the speakers and sessions we have planned.

Taking place at BAFTA’s iconic London headquarters at 195 Piccadilly, London from 9.00 am BST on Monday 22nd May, attendees can expect an open day full of keynotes, panels, workshops, and roundtables – delivered by knowledgeable industry speakers and mental health clinical consultants. 

A teal coloured asset with white pixel hearts, arrows and text reading Games Mental Health Summit presented by Safe In Our World and BAFTA

The Games Industry Mental Health Summit is open to everyone within the industry regardless of experience level and has been designed with affordability and approachability in mind. Visitors will be able to access practical advice on topics such as avoiding burnout, dealing with negative community sentiment, reaching out for help when needed, and how industry leaders can foster mental well-being across the industry. 


Tickets can be purchased here for the affordable price of £10.00 / £7.50 concessions.

The Schedule

10:00 – 10:45: Setting Boundaries
Creative & Future Galleries Rooms 2 and 3

Join this training session led by wellbeing specialists Mind Fitness on how to set healthy boundaries. You will learn that the better you become at knowing what is possible and not possible relating to healthy, sustainable work the more you will be serving yourself, your organisation and your community.


Brian Cooley is a qualified facilitator, performance coach and author of several plays, training programmes and co-author of two upcoming books: Emotional Health and Unlock Your Team. He has a diverse set of skills that have been developed working in several sectors: education, retail, telecoms, finance, digital, creative arts, hospitality, interactive entertainment and publishing. He is a passionate advocate for the redressing of systemic inequalities in society with a special interest in mental health.

Andy Barker is a certified performance coach, trainer and author with a broad experience of corporate senior management. Andy was part of the management team that launched PlayStation, growing it to a sector defining household brand. It was during this time that he developed and formalised his performance coaching knowledge and practice. He is co-author of Unlock You (Pearson 2019), which was shortlisted for Business Book of the Year in 2020.

10:15 – 11:00: Building Resilience and Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
Princess Anne Theatre

Listen to industry veteran and Safe In Our World Patron Shahid Ahmad discuss how we can learn to be more resilient to difficult working environments, push and grow their comfort zone, and battle low confidence within the games industry. He will discuss his own experiences in success, failure and how to cope with both in a responsible way.


Shahid Ahmad, Director at Crescent Code. Shahid has been named one of Games Industry International’s Top 10 Persons of the Year and 100 Top Influencers in the British Games Industry, Develop’s 25 People that Changed Games, one of MCV’s Brit List 100 and received Develop’s Publishing Hero award for his team’s role in opening PlayStation up to developers and for commissioning over 100 titles.

11:15 – 12:00: Protecting Your Wellbeing Online
Creative & Future Galleries Room 2 and 3

Relevant for any games developer or professional on the frontline or faced with online communities including community managers, join this session led by wellbeing specialists Mind Fitness about how to protect your mental health when faced with negative community sentiment.


Brian Cooley & Andy Barker

11:30 – 12:15: Sustaining Healthy Productivity
Princess Anne Theatre

Game development isn’t easy – with tight timelines, budget constraints and high expectations, it’s important that the team’s wellbeing is looked after. In this panel, speakers will share insights on why avoiding crunch is important, how to sustain productivity in a healthy way throughout a game development cycle and how to effectively project manage to avoid overworking.


HOST: Lauren Kaye is an award-winning diversity campaigner in the games industry and the Programme Coordinator for Limit Break. Lauren is responsible for overseeing the program and making sure Limit Break’s messaging is heard clear throughout the team. Lauren has a deep passion for elevating the voices in the games industry and is excited to be joining this year’s Limit Break Mentorship Committee offering her years of experience in content creation and journalism. Lauren is MCV’s 2023 Games Campaigner and was featured on GI.Biz’s Top 100 Game Changers and her voice has been featured through notable networks including BBC, iTV, and GinxTV.

Kirsty Rigden is the co-CEO of FuturLab, an award-winning independent studio behind games including PowerWash Simulator, Peaky Blinders Mastermind and Velocity 2X. She is the co-founder of Into Games, a non-profit that supports people in joining the games industry and she was named as MCV’s Business Woman of the Year in 2019.

13:30 – 14:15: How to Avoid Burnout
Creative & Future Galleries Room 2 and 3

Join this talk led by Stuart John Chuan, a qualified psychologist, as he shares tangible tips on how to recognise and avoid burnout. He will be looking at the challenges of working from home and how that can affect your wellbeing, as well as, discussing ideas on how to build personal and business resilience.

Speaker: Stuart John Chuan initially trained as a Forensic Psychologist and qualified over 17 years ago. Since then he’s worked in a number of clinical leadership positions across prisons, psychiatric hospitals and in various community based services such as probation, police, NHS and local authority and corporate banking.

13:45 – 14:30: Functioning in Chaos: The Importance of Balance, Community and Professionalism
Princess Anne Theatre

In this talk, Cassie Hughes will share her insights and tips on her experience balancing community, creation and professionalism whilst embracing inclusivilty within our industry.

Speaker: Cassie Hughes, Director, creator, consultant, and care manager: Cassie is a streamer, creator and influencer who co-founded Black Twitch UK, a platform dedicated to highlighting the voices and content of black streamers in the UK. She is also the director of Nox Lumina, a platform for events that encourages safe spaces and educational resources as well as the managing director of a care agency that supports vulnerable adults.

14:45 – 15:30: Fireside Chat: Our Mental Health
Creative & Future Galleries Room 2 and 3

Listen to this open, informal chat between industry speakers as they share their experiences of mental health and wellbeing. We hope that this helps normalise conversations about mental health within your own circles and workforce.


HOST: George Osborn is the co-chair of GamesAid, the games industry charity, and a Director at Taso Advisory. George was previously Head of Communications at Ukie, having worked in the sector for a deacde prior to that. He has also acted as a judge of the BAFTA Game Awards on three occasions.

Rosie Taylor is an avid video games enthusiast and advocate for mental health awareness, elimination of stigma and opening up the conversation to everyone. She joined the industry in 2020, previously providing key support to charity volunteers for large events and operations, and now manages the content and community aspects of Safe In Our World. Rosie was named a Game Changer by GIBiz in 2023. Having been surrounded by games her entire life, and faced personal mental health challenges, she is passionate to work within the industry and make a difference.

Luke Hebblethwaite is the Head of Games at BAFTA, leading the charity in its work to recognise, celebrate and support creative games talent and is a strong advocate for a progressive, inclusive industry, equally accessible by all. In his former role at Ukie, Luke led the UK Games Industry Census, providing a wealth of insight into mental health across the industry.

James Marquis is Ripstone’s in-house Psychology Coach who recently joined to take the company’s commitment to mental health to the next level. Embedded within their studios and teams, James’ expertise, as a longstanding mental health professional, is helping Ripstone build the support, tools and ways of working needed to overcome personal challenges, as well as industry-specific demands. The long-term goal? To holistically improve wellbeing in the games industry in a way that empowers everybody to bring their best selves to work; all while keeping the joy of creating at the forefront of development.

15:00 – 15:45: Mental Health Representation in Games
Princess Anne Theatre

In this talk, Paul Fletcher (mental health consultant on Ninja Theory’s Hellblade) poses a series of questions to our panel on the importance of responsible mental health representation in games, and what games companies can consider when telling a mental health focused narrative.


HOST: Paul Fletcher trained in medicine and psychiatry before taking a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. He is a psychiatrist and Bernard Wolfe Professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. He is interested in how video game and related technologies may play a key part in representing and improving mental health. He works with the video game studio, Ninja Theory Ltd.

Emma Taylor, RCE Wellbeing Hub and Peer Support Professional Lead. Emma qualified as a Teacher in 2007 and moved into the NHS in 2013 following a significant challenge with their mental wellbeing. She has been fundamental in embedding Recovery Colleges in both LPFT and CPFT and believes in harnessing the power of lived experience via her work within Peer Support. Emma works tirelessly to promote ‘living well with’ her diagnosis of ASD.

Gareth Damian Martin is a writer, designer and artist. Their first game, In Other Waters was widely praised by critics for its “hypnotic art, otherworldly audio and captivating writing” (Eurogamer). Their second, Citizen Sleeper, was equally critically acclaimed, nominated for multiple awards and its prose was named “some of the best in all of video games” (Waypoint). Gareth has been called “one of the most exciting indie talents around” (Eurogamer).

Dom Matthews (He/Him) is Studio Head at BAFTA award-winning Ninja Theory, having joined the Cambridge-based developer in 2010. Dom was part of the leadership team on 2017’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, where he and the team worked closely with experts in both neuroscience and lived-experience to tell the story of a Celtic warrior and her experiences of psychosis. Prior to joining Ninja Theory, Dom spent several years at Capcom, working in a Product Management capacity across a range of IP, including Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Dead Rising. He is now leading Ninja Theory, an Xbox Game Studio, as they develop the much anticipated sequel to Hellblade, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, and Project: Mara.

Jane Perry is a London based North American actor, with over 25 years of experience in film, TV, theatre and voice work. She’s experienced in games and motion capture, and has worked on over 60 titles, from independent projects to numerous AAA critically acclaimed IPs. In addition to her performance as Selene in Returnal for which she won Best Performance in a Leading Role at the 2022 BAFTA Games Awards, she is also known for playing Diana Burnwood in the Hitman: Sniper, I, II and III, Rogue in Cyberpunk 2077, Sharon Holt in As Dusk Falls and Karen Bowman in Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Jane also holds a Master’s Degree in Actor Training & Coaching and supports actors in their work in the voice over studio, as well as on stage and screen.

16:00 – 16:45: Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Creative & Future Galleries Room 2 and 3

Join Sarah Brewster of Fresh Seed and Dom Shaw of UKIE as they host this roundtable talking about neurodiversity. It’s a big topic in the ED&I world but do you know how you can support those with neurodiverse conditions in your studio? This session will share experiences, and provide you with some tools and information as well as attempt to capture what more we can do in this space.


Sarah Brewster started Fresh Seed, a plug in People & Culture service to games and the creative sector, to help the industry grow stronger. Fresh Seed is far more than HR, it offers psychological knowhow, and insight and solutions to help organisations thrive and create truly inclusive communities. As specialists in neurodiversity and the issues that face the industry we lead the way in providing expertise that’s relatable.

Dominic Shaw is the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Coordinator for the UK video games and interactive entertainment trade association (Ukie), who manages their award winning flagship diversity initiative – the #RaiseTheGame pledge, and supports other activities and initiatives around EDI. Dom is also an ambassador for the UK’s leading autism research charity, Autistica, who strive to make the games industry a more inclusive environment for autistic and neurodiverse individuals.

16:15 – 17:00: An Inclusive Industry For All
Princess Anne Theatre

How can we work to make an industry where everyone feels that they belong? This panel will tackle this topic from both a company and industry perspective. Panellists will share tips on what we can all do to truly make this an inclusive industry for all.

HOST: Robin Gray, Founder of Gayming Magazine, is the co-founder and co-CEO of Gray Jones Media, a future-thinking LGBTQ media company headquartered in Birmingham, UK, and with offices in New York City. He is widely recognised not only as an LGBTQ entrepreneur, influencer and cultural evangelist, but also as an advocate for diversity and representation in the video game and wider media world, speaking regularly at industry events around the world championing the growth of representation both in-content and in the workplace. Robin is also a proud Patron of Safe In Our World and is a fierce champion of their incredible work.

Nigel Twumasi, Co-Founder of Mayamada, is a former software engineer turned entrepreneur and the co-founder of mayamada. A keen advocate for diversity, Nigel delivers creative workshops and runs the “Do I Look Like A Gamer?” representation campaign, challenging gaming stereotypes and improving access to creative industries for future generations of diverse talent. He also serves on the London Mayor’s Cultural Leadership Board and Children’s Media Conference Advisory Committee.

Dean Barrett, is the Executive Chair at Bastion, a marketing communications agency dedicated to the interactive entertainment industry. Current clients include Amazon Games, Riot Games, Epic Games, Square Enix, Wizards of the Coast, Private Division and Ukie amongst others. The Bastion team of 25 people is based in Shoreditch, London and provides clients with product and corporate marcom services, influencer marketing through its Pinpoint brand and global marcom support through the OneVoice network which Bastion established in 1995. Dean is also Chair of Hillside Clubhouse, a mental health charity based in Islington that supports people with enduring mental illness get back into the workplace.

Ebonix, Co-Founder of Black Twitch UK. Danielle Udogaranya – best known as Ebonix – is a content creator, speaker, Twitch Ambassador, DE&I Games Consultant and self-taught 3D artist. Fuelled by a frustration with the lack of diversity and representation in games such as The Sims 4, she decided to take matters into her own hands by teaching herself 3D modelling and creating hair, clothes and accessories that she felt represented her. Her content quickly struck a chord with others in the gaming community, and led to Danielle working directly with The Sims on the addition of over 100 skintones, afro hair, and nails. Her designs have ushered in a generational change for new and seasoned Simmers, giving everyone the option to create a Sim who looks like them.


Tickets can be purchased here for the affordable price of £10.00 / £7.50 concessions.

Skills utilised:

How AI and Biofeedback are Helping Players Manage Stress and Anxiety 

AI is all the buzz since the recent launch of Chat GPT. Since then, the integration of AI in various industries is being recognized everywhere, including the mental health and stress management space.

Many mental health technology applications have already begun integrating advanced AI chatbots as emotional support companions, with some startups also integrating psychotherapy-based responses. For example, Mendu Wellbeing, a New York-based startup, is utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tools in their AI chatbot to address mental health issues in women. Given the positive impact of apps and AI on mental health, it is not surprising that the gaming industry is now being targeted for the integration of AI technology to improve mental health outcomes. 

What makes AI so resourceful when it comes to joining mental health and video games is its ability to learn and recognize patterns. These patterns include emotion recognition in various ways that tell the computer how a particular person feels. Computers can do a surprisingly good job at taking in a bunch of data and indicating whether a person has a low mood, or when they are feeling stressed out. As we continue to advance AI research, it is crucial to acknowledge the potential impact this technology can have in the gaming industry when used effectively so we can benefit those suffering from mental health symptoms everywhere.  

The games industry offers a distinct opportunity to address mental health concerns by providing unparalleled user behavioral and interaction data that can enable AI to accurately gauge the user’s emotional state. Games developers are now incorporating user physiological responses into the dataset, which goes beyond behavioral and interaction-based data. By tracking the player’s heart rate, sweat, and breathing responses, the video game can determine the user’s stress levels during gameplay. This feature enables an interactive game to adapt and modify the gaming experience in real-time, helping to alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. 

And while seemingly unconventional, the concept of pairing human responses with technology is not a new idea. In fact, this concept is known as biofeedback and is being utilized in video games to detect and respond to players’ stress or anxiety levels and adjust the gameplay accordingly. Let’s say you were playing your favorite well known sandbox adventure game and all of a sudden your leveled breathing becomes shallow, and your gaming behavior seems off. The AI would’ve already been trained to pick out these changes and came to the conclusion that you are feeling stressed out. The AI doesn’t care why (it could be a text from an ex, or a bad test grade came in) but it would then work to adjust your gameplay to reduce your stress levels.  

Adjusting the gameplay could look something like being prompted by a character to take part in stress relieving techniques or being guided to a scenic change in the game that is more soothing than the current environment. Another way a game could help players reduce their stress is by slowing down the pace of the gameplay or reducing the difficulty level when it detects that a player is becoming too stressed. Even scientific research has demonstrated the effectiveness of biofeedback in enhancing mental health outcomes such as stress reduction, anxiety management, and improved emotional regulation. Therefore, the integration of biofeedback features in video games represents a promising avenue for improving mental health outcomes through gaming.  

People have tried biofeedback in gaming a few times in our recent history, with games like The Journey to Wild Divine popping up in the early 2000s. But as tech advanced, so did the implementation of biofeedback and AI in games. Take the game Nevermind, a psychological thriller video game that uses biofeedback technology to help players manage their stress levels while playing. The game is set in a mysterious world where the player takes on the role of a Neuroprober – a scientist who can enter a patient’s mind to explore their memories and help them overcome their traumas. 

What is most interesting is that while exploring the patient’s mind, the game uses biofeedback technology to monitor the player’s heart rate and other physiological responses. As the player becomes more stressed, the game becomes more difficult, presenting them with more challenging puzzles and obstacles. 

To help players manage their stress levels, the game also features relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and calming visualizations. As players progress through the game, they can learn to recognize their own stress signals and use these techniques to calm themselves down and reduce their stress levels.  

Games like this shine a light on how AI and tech can make a real difference in the lives of people from all ages. Video games can be used to teach mental health techniques, and improve stress and anxiety symptoms in users. Even more so, utilizing the gaming industry to improve mental health allows for mental health resources to become more accessible to a wider audience, including those who may have previously been skeptical of video games’ benefits. 

This integration can help reduce the stigma around mental health by encouraging players to openly discuss their mental health and practice self-care. 

AI and biofeedback technology are transforming the gaming industry and making a positive impact on mental health care.  As more people discover the benefits of using video games as a tool for stress management and mental well-being, we can expect to see greater acceptance and awareness of the importance of mental health as well as a future where mental health and video games can work together to promote overall well-being.  

So, if you’re currently feeling stressed, consider trying out a game that can help you manage your symptoms. Games like Nevermind or Animal Crossing can help you stay present and relaxed, while also helping you take steps to support your own mental health.  



  1. Almeqbaali M , Ouhbi S , Serhani MA , Amiri L , Jan RK , Zaki N , Sharaf A , Al Helali A , Almheiri E. A Biofeedback-Based Mobile App With Serious Games for Young Adults With Anxiety in the United Arab Emirates: Development and Usability Study. JMIR Serious Games 2022;10(3):e36936 
  1. Loveys K, Fricchione G, Kolappa K, Sagar M, Broadbent E. Reducing Patient Loneliness With Artificial Agents: Design Insights From Evolutionary Neuropsychiatry. J Med Internet Res. 2019 Jul 8;21(7):e13664. doi: 10.2196/13664. PMID: 31287067; PMCID: PMC6643766. 

Demi Fortson (she/her/hers) 

Meet Demi Fortson, a neurobiology and epigenetics expert who co-founded Mendü, a company based in NYC that develops science-based therapeutic tools for marginalized women. Demi’s formal training at University of Maryland and Columbia University has given her a deep understanding of the nerdy neuroscience side of the human brain.

Skills utilised:

Hub World: Stress Relieving Games and Tips from our Community

Hub World is back, and this month we’re looking to our community for their suggestions for Stress Awareness Month. More specifically, which stress relieving games would they recommend, and what helps keep their stress levels from bubbling over?

Stress is a part of everyone’s life, naturally fluctuating as we navigate our experiences and grow. But how can we use games as a way to manage stress? What other things can we adopt in our routines to reduce stress? Here’s what the Safe In Our World community had to say.

Stress Relieving Games

One game that kept cropping up for this section was Dorfromantik – a peaceful building strategy and puzzle game where you create a beautiful and ever-growing village landscape by placing tiles. Suggested by Hannah Rutherford, EllieJoyPanic, Alex Gate and Bardintheyard, Dorfromantik seems to be a popular choice for simply switching your brain over to a more serene and passive headspace.

Dorfromantik was one of the first games I downloaded when I got my computer, and I’ve put a lot of hours into it since.  It is so immersive, it allows you to leave and come back at your convenience, and it allows you the time to just sit and enjoy the world you’ve built. – Bard

“When I get stressed, I begin to try and fix things in my brain and end up missing the world around me,” Bard continued, “my method for battling this is deciding that the moment I’m in is going to become a core memory and take time to notice the little things for a moment.  The smell of the air, the ground beneath my feet, the sounds within my walls.  Even if it doesn’t become something I remember forever, it gives me the opportunity to firmly put myself present in the world and recognize I exist, I matter, and I’m here.  Taking those few seconds to recenter everything lets me catch my breath and tackle obstacles better.”

“I love Dorfromantik! It’s a very cozy, no time limit, city building puzzle game that’s GORGEOUS. In the evenings, I play it in front of the TV, and it’s really good at helping me unwind. I find trying to match up all the biomes on the tiles really relaxing, and try to see how big I can make my landscape before I run out of tiles.” – Hannah

screenshot from Dorf Romantik with illustrated houses, trees and rivers across a hexagonal map

“My current go-to game for stress relief is Dorfromantik, a comfy puzzler/countryside builder, a big warm hug in video game form. Its soundtrack is soothing and relaxing with gentle ambient nature sounds, it has charming and cozy visuals, and the puzzle aspect is taxing enough that it sufficiently occupies my brain enough to take my mind off any stresses and worries.” – Ellie

It’s easy to get lost in the worlds you build and get a release from the troubles that may be weighing down on you. – Alex

Emmalition leans towards Tetris Mobile, finding peace in clearing Tetriminoes:

It’s my go-to stress relief because it requires so much attention and focus when it speeds up that I can’t think about anything else, including my woes and worries! Plus the constant flow of clearing lines makes my brain happy. Although I’m now seeing blocks everywhere I look! Emma also encourages talking to a friend/partner during times of stress. “Usually my husband will help me put my stresses into perspective and help resolve them if possible. Never be afraid to lean on loved ones for help.”

Puzzle games seem to be a theme for our Community, as Karen suggests the short puzzler ‘Wattam’.

“A puzzle game that isn’t very long but I’ve found to be wholesome, encourages you to just try strange things, and has plenty of delightful moments is Wattam. You start off as one character who’s all alone but through trial and error, you make more and more friends! Some of the secret ways to discover more friend are truly wacky, but I think that’s what makes the game so charming. The characters are cute too!”

A screenshot from Wattam, with colourful blob characters running across a field, led by the Mayor (with a bowling hat)

For Connor, Terra Nil has been his current go-to game to relax, through reverse-city building a wasteland into a thriving eco-system. “The art and music are both lovely and relaxing. The levels are random, bite-sized and don’t put much pressure on the player. It really helps you unwind.”

Richard Breslin commented that he can have any number of go-to games to relieve stress. More often than not it’s likely to be an open-world game like Horizon Forbidden West, Death Stranding or Yakuza.

“The reason is that I can be free from any mission structure and explore or venture wherever my intrigue takes me. Dealing with stress can be different given any other day. However, I often tell myself that tomorrow is a new day and an opportunity to reset my brain, so to speak. It’s easier said than done, but it can help sometimes.”

Pastelbat went back to their classic comfort game – Destiny 2 (which, they knew nobody would be surprised at!). You can listen to why Destiny means so much to them on one of our podcast episodes here.

“It just brings me so much joy and there’s activities I can do without having to think too much. Just being able to redo activity without focusing makes me calm… also some voice lines pulls me out of daydreams.”

Grow Home, recommended by Harry Stainer, is a conflict-free chilled experience allowing him to ground himself; “I love it’s beauty, simplicity and how calming growing a plant back up to your spaceship is. It’s always a game I go back to when I get overwhelmed.” Harry also comments on finding any good media with a great story can be an excellent escape during particularly stressful moments.

image from Grow Home, with BUD looking up across a vast plant growing into the sky

It’s not all relaxing games for the Safe In Our World space, as it’s not uncommon for gamers to run to traditionally challenging or stressful games to counter real-world stress! Jerreau Henry illustrates this with Resident Evil 4: New Game+.

Yes, Resident Evil 4 is technically a horror game, but after multiple playthroughs, it feels more like a cheesy action movie meets Shaun of the Dead! Leon’s one-liners, ridiculous suplex moves, and his famed attaché case all make RE4 a fun and rewarding game to de-stress to.

We’ve had a number of previous cases for horror and stress relief, such as this article on horror being a safe space from freelance writer Alicia, or ‘how stressful games can be relaxing‘ from Ruby Modica.

So, what can we do?

For most of our community, the suggestions on ways to relieve stress were similar, drawing on nature-based relaxation and hobbies to get lost in. For Pastelbat, it’s scrapbooking K-pop and reading manga to reduce stress outside of gaming time.

Our community also shared the importance of leaning on others sometimes. It doesn’t always need to be solution focused conversations, with Alex sharing that simply explaining the issues that you’re facing can present clarity and a weight being lifted. However, breaking down problems or reasons for stress with logical step-by-step solutions where possible might put our minds at ease. Jerreau highlighted value in taking moments to check in with himself, and practicing self-care and self-kindness.

Connor emphasizes how small breaks are as important as longer breaks: “Try to at least stand up and get away from your screen for a few minutes. Going for a walk also does wonders. I’m pretty notorious for feeling guilty when trying to relax, it’s something I struggle with but those two help keep me in check.”

Managing Stress at Work

We also chatted to Ubisoft’s HR Projects Manager for the Reflections and Leamington studios in the UK, Julia Melvin, who focuses a lot of their work on wellbeing in the workplace, who offered some great advice for those looking to delve into more nuanced support at work.

“We all experience stress in our lives but we have a limited capacity for how much stress we can reasonably manage at one time. Having helpful coping strategies and some time set aside for self-care can help us alleviate stress and ensure we are able to be resilient and cope with whatever comes up. But if stress becomes pervasive and overwhelming and we have no time or space to set aside for self-care and relaxation, we may experience a reaction to the stress and it can quickly become a much more difficult problem to manage.

“Prolonged stress and overwhelm can drastically affect our behaviours, our moods and our health in general – our sleep patterns, eating habits, personal care and hygiene and relationships with others may be impacted. We may start to experience physical sensations of stress in our bodies in the form of headaches, back pain, fatigue or digestive issues and we may find ourselves feeling less tolerant of others, and less able to cope with events as they arise — even a seemingly minor thing can seem like a huge deal when we are consumed by stress because our resilience has been compromised.

The longer we persist and allow the stress to mount, the more difficult it becomes to manage.

“We each have a different ‘stress signature’ – a collection of signs that things are starting to become too much. It’s important to become aware of what our individual stress response looks like and to give some other people we trust permission to let us know if they notice our signs. For example, some people may get quiet and withdrawn while others may become more irritable and argumentative, we are all unique. When we notice our individual signs, it’s time to take a step back and give ourselves additional space, and ask for help if we need to. When we are feeling stressed, we are less able to focus on the work at hand, things may take longer and the quality of our work can start to drop so we are less productive.

“Stress can also be contagious – when one person on a team is feeling overwhelmed, it has a knock-on impact to others they interact with as well. This can lead to strained relationships and even more people in need of stress relief and support. This is why addressing stress in the workplace is so important, both in terms of prevention and support. Carrying our regular stress risk assessments for your team is one great way to ensure you are considering any possible pressure points and forming an action plan around how you will address them to mitigate work-related stress and aid prevention. Having support in place for anyone who needs it and ensuring there is regular signposting to the support that is available is vital to aid early interventions.

“The importance of making time for ourselves cannot be underestimated. We have to actively release the pressure valve on an ongoing basis and find ways to boost our spirit like being outdoors, playing games, seeing family and friends, building Lego, reading a book or watching a movie. We need this as maintenance every day, to keep ourselves feeling our best. But as stress rises, we need even more space to recharge and recover than usual as we can find it increasingly harder to switch off and get engaged in activities, it takes longer for us to settle and get engaged in something when we have a lot on our minds.

“It’s also important that our self-care strategies are flexible and can be adapted to suit our needs as we may need different things at different times. Sometimes self-care looks like getting together with friends for a great night out or a fun gaming session, and sometimes it looks like having time alone to rest and reflect, take a nap or read a book. If we feel restless and agitated and can’t sit still, we can go for a walk. If we feel exhausted, we can watch a favourite movie we haven’t seen in ages instead. Listening to our own needs is the key. Self-care that is adaptive and flexes around our needs can help us relieve stress so that we have more room and resilience to cope with life’s challenges as they arise.”

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Safe In Our World and BAFTA to Host Games Industry Mental Health Summit

We are thrilled to be partnering with arts charity BAFTA to host a mental health summit for games industry professionals.

Taking place at BAFTA’s iconic London headquarters at 195 Piccadilly, London from 9.00 am BST on Monday 22nd May, attendees can expect an open day full of keynotes, panels, workshops, and roundtables – delivered by knowledgeable industry speakers and mental health clinical consultants. 

A teal coloured asset with white pixel hearts, arrows and text reading Games Mental Health Summit presented by Safe In Our World and BAFTA

The Games Industry Mental Health Summit is open to everyone within the industry regardless of experience level and has been designed with affordability and approachability in mind. Visitors will be able to access practical advice on topics such as avoiding burnout, dealing with negative community sentiment, reaching out for help when needed, and how industry leaders can foster mental well-being across the industry. 

“With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem of some kind in the UK, we’re always striving to create a more open dialogue around mental health within the games industry,”

…says Sarah Sorrell, Charity Manager at Safe In Our World, “Partnering with BAFTA has given us the opportunity to dedicate a whole day to helping our industry peers access vital and even life-saving information.” 

Safe In Our World and BAFTA are keen to stress the importance of mental health awareness, and each of the day’s activities focuses on offering tangible takeaways that industry members can use within their roles and across their day-to-day lives.

A full list of speakers will be announced within the next 2 weeks and tickets can be purchased here for the affordable price of £10.00 / £7.50 concessions.

Games are an incredible art form that require a wealth of creative and technical expertise and hard work to make.

“As with any creative medium, the creative talents behind them dedicate a great deal of time and energy to their creations and, sometimes, the pressures they face can be high,” explains Luke Hebblethwaite, Head of Games at BAFTA.

“Mental health issues can affect any and all of us, so it is crucial we empower both individuals and businesses in games with the knowledge and tools to be able to recognise, understand, and address the well-being of both ourselves and those around us in order to ensure the games we love do not come at the cost of the health of those making them. We are delighted to be collaborating with Safe In Our World, who do excellent work in this space, and to use BAFTA’s platform to help elevate mental health discussions in our industry.”

Skills utilised:

Mind-wandering and Meandering through Video Games

Ever since video games have existed, so have the questions about whether they help or hurt stress levels of players. Do shooters bring a chance for catharsis after a long day, or do they just spike your adrenaline? Can getting lost in Stardew Valley for hours on end help calm you down, or does it just distract you for a little while?

Ultimately, studies have shown that yes, video games can be a healthy and fun outlet for stress relief as long as it’s within moderation – much like everything in this world. But there are some genres of game that not only help in soothing stresses, but go further and allow us to confront them gently.

I’m thinking primarily of idle games and walking sims; the video games often thought of as boring, with mechanics that are easy and stories so light you’ll find your mind wandering throughout your play session. But that is precisely their brilliance, and what makes them so unassuming as stress-relieving games. Mind-wandering, also known as daydreaming, zoning out, and undirected thinking, is a term coined by J. Smallwood and J.W. Schooler to describe the experience of thoughts unrelated to a task at hand, without interference to the task’s completion, and is naturally encouraged by these kinds of games.

By employing simple tasks, with simple mechanics – walk here, complete this basic puzzle, collect these items – idles and walking sims provide you with just enough mental stimulation to keep you walking, puzzling, and collecting while in the back of your head you can let your mind drift. As you wander, both digitally in-game and mentally out-of-game, you can actually begin to consider the things which are playing on your mind and bringing you stress, without letting them overwhelm you. After all, you can’t stop walking before you reach your destination.

a dark staircase with a character with bright green eyes walking down in a cave.

In Studio Seufz’ idle adventure game The Longing, you play as a small curious creature, known as the Shade, tasked with watching over a sleeping king for 400 days. Oh and yes, those are real time days (though you might find some hidden ways to end your waiting early)! It’s up to you how often you drop by to visit the Shade, and similarly it’s up to you to decide how to spend your time together. Collect items lost in the underground world, walk and explore the tunnels (but very very slowly), or even sit and read one of the classic texts sitting on the shelf in-game. These gameplay elements are all purposefully designed to be undemanding, something which is underlined by the point-and-click controls including ‘Idle Walk’, that with one push tells the Shade to just keep going.

On one level, The Longing’s gentle tasks and light controls help alleviate stress by providing you with easy but meaningful goals. But looking through the idea of mind-wandering, these undemanding mechanics promote temporary moments of disconnect between your consciousness and meta-awareness. In other words, you have time to think without noticing the contents of your thoughts, proven to help promote problem-solving and stress-relief.

An abandoned house by the road surrounded by trees (from Everybody's Gone To The Rapture)

Unlike games such as Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing which promote relaxation through low-pressure self-determined routines in cozy worlds for you to shape, idles and walking sims balance fixed stories with flexible choices and uncomplicated game-mechanics to do the same. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture from The Chinese Room is a perfect example of this. While many walking-sims have a more set-path for their players to tread, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture gives you an open-world (or open-rural-countryside-village) to explore in any way you like. Within this setting, the only actions you can take aside from interacting with certain objects, are “keep walking” and “keep looking”.

'Controller' is written at the top of the image, with orange text beneath "Remember the golden rule for survivors". Beneath is an illustrated image of a ps4 controller with labels - the left joystick is 'keep moving', the right joystick is 'keep looking'. The X button is 'explore, investigate, interact. Beneath in small text reads 'Take nothing for granted - Be prepared to act!'

Together this encourages you to digitally meander, encouraging your mind to wander. Despite having a fixed story, the fact that the world is so open while your pace is so deliberate, leaves enough space between each fragment of narrative for you to fill with your own unconscious thoughts. It’s a game created with gaps in mind. As you slowly make your way to the next part of your journey, you can simply start to wonder about what’s adding to your stress with a bit of distance between yourself and your worries.

Despite being overlooked as stress-relieving games, idles and walking games have a lot of similarities with mindful practises – and often it’s completely accidental. They push to create settings, storylines, and mechanics that encourage unhurried discovery and revelation. So it’s no surprise that, while your character is wandering and your mind is drifting, some of these discoveries end up being self-reflective. For a game to let you gently gain control of your own worries is so impressive and useful when using video games to relax. But for a game to do that without even thinking about it? Well now, that’s something else.

Alex Dewing

Alex is an entertainment writer and (wannabe) community manager. An avid gamer, cartoon fanatic, and lover of pop culture, she is dedicated to diversity on-and-behind the screen and is the host and producer of video game podcast The Lag.

You can find them on Twitter at @alex_dewing

Skills utilised:

Play Your Way 2023

Play Your Way is back for another year, and this Mental Health Month, Safe In Our World is asking the video games community to come together and play the games that mean the most to them whilst raising vital funds and awareness for mental health in our industry.

We had a wonderful Play Your Way last year, with so many experiences and heartfelt conversations arising from folks inside and outside of our community. We’re excited to see what people are getting up to this year, having already spotted a hike up Snowdon from Ambassador Harry Stainer, as well as the return of Planet Nontendo and Regen Games’ fundraiser!

Click here to register your interest in Play Your Way 2023!

What do funds support?

  • Safe In Our World is working with 150 Level Up Partners to foster positive mental health awareness and curate bespoke industry support and resources to create a safer work environment in our industry. Our Level Up Programme is free to join, and allows any company in the industry to access valuable resources and support without a barrier to entry
  • Providing free training where possible to our industry and community. We have provided crucial mental health training to over 300 Community Managers to empower them in their role to better equip themselves and their community when it comes to mental health conversations and support. Funds support not only funding the courses but finalising scope and creating the courses
  • In the past year, we have also provided 175 people from Under Represented Groups in the games industry with a free mental health course
  • Providing free curated content to our community around monthly themes in mental health, opening up the discussion around mental health and fostering a safe space to explore our mental health in video games. This is through our websiteDiscord serversocial media and podcast.
  • Spreading awareness is a crucial part of Safe In Our World, so that folks in the games industry know where to find life-saving resources and powerful tools to improve the quality of working life.
  • Funds also support the day-to-day operations of the charity and allow us to continue our work in making all of the above happen!

Skills utilised:

Stress Awareness

Stress is a feeling known to us all – how can we learn more about our own stressors and how to cope?

If you’ve ever played Dark Souls, you’ve likely experienced what stress is. Stress causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties. You might notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat – This is known as the fight or flight response. Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you’re constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you could develop stress-related symptoms.

A lot of information is available on our site about how we can help ourselves and others when we are feeling stressed.

We will be talking about games that look at aspects of feeling stressed, and how they can help us move into a state of relaxation, as well as other resources and anecdotes designed to support us in times of need. We will also be hosting a panel at the end of the month talking to a variety of folks on their experiences – so check in with our Twitch Channel to stay up to date.

Our Resources on Stress

Information/ Feeling Stressed – For more information and things you can do to support yourself

Managing Stress (Covid-19 Hub) – For coping with stress (specific to Covid-19)

Stress Relieving Games and Industry Stories with Jake Kulkowski (Podcast) – A discussion with Jake on our favourite games to de-stress, and the kinds of titles that enable us to relax, including the discussion around why some gamers find escapism within horror titles. We discuss Jake’s mental health story, and some of the games that mean the most to him.

Hub World: Stress (Community Support) – We ask our community about what they like to do to help de-stress

How Intense Games Can Be Relaxing – Ruby Modica discusses how intense games can be relaxing during last year’s stress awareness month at Safe In Our World

What if Horror is Your Safe Place? – Alicia Brunskill discusses how horror games can be safe space for many gamers, highlighting the link to relaxation.

Skills utilised:

A violent allegory of depression: an interview about OTXO

We had the chance to interview Nate Haddock, developer of OTXO, about how he created a game depicting his own struggles with depression.

The Interview

Rosie [R]: Can you tell us about OTXO and what it’s about? 

Nate [N]: Basically it’s about this guy who at random finds this cursed mask, and is compelled to put it on. This transfers him and his loved one to this mansion where she is trapped within the mansion, and he must make his way through rooms of enemies to rescue her. There’s more to it of course, but I’ll get into how it links to mental health shortly!

R: I guess it’s supposed to be deliberately a bit ominous and mysterious, right?

N: Exactly, exactly.

R: What prompted you to make OTXO as a game in general? 

N: I like mechanically tight games, which is what I wanted to do with OTXO, but for the concept of the storyline; I wanted to make a game that was specifically about my thoughts and experience with depression. Obviously it’s different for everyone, it’s a very subjective thing, but for me depression is very much a battle. I wanted to take that… anger [anger’s maybe not the right word], of having to deal with something like this and focusing into the experience, which is why the game is so outwardly violent.

R: On the surface it doesn’t seem like it would be related to depression because it seems quite brutal and violent – why did you go down the route of literal violence in the game? 

N: I think it’s the most cathartic way to deal with something like that! When I have to deal with my depression it’s like a constant fight. It feels so taxing. You have to put in so much energy to deal with it – it’s truly constant battling. And it’s like the anger that I mentioned before – it’s anger at the depression itself. At the concept of it – they just fit to me.

R: A lot of people of people often make games about subjects like these as a way to process them internally and use development as a cathartic way to handle trauma in a way. Do you think that was part of the reason that you made OTXO as a way to physically embody and immortalise how you were feeling at the time? When you play the game, do you think it’s a way to help you when you’re feeling low?

N: To the first part of that question – probably not really! Making the game itself wasn’t really cathartic for me in that way but in some ways it was easier to make it because it was something I experienced. But it hasn’t really helped! That’s what counselling is for. By virtue of being a roguelike, the game is a repetitive loop with the overall message of ‘don’t give up’. As you get further in, you are becoming stronger and getting more skills, and you as a player are getting better at playing the game, just like you as a human being can be getting better at dealing with depression. So the overall message is ‘don’t give up’.

R: I like that. I think a lot of the time when people know a game is about mental health, they expect it to be a certain way. When you say mental health game, people often assume it’s really cosy and nice, and is super relaxing. It’s nice to see other narratives play out in genres that you wouldn’t typically expect within games! It’s good to challenge the assumption around mental health themed games being different, and having that personal touch to what the player wants from it.

N: You know how the matrix movies are about being trans, but it’s not so outwardly about that? I wanted that kind of like subtle touch to the game; like the game is about depression but it’s not going to beat you over the head with it. I wanted it to be subtle.

R: Exactly, and that’s got nice symmetry with people as well in a way. They might be depressed, but they’re still a person. It’s still a game, it might have themes within it but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a game that’s meant to be enjoyed, regardless of how you connect with the inner meanings of it.

You said the main message within the game is about not giving up; are there any other take-homes that you’d want players to have? 

N: Don’t give up is the main one I think of. When I accepted the fact that I have depression, I thought it’s going to be something that’s going to be consistent in my life. Obviously it ebbs and flows, but I don’t see it ever really going away because that is the way that it is. With that in mind, not giving up was probably the most important message I could put in the game. You have to keep pushing forward. You have to keep going.

R: Does having depression have an influence on how you make games? I’m sure there are a lot of other developers who might be experiencing mental ill health for the first time, with effects on productivity and drive. It can be very easy in that situation to feel guilt or place blame on yourself. Do you have any words of wisdom that you’d want to share with someone going through a similar thing? 

N: First of all – take breaks. Take breaks before you feel like you need a break.

When you feel like you need a break and then take a break, that’s where the guilt can sometimes come in. It’s a lot easier to take a break when it’s like “hey! I’m taking a break right now. Not because I’m useless but just because I’m taking a break.”

It feels a lot better that way. It also helps to separate yourself from the project a little bit too. It helps if you view it as ‘work’ rather than ‘this is a core part of who I am’. I feel that a little bit – I think you have to a bit to make games, but it can’t be your sole motivation because if it goes south, you are going to feel terrible about yourself. It really helps to separate yourself from your work – see it as something you have to do rather than ‘this is the most important thing’.

Get some sleep. That’s always a good one! Drink a lot of water, have a good diet, exercise if you can. Those are all big.

Anni [A]: Drink some water, as Rosie drinks some Pepsi Max

R: Don’t expose me like this! I’m a beverage goblin I’ve been told – I have one for energy [holds up coffee mug], one for hydration [holds up water bottle] and one for fun! [holds up Pepsi Max].

[We continue to talk about water bottles for a little while]

N: Go on walks! That’s an easy way to exercise and clear your mind – go on walks.

R: I like those because they’re not really difficult things to do either – they can feel difficult to do don’t get me wrong, but it’s genuinely amazed me when I’ve been in a low place and gone to the shops, come home and been like “I’m having such a good day now?! What’s happening?!”

It doesn’t always work, but if there’s a chance of that happening and it’s going to change your mood, why not give it a go.

N: Apparently there’s some science to it, where if you change your environment it can have a substantial effect on your brain chemistry in the moment. It’s always super interesting because sometimes I don’t buy it, and then I go outside and I feel better, and I’m like ‘huh’.

R: It’s so annoying as well because it’s all of the people who tell you going on a walk will fix your depression. It didn’t fix it but it did make me feel better and I’m kinda mad about it.

I have one final question! How did it feel developing OTXO compared to developing Dogworld because of the meanings within the game? 

N: It was different for sure. When I was working on Dogworld I was pretty horribly depressed. I was living in a town where I didn’t really have any friends, working a desk job I didn’t like. Dogworld’s general tone is more about loneliness and feels darker in my mind even though it’s not presented that way. When I was working on OTXO, I was surrounded by people who love me, and I was working a job I like, and I feel like I was able to focus more on the granularity of depression itself rather than general ‘I’m kinda lonely, everything sucks’ kind of feelings.

R: I really resonate with that – obviously I’ve not made a game, but it’s so easy when you go back to what you were feeling at the time of making/writing something and that’s how you view it in retrospect rather than what the material is. I recently wrote up a story for the website and I was pretty ok? It was about one of the darkest periods of my life but because I am in a pretty good place now in comparison, I was like ‘yeah, it’s good. I’m alright. Even though this has caused me years of trauma, I’m okay.’ It’s strange how your current mindset can affect associations with projects like that.


Enter the Mansion when OTXO releases on Steam on April 20th.

Skills utilised:

A Touching Gesture: Hand Movements and Loss in Videogames

This is an excerpt from ‘A Touching Gesture: Hand Movements and Loss in Videogames‘, written by Dr Emma Reay, shared with permission. Please click the link to read the full article. Warning: Heavy Spoilers for ‘Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons’ ahead.

It is not a linguistic accident that the words ‘touching’, ‘feeling’, and ‘moving’ have dual significance. In 1964, psychiatrist Ernst Gellhorn took the etymological link between ‘motion’ and ‘emotion’ as the starting point for his investigation into proprioception.

He wondered, “if on receiving news of a great loss one would make up one’s mind to strut back and forth with chest expanded, this posture would interfere with the development of a sad mood appropriate to the occasion.”

Video games can manipulate a player’s hands by means of the controller; does it follow that video games can communicate with the player via a somatic language? After all, the word ‘controller’ does not clarify who is in control: arguably, the video game has as much control over the player’s movements as the player’s movements have over the video game.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a moving text in more senses that one. In fact, the emotional power of this video game is inseparably tied to the hand motions required to play it. In other words, Brothers manipulates a player’s emotions by manipulating her hands. The operational controls of Brothers deviate from what one might term the ‘standard language’ of gameplay gestures. In the majority of adventure games designed for the PlayStation, the left analogue stick moves an avatar around a space while the right analogue stick adjusts the avatar’s ‘viewpoint’. Brothers, however, subverts this operational norm in order to reawaken the player to the significance of the gameplay gestures.

Just as some poetry draws attention to the surface of an utterance by violating the norms of ‘everyday’ language, the operational controls in Brothers are obtrusively irregular, and therefore demand that the player considers their full communicative potential.

The unusual two-handed gestural controls of Brothers use both synchronicity and variance to layer moments of gameplay with complex meaning. As metonyms for the two brothers, the player’s hands convey kinship, a unified will, and similitude, while the parallel gestures performed by the player express a sense of instinctive trust and mutual dependency.

However, manipulating two avatars at once is not an easy task: one’s hands naturally want to synchronise, but the game requires that they operate independently. This results in moments of frustration – the kind of frustration a young boy may feel at being told ‘he has to stick with Big Brother’, or that ‘he has to let Little Brother tag along’. It would certainly be easier to explore some of the locations using just one avatar, and, on occasion, having to split one’s focus between two avatars evokes a combination of anxiety and resentment that a boy may feel when having to constantly keep an eye on his brother.

In short, the gestural challenge of manipulating both siblings captures something of fraternal bonds: fundamental and measureless devotion combined with short-lived annoyance and exasperation. What is more, as the game progresses, the player becomes more adept at managing both avatars, which creates a sense that the bond between the brothers is growing in depth and strength. ‘Squabbles’ become less frequent and the boys seem to intuitively lean on each other as they face an increasingly hostile world.

The poetic potential of this tactile description of the brothers’ relationship is affirmed in the closing chapters of the game. When the siblings finally arrive at the enchanted tree, Big Brother is grievously ill following an encounter with a poisonous human-spider hybrid. Little Brother props Big Brother against the foot of the tree and hurries to fetch the healing elixir from a luminous, blue pool suspended in the tree’s topmost branches. Up until this point in the game, the brothers have been inseparable – the game does not permit one brother to leave the frame without the other brother; but now, for the first time, Little Brother sets off alone and Big Brother disappears from view. By the time Little Brother returns with a flask full of the elixir, Big Brother’s body has curled around his huge chest wound and he has died. A cutscene shows Little Brother desperately trying to pour the elixir down Big Brother’s throat and then howling when he realises that he is too late. At this point, the camera pulls away until the brothers are too small to see.

When the camera returns, some time has passed and Little Brother has dug a grave for Big Brother. The player must direct Little Brother to drag Big Brother’s body into the hole and cover it with earth. Little Brother’s responses to the operational controls are exaggeratedly slow, which serves to convey the character’s emotional exhaustion whilst also forcing the player to complete this harrowing ritual at a solemn pace. If the player does not apply constant pressure to the right analogue stick, Little Brother collapses to the ground, seemingly paralysed by grief. This detail transforms the player’s gestures from ‘directions’ to ‘fortification’: the player feels that she is not merely telling Little Brother what to do, but that she is supporting him in his darkest hour. The auditory and visual signifiers in this sequence connote agony and abjection: the soundscape is silent apart from Little Brother’s half-stifled sobs, and the image of a living child standing in the grave of a dead child seems to proclaim the death of hope, the death of innocence, and the death of childhood. However, running counter to these visual and auditory descriptors are the player’s gestures, which express the remarkable resilience of the spirit – the need and the ability to somehow keep moving in the wake of tragedy.

After Big Brother’s death, the lefthand half of the controller seems to ‘die’ too, in the sense that it is no longer possible to interact with the storyworld via the left stick or left trigger. The loss of the player’s left hand is a powerful description of bereavement, and tackling the final challenges one-handed expresses Little’s Brother’s vulnerability and isolation with poignancy and pathos. Little Brother’s loneliness is, in a very literal sense, palpable, in that the game takes away something from the player and instantly the storyworld becomes half as bright and half as broad. In the final sequence of Brothers, Little Brother must swim to the island where his critically ill father awaits him. A storm swells at sea and lightning cracks the night’s sky. Little Brother has a morbid fear of open water that stems from having witnessed his mother drown at sea, and so previously in the game he has clung to Big Brother’s back when the two have had to cross a stretch of water. A short cutscene informs the player that if Little Brother does not reach his father soon, he will lose the opportunity to save the life of the only family member he has left; however, if the player tries to make Little Brother swim to the island, Little Brother refuses to go more than waist-deep into the dark, choppy water. This prompts the player to look for alternative routes to the island but, finding none, the player is eventually forced to return to the water’s edge. In desperation, the player may start randomly pressing buttons on the controller in the hope that one combination will impel Little Brother to swim.

If the player presses the left trigger, which has been redundant since Big Brother’s death, the player will hear the gentle voice of Big Brother whispering soft words of encouragement to Little Brother. The camera zooms closer to Little Brother as if the player had taken a sudden step towards him, and the controller starts to vibrate as if a mute force were urgently trying to communicate. Strengthened by this moment of spiritual intervention, Little Brother finds the courage to plunge into the water and splash frantically and ineptly to the opposite shore.

It is a bittersweet moment of gameplay that invites feelings of pride and relief, mixed with a renewed sense of the enormity of Little Brother’s loss. Little Brother’s journey to the island only achieves its full poetic significance in the moment the gameplay gestures are performed. The sense of urgency and panic is engendered by the player’s rapid and repeated clicking, and the feeling of futility is created by the player’s failed attempts to solve the puzzle. Furthermore, because the game requires the player to explore and experiment – even to the point of despair – before discovering the momentary and surprising ability to invoke Big Brother’s spirit, the unexpected resurrection acquires a miraculous quality and the player’s operational gesture becomes a description of love’s final triumph over death.

To return to Gellhorn’s example of strutting back and forth to keep grief at bay, Brothers actually induces grief by paralysing one hand and by physically shrinking and crippling the player’s ability to move. The player can, as this essay has, unpick this gestural metaphor; however, they may find the ending of Brothers is a bruise too tender to probe with words.

This is an excerpt from ‘A Touching Gesture: Hand Movements and Loss in Videogames‘, written by Dr Emma Reay, shared with permission. Please click the link to read the full article.

Read more of Emma’s writing here.

In this series of Reflections, Emma Reay will examine a selection of contemporary videogames that speak to some of the concerns at the heart of the Death Positivity movement. Proponents of Death Positivity seek to normalise and demystify death by encouraging open, honest discussions about mortality. Videogames are an important part of these discussions – not just because they dominate modern media ecosystems, but also because they provide a new language to communicate ideas about death. This language combines rules-based interactions with haptic gestures to offer a different vocabulary to describe our shared vulnerability, impermanence, and corporeality.

Skills utilised:

To grieve deeply… Loss and Healing in God of War Ragnarök

Stories of Norse Myths have been retold time and time again. Books have been written and rewritten telling slight variations of tales about these long living, youth filled deities. However one constant across these retellings is Ragnarök.

Across all these stories Ragnarök has always been ‘The destruction of Gods’ – an event that ends the life of all the legends in these stories. I saw God of War Ragnarök as no different; this was going to be big, dramatic and violent and whilst this game is all of these things, it also manages to do something I wasn’t expecting it to do: make its Gods incredibly human.

Ragnarök in God of War isn’t just the end of Gods in a literal sense; it chooses to strip down these legends and beautifully humanise them in their shared experience of grief. As much as this is Kratos and Atreus’ journey, grief is a thematic throughline for many of the characters in this world. Freya is overcome with revenge after the death of her son and has set herself on a path of violence to avenge his death. Thor is a product of abuse and after both of his sons deaths is struggling to cope – resulting in behaviours such as drinking and violence. Finally Sindri, who perhaps has one of the most tragic stories, begins to mourn the death of his brother. All of these examples highlight how grief is a core part of Ragnarök’s story and I’d argue that this theme holds more emotional weight over the narrative than the apocalyptic event itself.

So if grief is such a big part of God of War Ragnarök, then what is it actually trying to say? Ragnarök’s exploration of grief comes from a simple truth: we always look for meaning and understanding when we lose someone. Loss is something many of us have experienced or will have to go through in our lifetime, and within that experience we feel confusion and often attempt to understand why we have lost someone we care about. Kratos’ attitude towards Atreus is actually his own response to grief. Back in 2018, Kratos told Atreus to close his heart to the world, and in the context of Ragnarök, these words aren’t protective measures for Atreus, but for himself. His understanding of the world is that when you open your heart to it, you lose the ones you love and he can’t lose Atreus in the same way. In Ragnarök, Kratos is still protective of Atreus and still navigating his own understanding of the loss of Faye. In a similar way Freya is navigating those same waters but in the haze of loss is looking for someone to blame. Sindri on the other hand is an example of the raw grief felt so soon after someone we love has passed. It’s a very powerful thematic note to showcase one of the games most happy-go-lucky characters experiencing resentfulness during grief, a shocking look at how grief can change us.

Kratos’ understanding of grief comes full circle in a flashback with his wife Faye in which she states that ‘The culmination of love is grief’, a sentiment that is both beautiful and universal. It highlights how we allow ourselves to love despite how we eventually lose the ones we open our hearts to. Words like these give meaning to the emotions we feel during the grieving process and allow us to see our pain for the manifestation of love that it is. However, Faye’s next words hit home the story’s themes with such raw honesty that I couldn’t believe it was packed inside a Norse epic:

‘Open your heart to the world as you have opened it to me, and you will find every reason to keep living in it.’

This line really shines a light on the dark feelings we go through when grieving. Sometimes we don’t even realise how much we close ourselves off to the world, especially when our world is someone who’s now gone. This line also offers the hopeful side of grief, the hope that despite the pain we feel, we will find a way to open ourselves up to the world again.

These words echo through all our characters. Kratos, realising that closing your heart isn’t the way forward, apologises to his son and passes Faye’s message of opening your heart to the world onto him. With this, Atreus’ empathy and kindness echoes throughout Ragnarök as they try to save villagers and stop others from getting hurt. Kratos also takes this message forward with him as he tries to make the world a better place. Freya finds it in herself to work with Kratos, forgiving him for the death of her son and finally making peace with his death. Even Thor, despite his demise, realises in his final moments that violence is no longer the way forward and sees the error of his ways, saving his daughter in the process. 

As a whole, God of War Ragnarök is a story about how we navigate through grief. This doesn’t mean that the grief these people feel has vanished; it’s something they’ll always have to live with. However, these characters have started to reach a place where the good parts of the world are seeping back in. This sentiment is true for the Gods of this game but also for us as individuals. Although grief may never vanish, small pockets of goodness start to grow around it, and somewhere in that we find a reason to keep going.

Despite its large scale, God of War Ragnarök has a nuanced and profound understanding of the grieving process. Losing someone can feel like a Ragnarök-sized weight on your mind, but it’s okay to feel all the things you are going through. There is hope and if you’re struggling at the moment, please head to the Safe In Our World signposting page.

Harry Stainer

Safe In Our World Ambassador, Freelance writer, book person on Instagram & occasional scriptwriter

Skills utilised:

Grief, Bullying, Failed Grades and Why I Am Better for It

I was born and raised smack in the middle of Nairobi City.

Yes! The same Nairobi Alba Flores embodied in the acclaimed Netflix series Money Heist. The capital city of Kenya. During the first decade of my life, we lived 30 minutes away from the Nairobi National Park where tourists and conference visa holders continue to visit to see the big 5 in one day.

At the top of the millennium, my parents decided to change things. The policies around the government house we lived in thanks to my mother’s house allowance at work changed and she needed to spend a huge chunk of her salary on rent.

My parents were left with no choice but to move us into an unfinished home. See my parents had started constructing a new home a couple of years back and although it was not complete it was habitable.

The day we moved out was filled with mixed emotions we went around our neighbour’s homes saying bye to our childhood friends with tears in our eyes. On the other hand, my sisters and I lit up at the prospect of living in a new home with a huge front lawn to play on. Our little minds were not prepared for what we were about to experience.

We arrived at our new house during daylight hours but when the sun set so did our short-lived excitement. We realised that we had moved into a house that did not have electricity or running water yet. So we lit our kerosene lamps and boiled borehole water on the stove for our evening showers.

Things started going downhill from then on, well at least in my own little world. My parents enrolled us in a new school that required a 30-minute commute on foot if the car was not available to ferry us to school.

The said car was an old navy blue Peugeot 504 that would break down a lot. I remember one day it got stuck in the mud on our way to school because it had rained and the tarmac had not been laid yet.

In addition to these challenges at home and on the way to school. I experienced bullying in school from this little girl who drew immense joy from tormenting me. As a result, my grades dipped and one school morning I became so ill that my mother had to take me to the hospital.

Upon asking a few questions the doctor told my mother that my condition was a result of the stress I was going through due to the move and the new school. So that day since I was not going to go back to school my mum and I had a long conversation about what was happening to me.

That is when I disclosed to her that one of my teachers was being cruel to me constantly punishing me when I missed answering a question right. The punishments were the corporal kind and her pinches on my arms left me with red sores.

The next time I went back to school my mother came along and made sure that she spoke to that teacher and told her the consequences of hurting other people’s children. That day I could tell that she (my teacher) had been crying because her eyes were red when she got back to class for our maths session.

My mother is my rock and I am grateful. Fast forward past those crazy primary school years to my high school years. High school came with its new set of challenges I could not easily turn to my mother for help because I was in a boarding school. So I had to quickly learn how to stand up for myself in the face of bullies.

In my second year of high school, I lost my 6-month-old sister to an accident at home. Again my grades started to dip and this time so did my mental health.

I remember my classmates and class teacher taking me home to spend a day with my family after the funeral and then having to go back to school with them because again it was a boarding school.

One thing that hurt me the most was I was forced by my class teacher to stay in school during the mid-term break because of my grades. My mother was grieving too so I did not dare ask her to fight for me this time.

So as other people went to be with their families I had to stay in school grieving my sister on my own and forcing myself to focus and try to bring my grades up.

It goes without saying that it became a challenge with each passing day. We did not have a counselling department in high school so I had to bear all that pain on my own.

I remember feeling so bad one day that I even contemplated dying. So I somehow survived high school and passed enough to proceed to the university. I could have done better but given the circumstances, I had done my best.

My deep respect for games started right after high school. I was idle at home waiting to receive communication from the universities I had applied to.

At this time the house was almost complete and we had running water and electricity. One day my mother came home with her work laptop. It was relatively new and I liked how you could move around with it. The other home computer was pretty much stuck in one place.

It was only natural for me to be fascinated by this new contraption. So I curiously started exploring whatever was within and that is how I stumbled upon Mavis Beacon. Mavis Beacon is a game that teaches typing with fun quests to accomplish, accompanied by interesting music and animation that make the whole experience memorable. I love animations. So the fact that Mavis Beacon was filled with colourful animations only made my quest for fast typing skills achievable in the most fun and engaging way.

In less than two months I had finished the training and could comfortably type fast and accurately without peeking at the keyboard. You can imagine the kind of impact this had on my young teenage mind.

Before Mavis Beacon, I felt like I had a broken brain. I would study hard and fail to remember most of the things I had read. In a culture where regurgitating what you have read is deemed intelligent, it was frustrating to do so much yet receive so little in rewards.

Mavis Beacon helped me discover the power of games and the kind of impact they can have on someone’s life. My fast typing skills have made my career as a writer all the more enjoyable. I am currently a big advocate for games that impact people’s lives. I keep on talking about my first encounter with gamification through Mavis Beacon and how Duolingo has helped me with my language-learning journey.

In hindsight, I am glad we moved. I am glad that I went through the challenges I did because now almost a quarter of a century later I am better for it.

Wendi Ndaki is passionate about the fusion of art and technology and that is why the video games industry feels like home to her.

She is a Writer, a Visual Artist and a YouTuber with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Technology from the United States International University- Africa. She has worked in the gaming industry as a writer for more than 5 years now and she aims to demystify the rising gaming industry one story at a time. She is currently doing so through articles for clients as well as through engaging educational animated content on her company’s YouTube channel.

Skills utilised:
News, Stories

How to support yourself and others when dealing with loss

In this interview, Rosie speaks to Dany Bell, RGN, MSc and member of our Clinical Advisory Board about grief, guilt, and how to support yourself and others during times of loss.

It’s important to know strategies to not only take care of yourself when dealing with loss, but also how best to support others. It can often be challenging to know the first step in being there for a loved one who is grieving, and we want to be able to provide some guidance on how to start that conversation.

The Interview

Grief can come in many forms. Can you explain some of the common behaviours we may see and experience during times of grief? 

Whether it’s a person’s first time dealing with grief or their third, it never gets easier. And not only can grief manifest differently for different people, but each personal encounter with grief can also be different from the last.

Grief can often mean not only coping with the loss of a person but also coping with the intense emotions felt in their absence. People grieve for many reasons so it may not only be triggered by death but by other kinds of loss like the loss of a job, the break-up of a major relationship or the loss of a beloved pet.

Some of the emotional signs of grief are:

  • Overwhelming sadness (lots of crying) or numbness to emotion
  • Anger or irritability
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Guilt

That overwhelming sadness is something I have experienced when I lost my dad. Whilst the crying didn’t last, that deep sadness and missing him lasted much longer – missing his smile, his humour and his love never fades, it just gets easier to bear.

people hugging by sunset over a body of water

Grief can also manifest physically, and people may experience:

  • Feeling physically or emotionally drained
  • Feeling sick or unwell
  • Feeling aches or pains
  • Over-sensitivity to stimuli like noise

Behavioural changes can be the most unsettling symptoms and behaviours that may be observed or experienced are:

  • Withdrawing from others or the outside world
  • Struggling with concentration or productivity
  • Restlessness or an inability to relax
  • Loss of appetite or comfort eating
  • Disturbed sleep or nightmares, flashbacks, and visions

People won’t necessarily experience all of these, but they are examples of some of the signs and symptoms of grief and behaviours people exhibit.


Experiencing bereavement and loss is often a tricky water to navigate, and often people who witness others grieving don’t know how to support their loved ones in pain. What would be your guidance for supporting someone who’s experiencing a loss? 

It can often be difficult to know what to say to someone who is experiencing grief from loss. So, consider:

  • How you acknowledge the loss – despite feeling uncomfortable its important not to avoid contact with the person or acknowledging their loss. Just letting them know you are there to list if they would like can be helpful and reduce any feelings of isolation.
  • Consider options for contacting them depending on your relationship and knowledge of them – some people may prefer a text, others a written acknowledgement and note you are available to listen via post. Others may prefer in person contact.
  • Accept they might need some space
  • Don’t be afraid to ask them what they need in terms of support
  • Be a good listener
  • Offer practical help
  • Understand mood swings
  • Give them time

One of the ways we coped as a family is that my siblings and I would go somewhere that had meaning for our dad such a rose garden, a woodland or somewhere outside as he loved nature. We would walk and talk and remember the wonderful memories we had of him. As siblings we all grieved differently and my youngest brother in particularly struggled, and doing this helped him a great deal.

a bench on green grass overlooking from the top of a hill, with clouds and blue sky

What support is there for those experiencing grief? 

If people cannot talk to a friend or family member about how they are feeling they can access other support such as:


What are some things you can do to support yourself when experiencing bereavement?

  • Acknowledge what you are feeling
  • Keep talking and don’t isolate yourself
  • Seek help particularly if you are experiencing insomnia, loss of appetite or emotions for a long period of time
  • Look after your physical health as the mind and body are connected so this will help you cope emotionally
  • Try to maintain some interests and doing the things you enjoy as there may be comfort in routine and doing things that relax you


For many, grief isn’t a process that necessarily ends, but rather gets easier to manage. What can that process look like for someone who’s experiencing this for the first time and how can they navigate uncharted feelings when processing loss? 

Grief is very individual and there is no timeline for grief. How people grieve depends on several things such as a person’s coping style, their life experience, how significant the loss was to them and their beliefs, such as faith. The process of grief takes time and feeling better happens gradually.

Even now years after my dad died, a song might come on the radio that reminds me of something and makes me cry. But it’s good because whilst I might shed a tear, the memory is a good memory, and one that is worth experiencing that moment of happy sadness for.

an old school radio by some papers

Guilt can be a prominent part of bereavement. How can we tackle feeling guilt about loved ones we have lost? 

Guilt after the loss of someone dear to us does not have to be rational or real but can be difficult to deal with and is a powerful emotion.

Usually, guilt comes as we look back over events surrounding the death of our loved one and we imagine how things might have unfolded differently, or whether we could have done something differently. Tell someone you trust how you are feeling, as blaming yourself or wishing you had done something differently is natural but shouldn’t be bottled up. Try and write down why you feel guilty and see if there are things you can do to make amends by doing something tangible in memory of the person. Most importantly forgive yourself and think about all the positive things and memories.

For a time, I felt guilty and reflected on how powerless I felt after my dad had palliative surgery to relieve the constant pain he was in. That impacted on him having a poor quality of life and massive doses of very strong pain killers, and despite my experience and knowledge, I couldn’t convince the doctors that his pain control was ineffective.

He was in so much pain for several days after surgery and feeling powerless was something that stayed with me after he died. Even now 11 years later it’s sometimes hard but I try to put it into context and remember that when he recovered from the surgery, he had 6 months of great quality life without strong pain killers. He was on holiday with us when he started to deteriorate, dying a week later at home with us. He wouldn’t have had this without the surgery, and ultimately it was his choice, but that guilt of ‘could I have done more to change those days of pain for him‘ is something I have had to come to terms with.

'forgive yourself' in yellow text on a dark space background

One of the ways we are looking at death this month is more in line with death positivity; pushing for the conversation to be less stigmatised so folks experiencing loss feel less isolated. How do you think we can explore death in conversation in a less stigmatised and thoughtful way?

We all have different relationships with death, shaped by our personal experiences, religious or spiritual beliefs, culture, family history and current life circumstances. The one thing we all have in common is that dying, and death will be a significant part of our lives. We are all going to die, and most of us will experience losing people we love and care for during our lifetime. Talking about death can be uncomfortable but one of the best ways to open a conversation about death and dying is to talk about your own experiences. Mentioning what happened or how you felt can encourage others to talk about their own feelings and emotions.

Equally using the right language and not using metaphors is important. It is ok to say someone is dying or has died rather than they passed away. Different ways of describing death has different implications and suggests different attitudes, so plain speaking can be better, however uncomfortable it is. This is particularly important in deaths from suicide where openly speaking out could have a positive impact.


If you’re looking for support in a bereavement, we have a number of resources available on our Find Help Page, and more information on death and bereavement here.

Skills utilised:

15 Games About Death and Grief

In this article we’ll be highlighting a number of games which tackle death, grief and loss in the narratives that they tell.

Spoiler Warning: Please note that there will be spoilers within this article mentioned regarding to their justification on this list. Please continue with caution!


Spiritfarer is described as a “cosy management game about dying”, with the protagonist tasked with helping lost souls in the afterlife move on and process their past.

As you nurture your passengers by fulfilling their requests, giving them hugs, or feeding them their favourite meal – the player has a unique opportunity to work through the process of loss and grief in a way that is ultimately very comforting and rewarding.

What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch is a short 2 hour experience of a series of tales centered around the mysterious Finch family. The game tackles the themes of sadness and loss, by showing us that each individual has a story to tell and are not defined by the curse that caused them to pass away.

Check out this article from Ambassador Harry Stainer on how this game specifically plays a part in grief for him:

“Death is something that those who play video games are incredibly used to; if you’re Nathan Drake and you miss a jump ahead of you, the punishment is the loss of a character’s life, only for you to succeed the same jump a few moments later after your checkpoint has reloaded. It’s a constant threat in most of the games that we play, but it rarely holds any true consequences. However, in ‘Edith Finch’ that is not the case; you can’t die in Edith Finch, but its story asks players to think about the messy nature of death and how grief has a habit of staying with us long after someone has passed.”


Gris is a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life. Her journey through sorrow is manifested in her dress, which grants new abilities to better navigate her faded reality. As the story unfolds, Gris will grow emotionally and see her world in a different way, revealing new paths to explore using her new abilities; a poetic allegory of learning and growing from loss.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

The emotional journey of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is certainly not one to be missed. This game has the unique gameplay of controlling each brother independently to solve puzzles collaboratively in order to progress the story.

Travel with the two brothers to seek support for their father who has fallen ill, and discover a touching tale along the way. Take a look at this fantastic article by Dr Emma Reay discussing how Brothers manipulates player emotions by manipulating their hands, through operational independent controls.


Aka approaches the subject of grief in a hopeful way as you seek to repair the damage of the past, and focuses on relaxation and mindfulness through mechanics such as being able to just take a seat by a pond and watch the fish for a while.

You can fully take your time with each aspect of the game, with no pressure to complete goals, no stamina or hunger: you need only to exist and live in the world it presents to you. 

That Dragon, Cancer

That Dragon, Cancer was developed as a love letter to Joel Green, the developer’s son, and his experience with cancer. The game is deeply personal and encapsulates real audio and poetry within the gameplay.

As with a number of our games, this is a heavy play; despite being intertwined with themes of hope and love, I (Rosie) am yet to find someone who has played this and not been absolutely devastated.

Before Your Eyes

Before Your Eyes is an emotional first person narrative adventure which tells the story of a soul’s journey into the afterlife using your real-life blinks.

The story begins after Benny’s death, aboard the ship of a mythical Ferryman tasked with shepherding souls to the afterlife. In order to help you pass on, he must first learn the story of Benny’s life. And so, he sends them back to relive his most important moments.

Lost Words: Beyond the Page

Lost Words: Beyond The Page takes players on an emotional journey of love and loss. You play as Izzy, who’s grandma is unwell. Throughout the story, you’ll learn more via beautifully designed interactive diary entries. Players will also take part in a fantasy adventure written by Izzy with lots of personal choices to make along the way.

What Comes After

What Comes After (from the creators of Coffee Talk) is a story about Vivi, and the journey that takes her from where people go after death to what comes after. Make your way through the train, whilst you encounter souls of people, animals and plants that are on their own personal journeys leaving this world behind.

Last Day of June

Last Day of June is a touching representation of a person’s psyche during the process of grief.

After a tragic car accident take’s June’s life, her husband Carl is left alone and wheelchair-bound. Through June’s paintings, Carl explores that fateful day time and time again from a variety of perspectives – from the kid next door to the village eccentric. Carl clings on to this otherworldly ability to change seemingly innocuous events that took place that day, in order to try and change June’s fate.

The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan is a beautiful imagining of the the grieving process.

Monroe’s mother recently passed away and she was notorious for not finishing paintings she had started. His favourite, the Unfinished Swan, escapes its canvas and leads him on a path of self-discovery and understanding.

Dear Esther

Dear Esther allows players to explore their own interpretation of their unique playing experience, and discover love, loss, guilt and redemption in this beautiful world. Driven by story and immersion rather than traditional mechanics, it’s an uncompromisingly emotional experience.

Welcome to Elk

‘Welcome To Elk’ presents a number of personal journeys that may be triggering to some players. Triple Topping handles each story with care and love and is done to educate players whilst doing justice to people’s experiences.

It has this way of drawing you in from the start, and it is an adventure that we recommend, but want to remind players to be aware of how hard-hitting the stories can be. It demonstrates the extremes that grief, mental health, and more can go – but they’re told in such a beautifully empathic and sympathetic way.

God of War

God of War tackles grief in a number of ways, with loss being an overarching theme throughout both God of War (2018) and Ragnarok. Without spoiling too much, almost all characters experience grief throughout the two games. Comparing the experiences of Gods vs humans shows just how remarkably similar loss can present itself within both, and allows for expansion of these iconic characters we know and love in a vulnerable state.


RiME is an adventure-puzzle game which follows a boy exploring a mysterious island, guided by a fox-like spirit companion. After a storm destroys his and his father’s boat, the boy discovers his father didn’t make it.

The game revolves around the boy’s journey climbing the island’s tower, with each area representing different stages of grief; reaching the top of the tower represents acceptance.

Whilst there are so many games that tackle grief as part of their experience, these are 15 great titles to start with if you’re looking to explore meaningful storylines relating to grief within video games.

If you need support with grief, or need to access helplines, please visit our Find Help page.


Skills utilised:

Introducing Discord Discussions on our Safer Together Discord

We’re thrilled to introduce Safe In Our World Discord Discussions, which will be hosted on our Safer Together Discord Server!

The Discussions will be exploring the ins and outs of the games industry from a variety of speakers, in a comfy and inclusive space. We’ll be hearing from industry folk about a number of topics within the games industry, and invite prospective speakers to join us to tell us about their experiences in games. 

All Discord Discussions will be hosted exclusively in our Safer Together Discord Server, where we have moderation measures to protect both speakers and guests.

We also have our very first speaker already lined up! We’ll be welcoming Alex King from Ripstone Games to talk about his non-linear journey into the games industry.

Make sure to mark your diaries for March 22nd at 7pm GMT for Alex’s talk.

Skills utilised:

Shared Memories are Tantamount to Immortality: To the Moon’s Advocacy for Conversation When Our Loved Ones Leave Us

When my mother died two days after Christmas in 2020, I could not fathom that another person could understand the intense grief I felt, and continue with their lives as if nothing had happened. To me, it seemed disrespectful that time–the world–had the audacity to move on without my mom, but grabbed me by the collar without looking back, and callously forced me to march forward.

Attempting to grieve the death of a loved one confined in the space of your own mind is a fruitless endeavor, as they are frustratingly out of reach. Intimate exchanges you held dear become broken blurs lost in the fog of timespace, even though you know for certain they happened. Even the memories you can somewhat piece together are now encumbered by a new, insurmountable grief that you cannot possibly imagine anyone else has felt. The weight is so great–and I am guilty of this–that it feels safer to collapse under it in your lonesome, and allow the haze of grief to shield you from the magnitude of the sorrow.

At least, that was how it felt when I shouldered the pain alone.

Despite the western world morphing into a fast-paced, hyper-individualistic society within the past several decades, humans are communal creatures; we are not physically built to endure emotional burdens alone. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a bereavement specialist at the Center for Loss & Life Transition, champions the power of storytelling while grieving.

“We must say hello before we say goodbye”, he puts simply, and that task can be accomplished in a multitude of ways: journaling, talking to a friend, consulting a therapist, or just talking to an inanimate object. In the words of Shakespeare, “give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break”; talking about your loved one and the sorrow you feel without them is necessary to survive.

Johnny looking at the stars in To the Moon

There were times when I couldn’t even find the words for my sorrow, but a game that came to mind that may have the words that could explain these feelings was Freebird Games’ To the Moon. It is a cult favorite of mine that deftly explores death as the moments that lead up to it, not the end itself. As you switch between two quirky doctors of the Sigmund Corp, a company that specializes in fabricating memories of a dying person to fulfill any wish they desire before they cross over, you become intimately close to the dying person in question: Johnny.

One scene in particular that stands out as you traverse backwards through Johnny’s life is quite early. Johnny is standing outside in the rain as an old man, silently staring over the grave of River, his deceased wife, on a clifftop. We are primed with some lighthearted banter between the two doctors before Johnny poses a solemn question to his wife:

“When I’m gone…who is going to watch over us?”

screenshot from To the Moon with John saying "... Who is going to watch over us?"

This line can be interpreted literally, but it can also mean: “who is going to protect our memory when we’re gone?” Before the game even starts, the dying man in question wonders who will not only tell their story once no one is left to do so, but who will take the time to get to know them?

The answer is us, the player, as we embark on a retroactive journey to understand Johnny well enough to fulfill his wish. The simplicity of To the Moon’s minimal gameplay is a prevalent criticism, but its simplicity is purposeful. It is not difficult to listen to someone’s story and piece together their memories to understand the next one, and having that interaction with the story generates an organic sense of accomplishment when finishing the game; you were directly involved in this person’s happiness, and in turn, their life being fulfilled. So when the inevitability of Johnny’s death comes at the end of the game, you are overcome with sadness, and a desire to share this story with others.

What starts as a mission to fulfill a wish morphs into something else entirely: listening to an old widower’s story, to the point that the thought of altering those memories is sacrilege.

I understand this as us saying hello to Johnny before we say goodbye, and as his heart stops beating at the end, it is a difficult goodbye, but his story begs to be shared–even one as “mediocre” as Johnny’s.

To the Moon screenshot - Dr Rosalene "the ending isn't any more important than any of the moments leading to it"

Our own loved ones are no exception to this idea. It is easy to slip into a mindset that your loved one’s passing is just another in a sea of inevitable human deaths. This dangerous apathy is a betrayal to not just your loved one’s impact on you, but to your own love for them. They were special to you, and that matters. To tell their story is to honor them, to love them, and most of all, to immortalize them. “We need to reassure ourselves that it actually happened,” Dr. Wolfelt adds, “…the pain that surrounds the closed heart of grief is the pain of living against yourself, the pain of denying how the loss changes you.”

Your deceased loved one deserves to say hello to people through your stories shared with them, and goodbye.

I refuse to let grief silence me when it comes to my mom, everyone I know, will know who she is.

Words are my greatest tool, so I can lean on the permanence of my memories of her. Of her face, her laugh, her sage advice that always helped, her conviction when we argued, her tenderness when I was sad, the first time I heard her play piano with such compelling passion that I, too, desired that skill. The duets we played, the book reviews we exchanged, and the love we held for one another in the small moments that live on forever in my words and my heart–that is how my mom will live on.

Until we regroup on the moon (silly!).

To the Moon screenshot on the grass looking at the stars, with John saying: Then we can always regroup on the moon, silly!


Megan Pitz is an Asian-American author, JRPG enthusiast, and lover of all things cute. While she has been largely absent from the mainstream video game world, she is no stranger to pixel RPGs such as To the Moon that never fail to make her cry, and strongly suggests you check out other Freebird Games titles, like seriously. For the soundtracks alone. Her late mother is the primary reason she chose to become a writer, to sing, as well as her original muse to play the piano. Basically, if her mom did it, Megan did it too. If you ask her dad to describe Megan, he would simply say, “she is her mother’s daughter”, but he swears that is the highest compliment he can pay to anyone. With the strongest of conviction and love deep in her heart: Rest in Peace, Patricia Clare Pitz, 1945-2020.

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International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, and we want to use today to highlight the change that we need to see within the games industry to better uplift women.

Women make up almost 50% of gamers across the world, yet account for just 30% of game developers internationally, according to the International Game Developers Association. While this is an increase from 22% in 2009, it’s evident that this industry remains male dominated.

In a Future Class Project in 2021, it was found that 90% of participants in a survey had experienced some form of harassment or discrimination due to their gender.

Women In Games (a non-profit looking after a global community) is here to build and maintain a fair, equal and safe environment empowering girls and women in the global gaming ecosystem.

Let’s Talk About Money

According to GIBiz in 2022, there is a gender pay gap problem.

Since 2017, UK companies of more than 250 employees have been legally required to publicly report on various aspects of gender pay data. In 2022, used this public data to reveal that the games industry had a 17.1% median pay disparity favouring men.

In around 23 games companies in the UK, every single one had a gender wage disparity. In over half the companies, women made up less than 10% of highest paid jobs, which is the industry median.

There needs to be more transparency surrounding pay within our industry to help close the pay gap. For example, when jobs are posted without a salary listed, women (or folks of minority genders) are far less likely than men to ask for a higher wage.


Menopause & Menstruation

A huge issue women face in the workplace is around menopause and menstruation, which is rarely spoken about and much less often supported. Research shows that the majority of women feel unable to raise menopause-related health problems at work and wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for adjustments that they may need.

At Safe In Our World, we’ve curated a number of resources for our Level Up Partners, including a menopause toolkit for employers to better understand and support their employees experiencing menopause.



It is no secret that the games community and industry can be an unsafe space for women online. We’ve seen #MeToo movements within the games industry specifically due to gross mistreatment of women at work, and examples of predatory and manipulative behaviour in high profile companies.

This is not just limited to development, but extends into content creation as well, with concerning numbers of women being harassed and abused online for simply existing.

A study from Reach3 Insights and Lenovo revealed that 59% of women who play online, mask their gender to protect themselves.

What’s next?

We must do more as an industry to create safe spaces for women online, and create more inclusive environments for gamers worldwide.

We must do more as an industry to allow women to flourish and succeed in this industry – existing is not enough.

We want to see more companies in games hiring women in senior and high-paying positions. We want to see companies enforcing policies to protect women at work from misogyny and harassment. We want to see games commit to safety measures and policies to protect their playerbases from toxicity within their communities, and take responsibility for fostering inclusivity.

A reminder: if these policies are not inclusive of trans women, then they’re not fighting misogyny. Trans women are women. 

Skills utilised:

Death & Bereavement

This month, we’re focusing on Death and Bereavement, and how we can use games to supplement healing during times of grief and vulnerability.

We’ll be highlighting grief-specific resources to support people, looking at games that explore death in a positive or empathetic way, and host discussions on the links we can draw between games and bereavement.

Death and Bereavement

Bereavement is something that everyone will come across and experience at some point during their lives. And yet, it’s still a topic that causes uncomfortable conversations, and can be considered taboo.

At Safe In Our World we want to embrace these conversations and bring them to the forefront of conversation. Experiencing bereavement and death can have a huge emotional impact on us, and for many people, using games as an outlet or escape is a key part within the process.

Your grief might feel chaotic and out of control, but these feelings will eventually become less intense, you might feel:

  • shock and numbness
  • overwhelming sadness, with lots of crying
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • anger

There’s no time limit on grief and this varies hugely person to person, if you’re experiencing bereavement, you’re likely to go through all these stages, but you won’t necessarily move smoothly from one to the next:

  • accepting that your loss is real
  • experiencing the pain of grief
  • adjusting to life without the person who has died
  • putting less emotional energy into grieving and putting it into something new



United Kingdom

United States




We also have a list of global support lines that we’ve collated to support you if you’re in need.

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The Charity Bundle Sold Out In Less Than 24 Hours

Last week we were completely blown away from the response to our Charity Bundle 2023, which sold out in less than 24 hours.

On Thursday afternoon we launched our biggest ever Charity Gaming Bundle, with over 20 games, (worth over $500) with all profits supporting Safe In Our World. By Friday afternoon the Bundle had completely sold out, with just under $100,000 in sales and all profits supporting the charity.

a bundle graphic with the games on a yellow background. There is a 'Sold out' button on top of the games list

The bundle would not have been possible without our incredible partners, who made this the most successful bundle that we’ve had in the history of Safe In Our World! We’re so grateful to those who took part by supporting with their games.

Thank you to…

505 Games

Black Razor Records

Bunkovsky Games

Convict Games

Curve Games

Double 11

Hello Games

Irregular Corporation

It’s happening

Kepler Interactive



Outright Games



Raw Fury


Secret Mode


Tate Multimedia

Thunder Lotus

Torn Banner

Wales Interactive

Whitethorn Games

Yogscast Games

Skills utilised:

Grab over $500 worth of games for $12 in our Charity Bundle 2023!

We’re thrilled to launch our biggest ever Charity Gaming Bundle, which is available right now!

Safe In Our World’s 2023 charity gaming bundle features a collection of indie hits and hidden gems, totalling over 20 games. The bundle, which is worth over $500 in total, is available to download now on Fanatical for as little as $12, with every single cent in profit going directly to support Safe In Our World’s charitable endeavours.


Buy the Bundle – SOLD OUT


ALT: ‘Charity Bundle’ is written in black/white letters at the top of a portrait oriented image made to look like a festival line up. The background is yellow with illustrated planets, a moon and a rocket. There are boxes with text including ‘Worth over $500’ and ‘Available now at’ In the centre is a white box with the games list for the bundle: Spiritfarer, Kingdom: Two Crowns, The Last Campfire, Plate Up!, Indivisible, Strange Brigade, Turbo Golf Racing, Field of Glory II, Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure, Teacup, Warhammer 40k gladius, murder by Numbers, White Day, Rescue Party Live, Soul Axiom, Hue, A Little Golf Journey, Steel Rats, Perfect, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Eternal Threads, STONE, Songbringer, Rise of the Slime, Arcade Paradise EP and SIFU: Deluxe Edition (Upgrade Only). There is $12 in a blue circle underneath, next to a black Safe In Our World Logo.

Bundle Contents:

Spiritfarer – Thunder Lotus

Kingdom: Two Crowns – Raw Fury

The Last Campfire – Hello Games

Plate Up! – Yogscast Games / it’s happening

Indivisible – 505 Games

Strange Brigade – Rebellion

Turbo Golf Racing – Secret Mode

Field of Glory – Slitherine

Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure – Outright Games

Teacup – Whitethorn Games

Warhammer 40K Gladius – Slitherine

Murder By Numbers – Mediatonic / Irregular Corporation

White Day – PQube

Rescue Party Live – 505 Games

Soul Axiom Rebooted – Wales Interactive

Hue – Curve Games

A Little Golf Journey – Playtonic

Steel Rats – Tate Multimedia

Perfect – nDreams

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – Torn Banner

Eternal Threads – Secret Mode

STONE – Convict Games

Songbringer – Double Eleven

Rise of the Slime – Bunkovsky Games / Playstack

[MUSIC] Arcade Paradise: EP – Black Razor Records

[UPGRADE ONLY] SIFU Deluxe Edition Upgrade on Epic – Kepler Interactive


Buy the Bundle

A word of thanks

Bringing together this bundle has been a joy to do, having seen so many companies look to support Safe In Our World and the work that we do in this industry. It’s amazing to see so many wonderful people rally behind us as a cause to make this industry a safer place to be.

So – a HUGE thank you to all the above partners who have supported this bundle and made it a reality. We are so grateful to have your support.

ALT: A large Safe In Our World logo in yellow in black with text ‘charity bundle 2023’ underneath sits in front of a number of games images in wedges. There is a cartoon burger on a plate, a face with blue eyes, a small cartoon character looking at their hand, and a racecar with a turbo engine. In the top right, there is a Fanatical Logo in white. In the top left corner, there is text in CAPS reading ‘All Proceeds Go To Charity’.

Skills utilised:

How To Be More Neuro-Inclusive at Work

This month’s focus for the Safe In Our World team has been looking at neurodiversity and how it intersects with our mental health. In this interview, we spoke to Dom Shaw from Ukie’s Raise The Game about being neuro-inclusive at work.

The games industry has a growing number of neurodiverse employees working within it, with 18% of UK Games Developers identifying as neurodiverse in 2021, (a 7% rise from 2020)[1].

The Interview

Common Stigmas and Misunderstanding

Rosie: Are there any common stigmas or misunderstandings about neurodiversity and mental health?

Dom: Yes I’ve definitely experienced stigmas for both. I think some of the most common ones, which we still see prevalent in wider society, are people think neurodiverse people are a set way and they always try to create separation. I think that’s what makes it harder to create understanding. Instead of being mindful of set traits that are often related to neurodiversity, people take them and make those traits their unmoveable guidelines in terms of their understanding and are not willing to be flexible with that understanding. If people think of individuals as individuals regardless of whether they’re neurodiverse or not, it shouldn’t make it a factor of change.

You might have to put more adjustments or reasonable accommodations into how you interact, but at the end of the day, when people think people are people, it becomes a much more inclusive approach. Unlike some forms of diversity – neurodiversity, many forms of disability, and mental health are invisible. People can be so appearance driven that actually you’re already entering conversations with big biases.

You can go into an interaction thinking ‘I’m just going to be a person and discover more about them.’ If you discover they’re neurodiverse or they have mental health conditions for example, instead of being like “whoa” you can just be like “I want to read more of this book.”

Two femme presenting people sit at a table by the window in the sun, talking

Rosie: It’s nice to hear because I think a lot of the time, people do have pre-conceptions about people based on how they look, right? So you often hear people saying, “oh, you don’t look depressed/disabled/neurodiverse” and it’s like… there is no categorical criteria that someone needs to fill to be able to hit your expectation of how they should be presenting. You know what I mean?

Dom: Absolutely. Another big thing for me specifically around neurodiversity is misinformation. Recently, I discovered that a charity known for their controversial views about autism have created a project with a name that is aggressive and promotes misinformation from the get go through the name itself stating autism is curable. Charities and organisations who exist and create miscommunication don’t help an already uphill battle for greater awareness and understanding across communities let alone the world.

I literally spent about four hours awake furious when I saw this name detail at midnight the other week, thinking I am not something to be cured. Neurodiversity is a part of me, my autism is a part of me.

Miscommunication and misinformation is really a big factor of that understanding gap. A key thing to note in terms of identifying that misinformation is specifically the language that is used. In the case of my example, the charity literally frames their language as ‘Autism is a disease’, which is quite negative. When organisations talk about strengths of being neurodivergent, how you can support or put in reasonable adjustments in, and have this open minded approach – that is where you will often find useful and reliable information. For instance – although you may not be as skilled as some people at socializing, your strength will lay elsewhere like having periods of hyperfocus toward work or the ability to analyse situations with pure logic. Again, it kind of relates to the previous aspect of not having preconceptions or inflexible understanding.

Rosie: I couldn’t agree more and I think it adds that element of shame into people who experience this. It can be the same across the board such as within disabilities and mental health as well, is that often the language used around them is exclusively negative.

Maybe it makes you feel more ashamed to be more transparent about who you are with the people around you in case they have an adverse reaction to it.

Language is one the most important things about changing that stigma around neurodiversity, mental health, and all of these things because it ultimately sets the tone for the conversation you’re about to have doesn’t it?

Dom: Exactly. You know, there was this student I was helping last year, and an element of their story made me feel sad for them. They came to me because they knew they were neurodivergent, and they wanted to get a career in games but they didn’t feel comfortable being open about it due to bad experiences of bullying in the past. That made me really upset to hear, but equally but I can absolutely understand having been bullied as myself. That’s the worst case – when a bias and an expectation turns into harassment and bullying.

This is why it’s so important when interacting with young students and kids that positive tones and language are used, they are inspired to learn and love who they are. Otherwise children could absorb negative context, create misinformation and unconsciously either learn to dislike a part of themselves if they are neurodivergent or potentially become bullies through learned behaviours and attitudes.

It’s about using information about neurodiversity as an entry point, and exploring and discovering the depths to really gain greater understanding.

3 femme presenting people sit across a table at a job interview.

Workplace Neuro-Inclusivity

Rosie: With that in mind, what can employers do to be more neuro-inclusive but also have that attitude from the offset? For example if someone is looking to get into an industry or get a job, and they don’t know whether or not to disclose that they’re autistic, they don’t know whether to disclose that they have depression. All of these different things are concerns because they aren’t sure if it’s a safe environment yet. I’d love to focus on what employers can do to make people feel safer, and not have to hide that at that level.

Dom:Even before we get to the interview stage, or bringing on new people, companies can ensure that their websites and social media are always using inclusive language. I’m thinking about gender neutral terms and intersectional aspects in job ads as for example a lot of neurodiverse people generally end up also being LGBTQIA+ identifying, and may not conform to the general male/female gender IDs. Considering these elements don’t just make for creating good understanding, but incorporating other forms of diversity as well.

Being intersectionally inclusive with your language is one step you can do. You can put on activities around certain milestones in the calendar, such as World Autism Acceptance Week or World Mental Health Day. But equally if your company can share some of those internal activities or guidance through your socials, people will know you’re actually thinking about these topics. You don’t have to give a master class, but if you put some presence into your comms, it shows you actually have an interest.

For example, a company could post a piece about World Autism Acceptance Week, but then they could do a general neurodiversity piece in July to show actually “this is a continued focus for us, we’re not just doing it for a set date”.

Another key thing with job ads is being really clear with what’s required and what’s desirable. Often people from under-represented groups will look at job ads that we think ‘I could be good at this, but I don’t fit every piece of required criteria’, when in reality the company only needs 3 points in the job description filled and the rest are desirable and could be flexible to change based on elements of the person to make the role what it is. It’s not only thinking of people’s anxieties, but shows you are welcoming people from different experiences, with transferable skill sets and thinking about invisible diversities.

a group of young people stood outside talking

Let’s say someone gets through the job post and applies. There are things companies can do to make their experience positive throughout the interview stage as well, such as sending questions ahead of time. Regardless of whether it’s mental health or neurodiversity, applicants can process questions in their own time, or knowing they won’t be surprised. It’s not just the questions – highlighting who they are going to meet. Especially if there are multiple stages of interviews – it allows them to understand the expectations and preparations for the interview.

Again, it takes down a lot of pressure but allows effective planning.

Rosie: I think it’s also a bigger strategy in being able to create a more diverse workforce in general. What you said about the necessary criteria for the role really resonated, because I know so many people capable of doing jobs, but because of the way they have been treated by society, they don’t feel they are equipped enough, despite having all the skills to be able to thrive.

By offering a more flexible way to hire people, communicate with people, and work with them, it gives them the confidence they need to be able to apply to do things that they can absolutely do. We need to see more companies welcoming neurodiverse people and seeing them as assets rather than barriers – what might be a barrier to you is a huge asset for another person, and having lots of different ways to communicate is a good thing!

Sometimes people miss that, and think this because they’ve always done something a certain way, it must always be done that way. But we need to embrace people’s differences and think what can we add, adapt and/or alter to make people feel included.

Dom:I couldn’t agree more. Often an analogy I use to describe a culture of fitting in is a cargo plane where all the animals are caged up and miserable. You can still see some individual creatures, but you mainly see the cold metal of the cages. If you create a culture that thinks about itself as Lego – You can take it anywhere. You can build Lego cities. You can create Lego themes like Star Wars with guidance. The possibilities are endless! If you think about what we can add, rather than what needs to fit in, it doesn’t only help one form of diversity but has intersectionality across the board to create cultures that are people centric, empower inclusion and always moving forward!

I think that the key to being neuro-inclusive is considering going beyond ourselves with inclusion and intersectionality in mind. It’s thinking about what you can’t see, and instead of thinking ‘we’ve got to try and see it’, instead we consider ‘what can we do to make it welcoming and see the bigger picture?

Skills utilised:

Deltarune Refuses to Leave People with Autism Behind—And We Should Take Notes

“The tragedy is not that we’re here, but that your world has no place for us to be” Jim Sinclair passionately declares in his essay “Don’t Mourn For Us”.

From anti-vaccine activists purporting autism as a malignant side effect from boosters–which remains disproven–to active organizations like Autism Speaks seeking to vilify and eliminate autism in children instead of spreading advocacy for better living, being autistic unfortunately remains something the world wants to eradicate instead of embrace, even though these behaviors are beyond one’s control. 

And “nobody chooses who they are”, Deltarune reminds you after creating a character they immediately dismiss–but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Autism is not a looming monster waiting to strike; it has existed and continues to exist all around us in a multitude of ways. In fact, as of 2022, the CDC states that 1 out of 100 children are diagnosed with autism each year–that is not a low number, a statistic that doesn’t even take into account the history of misdiagnoses and the lack of diagnoses in specific populations: women, BIPOC, LGBT people, and people in poverty. More than likely, you have met many people with autism and have not even known it, because autism is not a monolithic diagnosis with archetypal identifiers. It is replete with diversity, which fortifies Sinclair’s argument that to be autistic is to just be another type of person in this compendium of characters we call humanity. 

The Make-Up of NeuroDiversity This is a document for discussion, concentrating mainly on the difficulties of those with neurodiversity. It must be pointed out that many such people are excellent at maths, coordination, reading etc. We are people of extremes. A series of shapes overlapping including: Neurodiversity (centre) - Difficulties with organisation, memory, concentration, time, direction, perception, sequencing. Poor listening skills. All may lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression if others are not aware. Can be creative, original, determined. Dyscalculia - difficulties with number concepts and calculation Tourette's Syndrome - verbal and physical tics Dyslexia Difficulty with Words: reading, writing, spelling, speaking, listening. Preference for non-linear thought. AD(H)D - impulsive, temper outbursts, hyperactivity, low frustration threshold, easily distracted or over focused. Linking Dyslexia & ADHD - Lack of concentration, distractibility Dyspraxia/DCD - Difficulties with planning, movements, co-ordination and practical tasks as well as tracking and balance, poor spatial awareness and muscle tone. Autism spectrum Disorder (ASD) - social and communication problems. obsessive interests. difference in imagination. Linking ASD & Dyspraxia - over and under sensitive to light, noise, touch and temperature. speech and language difficulties. Created by Mary Colley

Toby Fox assembles his own compendium of autistic coded characters in Deltarune, a cast that has certainly won the hearts of the online neurodivergent community. 

There is Kris, the main character you play as that is sensitive to physical contact and mute; Susie, the tough monster that is fiercely independent yet struggles with problem-solving; Ralsei, the prince of darkness that fixates on niche subjects; and Lancer, the imaginative, bad-guy-turned-good-guy after finding friendship. All of these characteristics are classified as autistic behaviors, but what makes these characters stand out compared to other autistic video game characters like Symmetra from Overwatch and Wattson from Apex Legends, is that Fox places these characters in settings where other autistic children have been: left to fend for themselves. 

As it is widely known that special education programs in public schools are underfunded and underdeveloped in the United States, children with autism are often left to fend for themselves, and may develop bad habits as a result. Susie demonstrates a self-destructive hyper-independence –because of a history of being unable to rely on anyone–unshakably set in her disruptive ways with no friends. Alphys, her teacher, does not bother to reprimand her for her chronic lateness and rude behavior toward her other classmates, but instead cowers before her. Kris is also chronically late, and when they enter class, Alphys is similarly dismissive of it, simply saying, “we didn’t think you were going to be here today”. There is a demonstrable lack of care for both of these students that they sadly have grown accustomed to–after all, why should they care when their adult role model outside of family doesn’t, and sends them out of the classroom at their first chance? 

This school–their world–does not seek to know them, so it makes sense that when they fall into the Dark World, Susie and Kris are apprehensive of Ralsei, who has been waiting for them to be heroes with him. Together, they are bound to save the world, whereas they are lost by themselves–and this mirrors the real world.  

Statistically, children with autism are less likely to participate in community activities, even though community participation positively impacts physiological, emotional, social, and mental growth.  

Each character experiences growth when they work together. Susie develops empathy by finding a genuine friend in Lancer; Kris, a comparably indifferent character, finds comfort in Ralsei’s unfiltered joy and optimism; and Susie helps Ralsei realize there is no “right” or “one” way to be a hero, despite what he has been told he and his destined hero friends are supposed to act—the latter being reminiscent of Sinclair’s reminder that autistic people are simply exhibiting another type of living that is conventionally different. Susie, who has a hard time solving puzzles AND reaching out for help, reaches out to Kris and Ralsei for help, and she gradually becomes better at solving them herself. As a whole, the gang approaches their journey nonviolently, complimenting and listening to their enemies–even though the autistic community has a negative reputation for being “difficult” and even “violent” when they don’t act in line with unspoken social rules. 

With such a considerable percentage of children being diagnosed with autism, how is it that we have such a long way to go when it comes to making them feel safe and accepted in this world?  

That’s where games step in. 

To play games is to enter a world where your brain is engaged on all echelons–physically, emotionally, mentally–and you are entirely in control. You can pause and return to it, and dive right back in when you’re ready. You also develop motor skills, problem-solving skills, and most importantly, the opportunity to practice social skills online without the pressures of in-person social conventions. These factors in video games may explain why 41.4% of neurodivergent people are more likely to spend their free time playing video games compared to 18% of the neurotypical population. 

In short, games are the perfect social playroom for neurodivergent people. 

Mental health organizations such as GametoGrow and AbleGamers invite all people with autism to participate in roleplaying games like D&D, which gives them the opportunity to practice social skills and develop friendships in a safe environment.  

Organizations like these have listened to Sinclair’s call to make this world for people with autism, and to accept that they are here, and deserve to be here. Because as Ralsei says: 

“This world is full of all kinds of people, Kris. In the end, how we treat them makes all the difference.” 

Megan Pitz is an Asian American writer, JRPG enthusiast, and lover of all things cute. She has published research on the impact of BIPOC representation in children’s literature in Critical Insights: Jamaica Kincaid, and continues to write and research about the impact of BIPOC, queer and neurodivergent representation in youth.

Skills utilised:

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