Need help?
Click here Need Help?
Need help? Click here

July: Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep

This July, our monthly theme is shifting to the trio of exercise, nutrition and sleep.

We know that these three things, when kept in check, can give us a boost in our mental wellbeing. But how can we use games as a vehicle to learn healthier habits?

This month, we’re going to be exploring the concepts of how games can promote healthy living, both physically and mentally. Through game highlights, podcast discussions, articles, resources, analogies and more, we’re going to work through it together.

And we’ve got a hell of a schedule waiting for you! Take a look.

Here are just some of the things you’ll be seeing from us this month:

Making video game foods with Rosie and Sky [Stream] – we’re going to be tackling the fan favourite butterscotch cinnamon pie from Undertale, and it will be chaos.

Games highlights

Gaming for Good with Karla Reyes [Podcast]

A Fairer Games Industry with Rami Ismail [Podcast]

Nature for Wellbeing Exclusive Partner Training

DIGIPRIDE Panel with Gayming Magazine

How VR breathing game DEEP helps with sleep, anxiety and long-COVID

Finding Balance: Can a person in ED recovery participate in exercise and focus on eating a healthy diet?

Planned vs impulsive behavior with Paul Fletcher [Podcast]

Transferring virtual care to in real life self-care using concepts from The Sims

 

So, stay tuned, keep talking, and most importantly, stay Safe In Our World.

Skills utilised:
News

Life Is Strange with Katy Bentz (Safe Space Podcast Season 2, Episode 3)

In this episode of Safe Space, Rosie and Mikayla chat with Katy Bentz, aka Steph Gingrich from the Life Is Strange series!

Rosie, Katy and Mikayla are in the foreground on a backdrop of Haven Springs; there are trees, mountains, and a record store

Katy talks about her experiences as a voice actor, touching on the distinction between the games industry and the film industry, and how to handle audition rejection.

We discuss the impact of characters like Steph for the LGBTQIA+ community, and Katy’s experiences playing a character that is so adored within the LIS fandom. Katy recalls some of her favourite moments from recording True Colors, as well as her favourite interactions with the LIS community.

Links

Katy’s Twitter / Katy’s Twitch

Life Is Strange True Colors

Skills utilised:
News

Be in Safe In Our World’s Video Campaign

Safe In Our World is calling all gamers out there to help us champion everyone’s mental health throughout our industry.

Through games and play we share the stories that billions of people across the world engage with. We want to create a video to positively show the variety and diverse range of people that play games, and we need your help.

We need YOU to record a short clip of yourself, from your phone, saying “I am a Gamer”. 

If you would like to record as a group then please say all together “We are Gamers”.

How to Film

In order to get the best quality and consistency for all submissions, All participants are asked to try and follow these suggestions when shooting your short video.

Best possible filming device used if possible – Latest iPhone/Android, any access to a filming kit. 16:9 || 4K or 1080p HD

A 15 second portrait of each contributor would be helpful – Camera or phone mounted on a tripod a few feet away to capture a head and shoulders video portrait in 16:9 format. We would like to have two versions:

  1. Straight down the lens not smiling.
  2. Straight down the lens smiling with phone cameras in landscape mode.

Turn off all background noises, quiet room or area.

For those who want to go even further: some footage of you playing games – must be filmed either over the shoulder with them in context (no full screen play). A few various other shots (maybe webcam footage if you are a streamer), close up of hands playing controller/mouse, eyes, etc.

Please send your video to benn@safeinourworld.com by the end of July.

Help us tell the story of Safe In Our World where we are asking all video game companies to unite and commit to change, for the wellbeing of all of us together.

Skills utilised:
News

Stonewall: Pride Month 2022 Highlight

As part of Pride Month 2022, we’re highlighting companies, charities and organisations doing great work within the LGBTQ+ space, and today’s highlight is Stonewall.

 

What is Stonewall?

Stonewall is an organisation that stands for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people everywhere. The work of the charity has helped bring the issue of LGBTQ rights to the mainstream political agenda, changing both attitudes and policy.

 

When did it start?

Stonewall was founded in 1989 by a small group of people who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act. It was later granted charitable status in 2003.

 

What was Section 28?

Section 28 was an offensive piece of legislation designed to prevent so-called  “promotion” of homosexuality in schools; as well as stigmatising lesbian, gay and bi people, it galvanised the gay community.

What does ‘Stonewall’ mean?

The Stonewall Uprising began on June 28, 1969, when a gay club in New York City called The Stonewall Inn was raised by police leading to six days of violent clashes between the police and the gay community of Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Uprising served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the US and around the world.

 

What has Stonewall done?

Since 1989, Stonewall has been instrumental in LGBTQ+ rights movements:

  • An equal age of consent for gay and bi men
  • The end of Section 18 in Scotland, England and Wales
  • Same-sex couples being free to adopt children
  • LGBTQ+ people being free to serve openly in the armed forces
  • Protection from discrimination at work
  • The right for same-sex couples to have civil partnerships
  • The right for LGBTQ+ couples to be legally recognised as parents
  • The right for same-sex couples to get married
  • LGBTQ+ inclusive teaching in the national curriculum

Skills utilised:
News

LGBTQIA+ Characters In Video Games: A Spotlight

We’ve seen developments over the years in more characters within video games identifying as LGBTQ+, and whilst there is still more work to do, we wanted to celebrate some of our favourite kickass characters from games that are in the LGBTQ+ community.

Life Is Strange – Alex & Steph

screenshots of steph gingrich from True Colours

Where would we be without this wonderful duo from Life Is Strange: True Colours? Alex and Steph have been fan favourites since True Colours first came out in September 2021. Alex, the main protagonist of the game, is a bisexual character who begins the game reuniting with her brother Gabe in Haven Springs, Colorado. Her kindness and tenacity is a huge asset to the character, and is why so many players fell in love with her! Steph is a lesbian who, depending on the player’s choices, can romance Alex. We talk a lot about Steph’s character in an upcoming podcast episode with the voice actor Katy Bentz.

 

The Last Of Us – Ellie, Riley, Lev

a mashup of Ellie, Riley, Dina and Lev from The Last of Us

The Last of Us has a number of LGBTQ+ characters within the series, with Ellie, one of the main protagonists initially hiding her sexuality from Joel. Her lesbian identity is unveiled in the Left Behind DLC after Ellie and Riley share a kiss within the mall. Bill, a gay character is also within the first The Last of Us game. In The Last of Us Part II, Dina’s character is introduced as bisexual and as a love interest for Ellie. We also see within the sequel an introduction to the first trans character within TLOU universe; Lev.

 

The Outer Worlds

Photo from The Verge

Parvati is an asexual character from The Outer Worlds, and is a fan-favourite. Gayming Mag have a great article looking into their character more here.

 

Tell Me Why

Dontnod’s Tell Me Why moved so many players with their powerful story telling and engaging story, but Tyler’s representation within the game as not only a trans man but a complex character outside of that, was inspiring to both players and game devs alike. Dontnod’s collaboration with GLAAD and using lived experience was a huge factor in creating Tyler.

 

Technobabylon

Max Lao; one of Technobabylon’s 3 main characters, who is a tech-savvy operative on the police force. It is discovered within emails within the game that she is a trans woman, who previously attended an all-boys school.

 

Mass Effect

Liara T’Soni is the very first queer (and romanceable) character within the world of Mass Effect, with her own DLC within the second game. Mass Effect has a number of LGBTQIA characters within the series in total, and this article by Gayming Mag goes into greater detail on each of them!

 

Dragon Age

Dorian is the first male companion who is a romance option exclusively for a male protagonist within Dragon Age, making his debut in Dragon Age: Inquisition. He is a charming character, a mage, and an inspiration for David Gaider to continue to integrate LGBTQIA+ characters within his future game narratives.

There are so many characters within the games universe that have well-written LGBTQIA+ characters, and these are just a few highlights from our community! If you’re looking to delve into more LGBTQIA+ characters, our friends at Gayming Mag do fantastic work in queer culture.

We’ve found resources such as Represent Me and LGBT Characters Wikia to be brilliant in documenting LGBTQIA+ characters across fiction and video games.

Skills utilised:
News

Character Creation and the Privacy of Playing with Gender

Video games have offered queer nerds a safe space to explore aspects of themselves for decades.

I’m not the first to have noticed, and more personally felt, this phenomena and I most certainly won’t be the last. From romancing characters of the same gender, to opening up a new save and creating a character of the opposite one, games have always been playgrounds for positive exploration of sexuality and, especially, gender.

Gaming is often a solitary hobby with the majority of releases focusing on single-player campaigns. Because of this, gaming is often also a very private hobby, with players retreating to their bedrooms or studies after school or work to tune out the rest of the world and dive into the one loading up in front of them.

It’s this privacy that is important to why video games lend themselves so well to gender exploration. Players can dive into a new skin with a sense of security, knowing there’s nobody to perform for.

See, there is still an awful societal pressure for queer people to know exactly how to label themselves as soon as they are comfortable coming out, particularly queer youth. Society perpetuates the idea that changing your mind, discovering something new about yourself, or growing into a new identity is something to be ashamed of. I’m sure you’ve heard the stereotype prescribed to bisexuality as the ‘in-between’ step towards ‘realising you’re actually a lesbian / gay man’ or the similar belief that coming out as non-binary is just one step away from coming out as binary transgender.

For many people, discovering themselves does lead them from one label to another, but these stereotypes have come to assign a certain amount of shame to that. These should-be-comforting moments of self-discovery can become tainted as wrong-turns, when in reality they’re often natural progressions.

This is where the privacy of video games, and character creation, come in. Not only does creating a new persona to inhabit allow you to test the waters of presenting and identifying in a different way, but you can experiment and change that persona as you go, sometimes within games and sometimes between them. All within the privacy of your own save files.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, for example, was the first game in the Animal Crossing franchise to remove gender restrictions in the game. Previously you would be asked to choose ‘girl’ or ‘boy’, often in bizarre dialogues where the question isn’t specifically asked but is instead assumed on whether you think your name is ‘cute’ or ‘cool’…you know, the two genders. Clothing options and haircuts would be restricted depending on this choice, and it couldn’t be changed without creating an entirely new character.

New Horizons, however, let’s you change your gender marker whenever and clothes and haircuts are available to all. In an interview with The Washington Post, Aya Kyogoku, the game’s director, spoke about this flexibility of gender in New Horizons:

“We basically wanted to create a game where users didn’t really have to think about gender or if they wanted to think about gender, they’re also able to.”

This freedom offers small and private moments of gender affirmation, including when that affirmation comes in freedom from gender; letting you run around knowing your character’s gender marker is set to boy while you terraform in your most ‘girly’ cottage-core dress with not a single villager caring (something I did myself).

What happened with New Horizons is just one of the examples of the ways game designers are beginning to push better representations of gender. More games are allowing a mixture of traditionally feminine or masculine traits within one character, including non-binary identities, and are providing a wider / mixed choice of pronouns. While this has been in the works of several developers over the years, it came more to the forefront during Covid when separation from society was greater and people had the space and privacy to experiment in real life as well as in their
games.

During this time, I myself remember playing Arcade Spirits, the already very queer dating sim from Fiction Factory Games. On opening the game, I was met with a character customiser where I was able to give my ‘me’ a cute blonde bob, a masculine build, and, for the first time, they/them pronouns. It was one of the first times I had been able to experiment with these pronouns; despite wanting to see how they felt for me, I wasn’t yet comfortable asking others to try them out.

But there, alone in my bedroom with a cup of tea and my laptop propped up on plushies, it felt private and personal and good. After I finished the game, I was able to recognise that, while those pronouns did feel right for me, there were times where I missed more gendered ways of presenting and interacting in-game. This Arcade Spirits version of me didn’t quite capture ‘me,’ and it was affirming to uncover that without the onlooking eye of others.

That experience could not have been the same were it broadcast and shared with others, and Arcade Spirits is only one example of how powerful the intimacy with video games can be. It’s why there is so much queer joy waiting to be found in games, because there is always excitement in the fact that we can try again and again to learn more about ourselves whenever we load into the next character creator.

Skills utilised:
News

How can community managers within the games industry practice self care?

Our Charity Manager, Sarah, recently spoke to GIBiz on the importance of mental health training within the games industry, especially for Community Managers.

Sarah Sorrell

So, how can community managers within the games industry practice self care, set boundaries, create psychologically safe work cultures and welcome imperfection?

Sarah dives into the fundamentals of why community managers seem to have the most endless remit of all within the games industry, and why mental health training course brings together key techniques in supporting yourself within this role. At the moment, we’re on our second round of training Community Managers free of charge in managing their mental health. You can read more about the course, and our achievements at this page.

There are many steps that people working within the industry can take, within the community-focused role, to help set effective boundaries, provide opportunities to learn, achieve balance and connect with others in the same situation, and it doesn’t just come down to the Community Manager to implement these changes.

Sarah talks about the importance of those in senior positions to support their Community Managers, and how setting the precedent of a healthy work life balance is imperative to fostering a safer workplace culture.

The evidence is that many organisations struggle to create and sustain a culture where people feel okay speaking truth to power — disagreeing with the boss can still carry negative consequences. Senior leaders need to step up and take genuine responsibility for creating cultures that empower diversity of opinion and ideas.

It’s also vital to become self-aware, with what might be causing your stress, change of mood, or even in decision-making. We must welcome imperfection to embrace what is it to be a person, rather than a robot, and by moving away from a perfectionist mindset, we can be kinder to ourselves as well.

If you’re interested in reading up more about the tips that CMs can take on board regarding their mental health, and how workplaces can support them, check out the rest of the article over at Games Industry Biz.

Read the GI Biz article here.

Skills utilised:
News

Custom Pronouns in the Sims 4 with Momo Misfortune (Safe Space Podcast Season 2, Episode 2)

In this episode, Rosie and Sky chat to Momo Misfortune. Momo is a Twitch partner who is known for streaming The Sims, as well as campaigning for pronouns in the Sims, and a founder of YOUphoriaTV which is stream team focused on uplifting the voices of Nonbinary and Gender Non Conforming creators on Twitch.

We discuss the incredible causes such as Able Gamers, Trans Women of Colour Collective that they have supported, and the Change.org campaign Momo made for adding pronoun options into The Sims 4 which had almost 25,000 signatures before it became a reality.

Momo talks about It Gets Better as an Ambassador and their connection with The Sims 4, and also about their experience with chronic illness and how it affects their mental health.

Links

Skills utilised:
News

Global LGBTQIA+ Support

During Pride Month, we wanted to compile a list of resources aimed at supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, but specifically focusing on trans friendly communities.

Below, we’ve put some international resources for those who need it; everyone deserves mental health support.

 

United Kingdom

Mindline Trans

Emotional and mental health support helpline for anyone identifying as trans, non-binary, gender variant, and their families, friends, colleagues and carers.

Their phone line is open Mondays and Fridays, 8pm to midnight. Ring 0300 330 5468.

Switch Board

A one-stop listening service for LGBTQ+ people on the phone, emails or through instant messaging.

Their phone line is open 10:00 – 22:00 every day. Call 0300 330 0630, chat on their website or email at chris@switchboard.lgbt for support.

The Beaumont Society

The Beaumont Society is a national self help body run by and for the transgender community.

The Beaumont Society operates a national 24 / 7 information line. This information line contains the telephone numbers of all the societies regional organisers who are available to speak to for advice, details of where to go for a good night out – even a friendly ear to listen. Call 01582 412220.

Mermaids

Helping gender-diverse kids, young people and their families since 1995.

Call 08088010400 Monday to Friday, 9am – 9pm to speak to a trained member of the Mermaids Team.

Gendered Intelligence

Gendered Intelligence, established in 2008, is a registered charity that exists to increase understandings of gender diversity and improve trans people’s quality of life.

LGBT Foundation

The LGBT Foundation are here to offer support and advice on a range of topics. Our service is non-judgement, and we are here to talk through whatever is on your mind. When you call, you will find someone on the other end of the line with a friendly voice and a listening ear.
Call on on 0345 3 30 30 30 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm) or email helpline@lgbt.foundation 03453303030

Ireland

LGBT Ireland

National LGBT Helpline on freephone 1800 929 539 (7 days a week)

Transgender Family Support Line on 01 907 3707

Or use this instant messaging service.

BeLonG To Youth Services

At BeLonG To, we offer non-judgmental, confidential support. We’re here for you. BeLonG To is an LGBT youth organisation catering for young people between 14-23 years. 

 

United States

PsychCentral

Support for Trans, Nonbinary & Gender-Expansive Folks including a list of hotlines and support.

Trans Lifeline

The Trans Lifeline has answered over 100,000 calls since it launched in 2014. It operates with the determined mission of providing “direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis — for the trans community, by the trans community.” Call 877-565-8860 (Press 2 for Spanish)

To reach the Trans Lifeline toll-free from anywhere in Canada, dial 1-877-330-6366 https://translifeline.org/

oSTEM

Text ‘oSTEM’ to +1 (313) 662-8209 anytime, from anywhere.

LGBT National Hotline

The LGBT National Hotline is for all ages.

They provide a safe space that is anonymous and confidential where callers can speak on many different issues and concerns including, but not limited to, coming out issues, gender and/or sexuality identities, relationship concerns, bullying, workplace issues, HIV/AIDS anxiety, safer sex information, suicide, and much more.

Call 888-843-4564 Monday – Friday 1pm-9pm PT / 4pm – 12am ET or Saturday 9am-2pm PT / 12pm-5pm ET

The Trevor Project

Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project defines itself as “the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.” 

Trevor Lifeline: Call 866-488-7386 | Trevor Text: Text ‘START’ to 678-678 (Operates 24/7, 365 days a year)

 

Australia

Twenty 10

We work with people across Sydney and New South Wales who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, non-binary, intersex, questioning, queer, asexual and more (LGBTIQA+) people and others of diverse genders and sexualities, their families and communities.

We are a Sydney based service working across New South Wales, providing a broad range of specialised services for young people 12-25 including housing, mental health, counselling and social support. For adults we provide social support and for people of all ages we offer telephone support and webchat as the NSW provider for the national QLife project. We also offer inclusivity training and consulting for organisations and service providers across most sectors.

Phone: 02 8594 9555 – (Intake/support line is staffed 1-3PM weekdays)

Reach Out

Reach Out offers a list of emergency, national and state based services.

If you’re feeling distressed and want to talk to someone right now, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or one of the other contacts in the urgent help section, all of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7.

 

New Zealand

OutlineNZ

Our free confidential support line is answered by trained LGBTIQ+ volunteers. Leave a message if we can’t answer and we can call you back. Call 0800-688-5463 – 6pm-9pm every evening.

There is also a free chat service.

 

France

SOS Homophobia

Ligne d’écoute anonyme
01 48 06 42 41
Lundi au vendredi de 18h à 22h
Samedi : 14h – 16h
Dimanche : 18h – 20h
Sauf jours fériés

 

Germany

Lesbenberatung

Center for Councelling, Communication and Exchange

+49 30-215-20-00 (information line)

They offer meet ups for young queer people between the ages of 16 and 27 once a week (german speaking), and will soon offer counselling on social and medical transition for all trans people.

 

We also have more resources, support lines and games relating to the LGBTQ+ community on our previous pride article, and global mental health support lines on our Find Help area.

Skills utilised:
News

Another Day, Another Interview

In this interview, Rosie catches up with Another Dollar Studios; a student game dev team from Falmouth University about their game ‘Another Day’.

The game was part of the Cornwall House exhibition during the G7 Summit in 2021, and portrays the daily struggle experienced by those living in isolation in a claustrophobic environment during lockdown while suffering from depression and anxiety.

 

What were the inspirations behind this storyline?

 

Another Day was a deeply personal project for much of the team. Being students ourselves, and some of us having our own complex histories with mental health, we put a lot of ourselves into the project. The result is an amalgamation of our collective experience as students during nationwide lockdown.

 

The game for me (Rosie) perfectly illustrated what it was like having depression during the lockdown – how do you want players to perceive this game who may be less familiar with this feeling?

 

Thank you, we took a lot of time and effort to try to ensure that the experience felt right.

One thing the team identified during the idea development stage of the project was how difficult it can be for people who have not experienced depression to relate or empathise with those who are struggling, which can lead to them becoming isolated from friends, family members and colleagues when they really need their support.

Games are a powerful medium for storytelling and sharing experiences, arguably more than films or books, as players do not passively watch events, but actively take part – when reading a book or watching a film, we refer to the main character and their actions in the third person, however when playing a game we refer to the player character’s actions as if it was ourselves performing them. We want players to use the game as an educational tool to gain a better understanding of mental illness and what it can look like when someone is struggling.

We hope that this will be able to allow those who have not gone through the experience to feel empathy for people in their lives who may be going through a similar situation to the player character in Another Day. Although the experience may not be fully familiar to every player, small elements will be, even if it’s something as simple as struggling to complete a simple daily task.

We also want to emphasize the importance of reaching out to those who may be struggling. Depression and anxiety can be incredibly isolating, and popping round for a cup of tea, a phone call or even a text can make all the difference to those who are feeling low.

If someone feels they are able to better understand a loved one who has depression after playing this, it would be truly amazing.

 

Another Day made it feel tiring to get up and do the basics – a lot of people who experience poor mental health will likely relate to this – why did you choose to tell this story in this way?

 

We knew from the outset that if we were going to make a game tackling mental health, we wanted to reflect reality, and not glamorise the experience for the sake of making the game more ‘fun’. We decided to lean into the inherent strength of games, using deliberately tedious mechanics with a heavy amount of repetition which become increasingly arduous to convey the difficulty that mundane tasks present to people with depression.

In addition, as the in game week progresses the player character’s self-talk becomes increasingly negative regardless of the player’s efforts to choose the more positive dialogue options. Dialogue branches depending on the selected options, but will always end up in the same place. This lack of agency was a deliberate choice to represent how oppressive mental illness (in particular intrusive thoughts) can be, and how difficult it can be to break free from the cycle of negative self-talk.

This focus on everyday tasks emulating a real world scenario helped to maintain the relatability of Another Day. We hope that those who have struggled with their mental health may find it validating to see a literal representation of their struggles, while those who have not experienced mental illness may understand how overwhelming and exhausting simple tasks such as brushing your teeth can become.

 

What were your biggest challenges and successes in creating a game that touches on mental health?

 

When engaging with any sensitive topic, it is incredibly important that delicacy and compassion are your primary tools in representation. Certainly, there were times we wanted to add in features or mechanics that, while sounding good on paper, would have likely detracted from the overall message we wanted to deliver.

Working closely as a team to ensure that all elements of the game reflected the experience that we wanted to create, as well as discussing our personal experiences and conducting extensive research and QA testing helped to ensure that Another Day represented depression and anxiety as accurately and respectfully as possible.

In addition, protecting the mental health of our players was important to us, and it was crucial that we made sure that the game’s trigger warnings were well written and clearly visible on our page, to ensure that players are able to make an informed decision before playing.

Protecting the mental health of the team was also highly important, especially as for many of us the game reflected personal experiences. The team made an effort to look out for and support each other, and in addition to holding daily team meetings to check in with each other, we held regular online game nights where we could chat, bond and let of some steam without the pressures of work.

Another challenge was maintaining a balance between it being a video game and a piece of educational media. Another Day was never intended to be a fun game, but a certain level of engagement needed to be attained so a player would not lose interest while playing. We tried to achieve this through an engaging narrative, and through the collectable books and games that the player can find around the apartment, which provide light relief from the rest of the game.

As a team we feel that we managed to create engaging player experience that tells an earnest and authentic story about someone struggling with their mental health. We were incredibly happy with the feedback we received when we released the game, as many players informed us that the game had left a lasting impact on them, and that they felt that the game dealt with mental illness in a sensitive and accurate manner.

 "Your team is relying on you to get that done; how could you be so selfish?" There are two responses: "There's just not enough time." and "I know."

 

What would you like to see from other developers when addressing real-world problems?

 

When representing serious topics by gamifying them the difference between doing more harm than good and doing good is a serious grey area. While the intent can be to spread awareness for a topic, harm can still be done.

Accuracy and sensitivity is key. Perpetuating harmful stereotypes, spreading misinformation, insensitive depictions of real world issues and glorifying or romanticising serious situations adds to stigma and can be incredibly triggering for players facing these issues. While it is hard to foresee the impact a piece of media can have on its audience the most important thing any developer can do is put in the effort: do research, talk to people who have struggled, listen to professionals and above all else, include representation of serious topics to represent them and not for their shock value.

We would love to see more developers using the unique medium of videogames to raise awareness and shine a spotlight on issues that are in dire need of discussion. While there have been some stand-out successes, our industry has barely scratched the surface of what can be achieved in this area. We can’t wait to see what more talented developers are able to make in the coming years!

a screenshot of an email in-game from the company director asking about the player how they're doing, as they haven't been completing tasks assigned in their usual time.

 

What is your biggest take-home for players of Another Day?

 

For those who have gone through or are going through struggles; you are not alone. Although it can be tough, there are people who are there to help.

For people who haven’t experienced mental illness, hopefully they have a better understanding of what mental health can do, possible ways to identify those who may be struggling and ways they can help. – Jacob (Programmer)

To those who have experienced or are experiencing mental illness: I want you to know that you are not alone, and that your experiences are real and valid. It can be such an incredibly difficult, horrible space to be in, and it can feel like you may never get out, but things can and will get better. Be kind to yourself. Don’t suffer in silence because you are concerned about judgement or you are worried about being a burden to others – there are people who can help and support you.

To those who struggle with their mental health: I hope that this experience can be a cathartic, validating experience for you. You are not alone, and you are not weak. You are loved; sometimes you’ve just got to pick up that phone. – Samson (Designer)

To those who know someone who is struggling: Reach out and tell the person how much they mean to you. Listen to what they have to say. Be patient and understanding.

To everyone: Mental illness can happen to anyone, sometimes with no obvious reason. It can be incredibly challenging and debilitating, and it is important that we work together to break the stigma surrounding it, and look out for each other. – Katie (Writer)

Your struggles are valid. No matter what anyone says, including your own brain. If you are struggling, you deserve help and support. If you are struggling it is important that you seek help, and for people who know someone who may be struggling, it is beyond essential that you reach out to them. We’re all in this together. – Kim (Writer)

We’ve added Another Day to our list of mental health related games and apps.
Play Another Day.

A dim studio apartment, everything has a dull tint to it. There is a notepad in the corner with the task "Brush Teeth" on it.

Skills utilised:
News

Minecraft, Medication and Matching Outfits with Sky (Safe Space Podcast Special Episode)

In the latest special episode of the Safe Space Podcast, Rosie chats to our latest team member Sky.

We talk about loneliness, and how Minecraft was a big part of helping combat it during a time where Sky and their partner were living far away from each other. We also delve into Eating Disorders, Self Harm and Medications and how conversation around such topics is fundamental to reducing the stigma.

Of course, there is cat talk, specifically that Sky has a matching outfit with her cat Jerry. Sky opens up about their work in the cinema industry in Saudi Arabia, and how she has got to where she is today in championing mental health for Safe In Our World.

Links

Sky’s Twitter

Skills utilised:
News

The Beginner’s Guide – A Subtle yet Powerful Trans Allegory by Ruby Modica

The Beginner’s Guide (TBG) is an environmental narrative game written by Davey Wreden and tells of his experience with a friend who used to make games.

TBG is a tightly written venture that poses many questions but answers only a handful of them by the end, leaving much of the story open for interpretation. Despite the overarching themes of game design and creator burnout, there is also room for an allegory that focuses on one of the characters being transgender and their difficult journey of self-discovery. 

The term “transgender” refers to an individual who lives as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth. This Pride Month, where many will be proudly celebrating their right to be themselves and love themselves despite oppression, it is important to remember that trans people have come under serious attack in recent years. Therefore, examining this trans interpretation of TBG is important for those who may be unaware of the difficulties a trans person typically goes through, or even for someone who is unsure of their gender identity. 

Davey tells the story of his friend who uses the nickname Coda. Since the entirety of TBG is narrated by Davey, we are only given access to Coda’s life through another person’s perspective, which is why the conflicting story details might not accurately portray Coda’s gender identity. Hints at Coda’s true identity are revealed in subtle ways all throughout TBG, something that can be easily overlooked on an initial playthrough. 

a screenshot of an empty room with cream coloured walls, one wall is open and there are bars across the length of it

Firstly, Davey uses he/him pronouns when talking about Coda, initially suggesting that they are a cisgender male (that is, assigned male from birth and living as a male). However, this simple detail becomes less credible as the game progresses, since most of the games Davey shows feature multiple sound clips of a woman’s voice guiding the player directly, such as The Whisper Machine’s announcer. Davey’s voice is recognisably male, but if Coda is assumed male then the voice’s origin becomes unclear. 

Other examples of female-gendered dialogue are found all throughout TBG. The second game Backwards reveals several pieces of short text, using the pronouns “she” and “her” throughout. The Island and Machine levels also portray the player as female, and other minor references appear in the Notes level that have all seemingly been written by Coda. 

4 images within corridors inside a building. There are words on the walls: "The past was behind her", "when she stops and looks it becomes clearer", "but if the future is always behind her" and "how will she find strength"

Based on other interpretations seen in TBG, each game created by Coda simulates something personal and experimental. Despite Davey’s attempts to connect them and add meaning, it is clear that Coda’s games are a safe creative space. In turn, it would make sense that these private thoughts would better depict Coda’s desired mental state, one where they use female pronouns and exist as a female. 

If Coda is indeed a trans woman, then the continued use of he/him pronouns by Davey could add another disheartening layer to the allegory. Refusing to acknowledge a trans person’s identity can cause trauma and dysphoria, both of which lead to psychological damage if unchecked. 

However, if Coda is a trans man (female-to-male) then this would be the inverse: Davey is respecting Coda’s new identity. The timescale for Coda’s games takes place over several years, so it is possible Coda begins transitioning during the course of their game development. That would also explain why Coda becomes more detached from their older games due to featuring an outdated version of themselves. Artefacts like their old username and voice clips can easily trigger dysphoria, which would parallel most trans people’s experiences. 

Additional signs of Coda’s female presence include the small number of NPCs appearing across TBG levels. One NPC model is seen in the Theatre level, where the disembodied narrator states that this person embodies everything the player wants to be. The deliberate gender choice is expanded upon when the game forces the player to recede back from the stage, followed by prison gates closing in. 

The only realistic female body seen in TBG comes at the end of Island, which depicts a crying woman behind a prison barricade. It is possible that all of these factors depict Coda’s thoughts of being trapped in the wrong body and unable to escape. 

An animated character with long brown hair is sat in the corner hugging their knees, with 3 dialogue options in the corner: 1. Hello?, 2. Where am I?, 3. What is this?

Coda’s happiness occurs in the House game where a male-bodied NPC is portrayed in a feminine manner. This could symbolise Coda’s desired gender identity, which contrasts heavily with the Theatre game where the player is told to hide themselves away instead. With this in mind, both of these levels could simply be a portrayal of Coda’s euphoria and dysphoria respectively.  

Of particular note is the final message to Davey, where there are certain lines that refer to distrust and insecurity brought about by Coda’s games being shared publicly. Coda states that this is “violating the one boundary that keeps [them] safe”, a potential allusion to having their gender identity publicly outed against their wishes. This has resulted in numerous upsetting instances in real life where kids are disowned by parents and/or suffer bullying, which would serve as a more impactful reason for Coda to cut contact with Davey. 

an animated tree on a series of grassy islands suspended in a white background/space

This trans allegory portrays the everyday difficulties that trans and non-binary people face on a daily basis, from finding their identity to a lack of help. Thankfully, despite all the attempted attacks, the world is gradually becoming more accepting of trans people. Deltarune and Tell Me Why are just a few gaming examples that feature trans/non-binary protagonists who are presented as independent and strong, a proud depiction that LGBTQ+ individuals and allies can empathise with.  

Additionally, there are many charities at hand such as Mermaids and GLAAD specifically designed for reaching out to trans individuals with support and guidance. There is hope for the future that the tragic trans allegory from The Beginner’s Guide will soon be a thing of the past, and this Pride Month is a good opportunity to show support where possible. Even small actions like respecting one another’s pronouns and helping those dealing with dysphoria can go a long way to making the world a better place. 

Ruby Modica is an independent content creator, editor and writer.

She loves sharing insight into video games and discovering new things, with a desire to work in the media/gaming industry full time. Most days she is busy at her computer working on her next big project.

LinkTree

Skills utilised:
News

A Celebration of Play Your Way and Mental Health Month

Over May 2022, we celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month with our #PlayYourWay Initiative, asking gamers to play the games that mean the most to them, whilst embracing the discussion around mental health and our connections between our games and how we feel.

We’re delighted to announce that the Safe In Our World community raised over £15,000 from community fundraising, donations and activity to support the charity, its future initiatives and the work we do within the games industry to support the people who work within it!

Throughout the month, we saw so many fantastic creators set their sights on the games that mean the most to them to celebrate #PlayYourWay and raise awareness around mental health. The variety of games that you chose highlighted the individuality of our relationships with games, and how we can celebrate games in so many ways. From community focused horrors such as Phasmophobia (we’re looking at you Hannah…) to wholesome Nintendo adventures to lunchtime Wordfall with the Press Engine team!

Enjoy this clip of Hannah definitely not panicking with Ellie pulling tarot cards in the dark….

Hannah panics in the corner of the Twitch screenshot, where her and Elliejoypanic pull tarot cards in Phasmophobia

Hannah definitely not panicking – screenshot from Lomadiah (twitch.tv/lomadia)

Or this clip of Chimp195 singing Staying Alive playing The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan…

It wouldn’t be fair to also give a nod to some of the forfeits you signed yourselves up for from your community, including Beanboozled (debatably the worst) and so much slime over at Jinjar’s community. So much slime

A huge thank you to the numerous companies and studios that hosted Sarah and Rosie to talk about the charity during Mental Health Awareness Week! We facilitated fantastic discussions, panels and talks about why mental health is so important, especially within the games industry.

Jinjar - bearded streamer in grey t shirt pours lime green slime over his head, previous slime/beans/chaos can be seen on his t shirt already.

Jinjar gets slimed for Safe In Our World (Photo from Twitter: @Jinjar247)

We also saw some physical challenges undertaken from the Safe In Our World community, including Genba Digital’s Team Wolf Run! Check out the team picture below.

10 people lined up jump into a mud river for the Wolf Run

Photo from the @GenbaDigital Twitter Account

The lovely team at Switch Players Norwich hosted a raffle benefitting Safe In Our World, where you can see the excitement unfolding. We saw a wonderful week of variety games from the Grads in Games team, from Harry’s journey into The Last of Us Left Behind, indie games from Dan and Alex’s Minecraft adventure.

Alex celebrates with his arms in the air

Alex defies the odds on Minecraft Chaos stream with Grads in Games

We also saw one of the largest stream trains supporting Safe In Our World, with The ‘Safe In Our Raids’ team ran by Pengy, raising an amazing £3,000 across the 48 hour event. 24 x 2 hour streams, 48 hours of wholesome chaos. We even saw Pengy bustin’ moves with the penguins in the stream summary. Excellent.

Pengy is in a penguin suit, dancing in front of 3 cartoon penguins in celebration of the 48 hour stream raid train event

Screenshot from Pengy’s celebratory stream (twitch.tv/TheRealPengy)

All in all, we’re so proud of our community for stepping up this mental health awareness month to champion our mission and eliminate stigma surrounding mental health. Every person who contributed has our sincere gratitude and thanks, whether you streamed, fundraised, got involved with activities, donated, or showed up to watch it all happen – you helped #PlayYourWay be the success that it was. Thank you.

Skills utilised:
News

Gayming Magazine: Pride Month 2022 Highlight

This Pride, we are highlighting organisations and companies doing outstanding work within the LGBTQ+ gaming community.

Today we’re highlighting Gayming Magazine; the home of queer geek culture.

Gayming Magazine is a hub of LGBTQ+ culture within video games; from news to reviews to lifestyle and events – there is so much being covered by the fantastic team at Gayming Mag.

They’ve even collated a list of LGBTQ+ games that have come out this year, which you can find here.

The team will also be hosting DIGIPRIDE 2022, which will run from June to August this year, featuring panels, streams, podcasts and more! We are proud to be hosting a mental health focused panel for gaymers as part of this event on July 26th!

Follow Gayming Mag on Twitter

Skills utilised:
News

How to Tell Meaningful Stories Through Games with Paula Angela Escuadra (Safe Space Podcast Season 2, Episode 1)

In the first episode of Season 2 of the Safe Space Podcast, Rosie talks to Paula Angela Escuadra about her vast experience within the game development space where she has broadened the conversation around inclusivity, representation, sustainability and climate consciousness.

We talk about the importance of using games to portray important messages, and how it differs from messages within more static media such as films and books, and what steps developers can take to implement these messages in ethical and proactive ways. We also discuss the effect that video games can have on player’s introspection and identity, and how it can act as a support mechanism to those who may often feel unsafe to be themselves in person.

Click here to listen!

There are two people in the foreground (Rosie and Paula), between them is a Audio waveform graphic in white and the text 'Safe Space', with a white siow logo at the bottom. There is a forest with light flickering through the trees in the background and a SIOW Pink wave shape at the top.

About Paula
Paula Angela Escuadra (She/Her) has spent +12 years elevating the power games have to redefine our relationship with failure and create meaning. She leads research for Xbox Game Studios Cloud Publishing, helping developers make great games that foster meaningful communities. She co-founded IGDA Climate Special Interest Group, co-authoring its newly released Environmental Game Design Playbook. She’s also on Cologne Game Lab’s advisory board with a focus on unlocking sustainability competencies.
(Lastly, she’s a very strong advocate for community care, psychological safety, and dog cuddling as a form of self-care.)

Links

Want to listen to more episodes of the Safe Space Podcast? Check out the full list of episodes at this link

Skills utilised:
News

How Minecraft Helped Me to Combat Loneliness by Sky Tunley-Stainton

It was Christmas Day and I was 6,000km away from my partner and family. I loved my job and had made good friends while abroad, but it was very isolating to be away from my loved ones at a time that was so built around routine and togetherness.

I got a message from my partner to join our Minecraft server. We’d been spending time on the server together from afar, so I was excited to be able to see him and hang out for a little while. What I found when I logged in is honestly still to this day one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.

2 minecraft characters sit on a sofa together

In front of me, in the center of our base, was an enormous spruce tree covered in coloured glass blocks and light sources. We weren’t far along on the server at the time, so it must have been pretty difficult to create something on that scale. Beneath the tree were several chests (which were, of course, re-skinned as gifts for the season as always) and an enormous gift made of wool blocks. My Christmas gift that year was a set of fully enchanted diamond armour and tools, and inside the wool gift were two Minecraft cats for me to tame and keep.

If anyone’s ever drawn a picture for you, written a poem, or produced anything creative for you, you’ll know how this gesture made me feel. Even years later it’s a memory I treasure and helped form my belief that games are so powerful when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships.

Last year, on our anniversary, it was my partner’s turn to be away for work. Each November we would usually watch a fireworks display together, but with him away in Scotland – and with Covid restrictions still in place – this was not going to be possible. Inspired by his thoughtfulness in previous years, I spent hours in Minecraft working out how to craft all the different types of firework rocket and setting up a (very rudimentary) redstone fireworks display. We logged in and, as the Minecraft sun set, we were able to watch the fireworks together as we always did.

This isn’t something unique to me, either: the game has been used for people all over the world to stay connected during what was perhaps the most isolating time of all of our lives. For just one other of many examples, The Warren Project ran a Minecraft server to connect young people during lockdown, helping them maintain friendships, and make new ones, from afar.

At some of my loneliest moments, Minecraft has helped me connect and share experiences, proving that games can be vital in the fight against loneliness.

Words by Sky Tunley-Stainton

Skills utilised:
News, Stories

Returning to the Office Post-COVID: Insight and Best Practice 

Any period of change can be a volatile time for those who suffer from mental ill health.

Two years ago, for many, that change was the switch to working from home full-time, which came with rising concerns about loneliness, work-life balance, among other things. Now, with many businesses returning to their offices, the opposite problem is presented: what can be done to support employees who have anxieties around returning to the workplace? 

Since the pandemic began, the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression has increased by 25%. Now more than ever, your employees may need support with their mental health and wellbeing. 

There are dozens of articles online telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing about returning to the office, and the advice is often conflicting. Ultimately, all people and teams are different so there’s no real cookie-cutter solution for how to approach office life post-Covid. The most important thing you can do as a leader is to speak to your team about how they’re feeling. What are their main concerns? Do they have any ideas for how the transition could be made easier? What did they think worked well with their homeworking setup that could be replicated in the office? 

One aspect to consider is illustrated in episode 3 of our Safe Space podcast, where Robin Gray of Gayming Magazine talks about how returning to an office environment can be difficult for some LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly those who are trans or gender nonconforming. Sometimes a person’s home office is a safer environment for them as they can be more authentically themselves. Taking some of the measures Robin discusses here may help to turn your office into a safer space. 

The UK-based employment advisory service, Acas, discusses the Health & Safety aspects of returning to work now that most, if not all, Covid-19 restrictions have ended. It would be a good time to make your employees aware that they can request reasonable adjustments, as well as helping them understand their rights in the workplace. 

It may be that working life never returns to what it was before Covid – and that might be a good thing. The University of Southampton did a study on what learnings could be taken from homeworking throughout the pandemic with a view of incorporating hybrid and flexible working patterns into the “new normal.” The University offers 10 steps for succeeding in hybrid working, including the need to engage with staff preferences, and thinking about offering flexibility with working hours, not only location. 

If you have any success stories or learnings from your experience of returning to the office, we would love to hear about them! Please get in touch with Sky Tunley-Stainton via sky@safeinourworld.com 

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

From Filmmaking to Inspiring Change with Benn Wiebe (Safe Space Podcast: Meet the Team)

In this special episode of the podcast, Rosie talks to our new Strategy and Corporate Partnerships Officer; Benn Wiebe!

Benn has an incredibly varied and interesting career, from working on the Twilight film (!) to the United Nations. He talks about his passions in moving into the video games space, and actively pushing for positive change for topics such as environmental action and improved mental health support. These creative industries have the power to drive forwards positive change and make a real difference using a loved medium such as film or games.

Listen to the episode here.

About Benn

Benn Wiebe has been a social impact strategist and producer who has lived across the United States, Denmark, and the UK. As the executive producer of HF Productions Benn has overseen a global series of film festivals that champion vast perspectives and international narratives, and has advised or consulted for organizations across film and games including Netflix, The United Nations, Sony Pictures, Sybo Games, Count Us In, Vice Media, Yea! Impact, Global Environment Media, Climate Crisis Hub, and SIE Society. He is a member of the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences, Producers Guild of America, Playing for the Planet Alliance, and the IGDA Climate SIG.

Skills utilised:
News

Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day with Xbox Mental Health Best Practices for Developers

The team at Xbox Accessibility have just released their Mental Health Best Practices Guidelines as part of their accessibility resources, and we were excited to play a part in it.

The guidelines are aiming to educate developers on ways to create inclusive and safe experiences within their games for all players, by providing content warnings, content customization options, and avoiding the use of stereotyped or stigmatized representations of in-game characters with mental health conditions.

The guidelines are thorough, and contain support around the initial concepts and scoping of developing content that will elicit a challenging response in players, depict trauma, mental health conditions and behaviours.

They also discuss where mental health considerations can be important within game development and player experiences, and provide examples of ways this has been done well in other games. By highlighting the best practices that exist already within these spaces and uplifting and empowering developers into being more inclusive when portraying mental health within games, we can create safer experiences for everyone.

We’re excited to see a detailed resource aimed at game developers within mental health and are delighted to be involved in this project. Please check out the full guidelines here.

Skills utilised:
News

From a Game of Minecraft to a Best Man’s Speech with Alex King (Mental Health Month Podcast Special)

In this special episode of the Safe Space Podcast for Mental Health Awareness Month, Rosie talks to Alex King, Community Manager from Ripstone.

Alex and Rosie discuss the power of games communities, and in particular how Alex found his friendship group of 12 years through Minecraft.

There is also a wasp related incident that occurs mid-recording so, um enjoy? Rosie was very frightened.

Links

Alex’s Twitter

Ripstone – Alex’s Story

Skills utilised:
News

Existential Anxiety and how FFIX Helped Liam Wilson (Mental Health Month Podcast Special)

In this short series of stories as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Rosie talks to Liam Wilson from Sock Monkey Studios about his journey in mental health, and how supportive workplaces are foundational to supporting our teams and employees.

We also discuss the power of FFIX in Liam’s story and how a story arc within the game helped with his existential anxiety during a particularly difficult time in his life.

Listen to the episode here.

Skills utilised:
News

Free Mental Health First Aid for Community Managers Returns

It’s happening again in 2022!

After such a positive response to the mental health training provided to 200 Community Managers in 2021, we’re delighted to be re-opening the course to another 150 delegates. 50 of these delegates will be prioritised for our Level Up Partners.

The role of the Community Manager can seem limitless and, without clear frameworks and defined expectations, the internal and external demands can also be overwhelming. Managing online communities presents significant challenges that require a confident set of supportive peer skills.

Community Managers also need to know about the relevant professional resources available to them should they need to refer people onwards for support. Safe In Our World has developed a course, in conjunction with Mind Fitness, that will provide the knowledge, confidence and practical skills for delegates to be able to effectively set boundaries, provide non-clinical Mental Health Support and know how to take care of their own, and their community’s wellbeing.

This course assembles current best practice around Mental Health First Aid and applies these principles to the specific challenges that Community Managers have to cope with.

This course will be broken down into 4 individual sessions of 3 hours, each delivered over a 2 week period, with learning coursework between each session.

Download the full details of the course here.

Click here for the latest dates and courses

REGISTER YOUR INTEREST HERE

a desk with pc, monitor and games set up

Skills utilised:
News

How Experiencing Addiction Changed My Life with Grant Hill (Safe Space Podcast Season 1 Episode 20)

In the season 1 finale of the Safe Space Podcast, Rosie talks to Grant Hill, esports caster for Race to World First for Method and occasional streamer.

He’s previously delved into esports journalism, as well as casting for Starcraft II.

In this episode, we discuss Grant’s journey, including how he was introduced to Safe In Our World, and the recent Race to World First Tournament. Grant opens up about his struggles with addiction, and how it has affected his career and life over the years, including his recent overdose and subsequent path to recovery.

We also discuss the issues surrounding mental health within the esports realm, and how he thinks we could start to change the culture for the better.


Links

Grant’s Twitter

Race to World First

Method

Skills utilised:
News

Celebrating a year of being part of the Safe In Our World ‘Level Up Mental Health’ initiative with Sumo Group

In May 2021, Sumo Group partnered with Safe In Our World as part of its #LevelUpMentalHealth initiative.

Joining at this time reflected the commitment that Sumo had already made to supporting the mental health of its people. The Group had already begun to roll out a company-wide mental health support system and believed that making this pledge visible to all as part of an industry wide effort would further demonstrate its ongoing commitment to such an important area of health.

 

 

For Mental Health Awareness Week this week, Sumo Group takes a look at some of the changes made across its 16 studios over the past 12 months to support its people’s wellbeing.

From developing and delivering in-house mental health awareness training for managers, to surprising their teams with pick-me-ups in the post, Sumo Group have pulled together a variety of support for their employees to contribute to their wellbeing at work. (Read the full list of changes at the full piece below!)

This Mental Health Awareness Week, Sumo Group is rolling out its week-long mental health-focused activity around the topic of ‘Loneliness’ – offering time and space for reflection, conversation and action.

In addition to the above, the Group continues to provide access to mental health support, trained mental health first aiders across the business and a focus on wellbeing at regular points through the year on Dojo (the Groups award winning learning platform). Sumo Group has been being recognised in the UK Best Companies to Work For awards two years running – a direct reflection of the improvements made Group-wide following listening to and acting upon, valued feedback from its teams. Alongside it’s continued partnership with Safe in Our World, the Group continues to look for ways to enhance and improve the wellbeing of its people, ensuring they remain at the very centre of the Group’s values.

Read the full profile piece.

Read another profile piece from recent Level Up Partner Sock Monkey!

 

Skills utilised:
News

no layouts found