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Mindful entertainment: Two Years On with Ellie Dee

Betwixt is a mindful entertainment app that “combines science, story and play for a new era of wellbeing.” It was just launched on iOS and Android

We interviewed Ellie back in June 2021 about the story behind Betwixt. Now, as the app heads towards full release, we’re checking back in to hear about some of the progress and new information surrounding the “Lifeline meets Lord of the Rings” experience.

What’s changed about Betwixt over the last two years?

Quite a lot and it’s really thanks to our super testers’ squad, whose passion for Betwixt has pushed us to make the experience so much richer and more immersive.

Our goal was to create a space that blurs the boundary between reality and imagination, and turns a merely enjoyable escape into a deeply emotional inner journey. For this to happen, we had to get you to suspend disbelief, disappear into the story and bring your whole self into it. So, everything from narrative to aesthetics to mechanics not only had to work together, but the psychology part had to mesh well with the entertainment part. 

So here’s how it goes: you play as a lone figure stranded in the In-Between, a strange dreamlike world which mirrors your thoughts and manifests your emotions. Your mission is to escape, but the only way out is in – a journey that leads you to the center of who you are and to your monster, which you need to face and, ultimately, befriend in order to “win”. 

The ‘you’ is not the player character, though; it’s you the player. And so the question for us was, how do we make the game feel yours? This is what we’ve been working on – allowing you to express yourself and make the world of the In-Between your own. What this meant was creating a game space that inspires you to look at yourself with new eyes and then making room for your unique, epic story to be told. 

a number of phone screens with warped words on them, on a purple background. in the centre, it reads 'an epic journey of self discovery'

How has Betwixt been received by its player-base so far?

We’ve found that Betwixt appeals to a rather broad range of people. 60% identify as serious players and 75% as readers, and in terms of ages, it goes from early 20s up to late 60s. This has been surprising and enormously gratifying, given how often games get painted as a niche pastime for teens. 

Many of our players struggle with mindfulness due to ADHD, chronic pain or high anxiety, and with Betwixt they can be present, calm or introspective without it feeling like a monumental task. In fact, we’ve heard people suggest that they come for the promise of entertainment and end up being hooked on the thrill of self-exploration. 

Finally, players tell us that they find it easier to open up in Betwixt because it’s a game; you can tell yourself that it’s not real or serious, and that frees you to be more honest. Of course, Betwixt is in no way a replacement for therapy, but it can be a complement or a gateway because of this magical, stigma shedding property that play seems to possess. 

What data have you been able to gather about Betwixt’s impact, and what does it tell you?

Last year, Betwixt was evaluated by independent researchers and the study found that after two weeks of playing, participants had 30% lower stress and anxiety – the equivalent of eight weeks of daily meditation with an app like Calm. We have three more studies in the pipeline, one with NHS patients. All of this is incredibly exciting because it turns out that the vast majority of mental health apps out there have no scientific backing. For me, what this also shows us is the power of play to not only entertain and enchant, but to heal, too. 

What do you hope Betwixt to achieve as it enters full release?

We hope to offer an epic alternative to mindfulness for those who struggle with it; to show people that you can play to thrive and if you feel trapped in a bad story, there’s another – better, magical – one waiting for you.