Being able to escape helped me cope – By Emily MitchellPosted: 9 Oct 2019
Winning the YGD BAFTA for my game Fractured Minds has completely changed my life! It was the first positive step in a long road of recovery, a road I’m still travelling today.
When I was around 12 I started to get these painful red lumps and swelling on my eyes, usually lasting for up to 8 months at a time. I had these constantly on both eyes, sometimes having three at once, which lasted for 3 or 4 years until I was about 15. They weren’t just physically painful and uncomfortable, but also very emotionally taxing. There are definitely much worse things to have, but for a self-conscious teenage girl that was starting to develop anxiety, it felt like the worst thing in the world. Secondary school can be a very unforgiving environment when it comes to things like this, random people would stare at me as I walked past them in the hallway and sometimes even stop me to ask what was wrong with my eyes. I would constantly get looks and comments and I was so exhausted, I just wanted to feel normal.
Even after they went away, I was left with very bad anxiety and extremely low self esteem. By the time I was 15 it was very very bad, I had one of the lowest attendance records in the year and missed school constantly due to my extreme anxiety. I didn’t eat very well and had too many sleepless nights to count. I would randomly have panic attacks on the way to school, I felt completely trapped and dreaded every day. I thought I was pathetic and worthless for feeling so anxious over such normal things, and I felt immense guilt and shame because of it.
But it was also during this time that I discovered my love for games! Being able to escape into whole other worlds helped me cope with my anxiety. I made many of my closest friends through our shared love of gaming, we would go round each others houses after school and play minecraft pocket edition on our phones! We began hosting our first minecraft server on PC which we had so much fun on, eventually sinking countless hours into more games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Deadspace 3. This definitely helped me during those tough years, not only as a coping mechanism for dealing with my anxiety but also as a great way of socialising with my friends.
When I was 16 I took ICT for one of my A-Levels, and quickly discovered that making games can be just as rewarding as playing them. The first course we took was game development and I remember really getting into it. The first game I ever made was called Toy Wars where you play as a toy soldier exploring a bedroom and everything is huge, that was definitely fun to make! The course only lasted for about a month and I was left wanting more, that’s when I discovered the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition. My sister suggested that I should make a game for it but I was a bit apprehensive as I didn’t think I had any chance of winning. She convinced me and so I started to plan ideas for a game I could make. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make a game that meant something so I decided to use my own experiences with anxiety to create Fractured Minds.
This was the first time I had tried creating all of the assets myself to make a game. I made it with Unity and used Photoshop for the textures and Maya for the models and animating the monster. This was definitely tough at first but a huge learning experience as I learnt how to navigate these different software, mostly from watching youtube tutorials! In total the game took me about 9 months to make, working on it after school and in my free time. This really gave me something to focus on and I used it as a creative outlet for my stress and anxiety. I entered it into the YGD competition about 20 minutes before closing time!
When I got the email that my game had been shortlisted I was absolutely ecstatic! It was also my birthday and it was basically the best birthday present I could have got. During the rest of the month though, I was growing increasingly nervous about the awards ceremony in July, still deciding whether or not I would go because of my anxiety.
In the end I did decide to go and I went with my sister. As we were walking to the train station I had a very bad panic attack, one of the worst of my life. My sister helped me through it and I went to the bathroom to collect myself. I was going to go home at that point as I was in such a bad state, but I knew that if I didn’t go I would regret it for the rest of my life! So I managed to pull myself together and continue with the journey, and once we arrived, it really was the most amazing experience! I ended up winning which I can honestly say was the best feeling that I’ve ever had, and for it to go from the worst day to the best day was just incredible!
Now that my game is releasing soon on so many platforms I’m so excited and it’s honestly more than I could have ever hoped for! I’m also so happy to be part of the Safe In Our World charity which I believe can make a real positive difference in the games industry.
In the end I just wanted to create an experience that I could share that hopefully resonates with a lot of people and can help create a better understanding of what it’s like to live with a mental illness.
Thanks for reading my story!