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Play Your Way with Safe In Our World this Mental Health Month

For mental health month this year, we’re encouraging you to play your way.

Playing the games that mean the most to us is how we thrive on our personal connections with mental health and gaming. Whether you choose Animal Crossing or Dark Souls to relax, it’s the variety of games that players hold close to their hearts that highlights the individuality of these relationships.

What is Safe In Our World working on?

This year, we want to grow our #LevelUp Campaign to support more companies in more effective ways. That means more training, 1-1 guidance on implementing mental health strategies within the workplace, and content surrounding how to take the next steps! We’re working on resources for students and new-to-industry folk to know where support can be found, and what to look for when applying for jobs.

We’re committing to train more Community Managers and Content Creators in mental health training, free of charge. We’re growing our podcast, website and social platforms to be able to bring awareness to topics that are often under the radar and bring to light more resources and good practice within the games industry.

How can I help?

There are a number of ways you as an individual or a company could get involved! We’ve made a handy list below, to give you some ideas, but if you’d like to talk to any of our team about supporting us this Mental Health month, please do reach out!

  • Fundraise with us on Tiltify
  • Donate to our campaign
  • Donate directly
  • Host a raffle or auction
  • Invite us to come on your stream, podcast or panel to talk about our work
  • Provide fundraising incentives for creators
  • Organise work fundraisers & activities
  • Consider a royalty % of a game to support the charity
  • Signpost to our resources

Click here to download our assets pack for this initiative!

Fundraising Incentives

We’ve added some brand new exclusive merch for our wonderful fundraisers if they hit certain milestones! Check it out below.

We know that mental health month is every month, but May is our key fundraising period, and we’d love to have your support.

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Hub World – Representation

Welcome back to Hub World!

In June, we spent time reflecting on the theme of representation. As people, we naturally look for representation – people and stories that connect with us on a personal level. As an industry, we still have a way to go in ensuring a diverse range of voices are heard, but we continue to see many brave individuals and communities pushing for change. 

This month, we will get straight into the stories from the SIOW community and what representation means to them. 

Suneet Sharma 

Sometimes my British Indian heritage and society’s heteronormativeness makes my gay identity sometimes feel stifled. These clashes of culture make it easy to withdraw and want to hide my sexual orientation, thus playing into societal stereotypes of LGBTQ+ people of colour. 

Opening up about this uneasiness has let me reclaim my identity and celebrate who I am. Persona 4’s depiction of Kanji’s Tatsumi struggling to accept his sexuality, represented through a fight with his inner shadow really struck chords with me. 

The depiction is controversial. But most importantly it’s there. A faithful depiction of a LGBTQ+ character. Not just queer coding. So to me that’s the most important thing- games telling these stories in an authentic way.  


Mel Plays Games

I’m a bisexual retro streamer on twitch. I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and chronic pains.

Being a Bisexual there is a lot of odd stigmas that pressure us. I have, as probably many before me get those odd “but you cant be a bisexual if you are only dating men” or “Bisexuals are always 50/50 of who they are attracted to”, this only serves to amplify stereotypes. It was hard for me to come out as Bisexual but even harder when I mention I’ve only dated cis men, it seemed then that I wasn’t Bisexual enough in some lgbtq+ communities.

Bisexuals experience high rates of being ignored or rendered invisible in the community. I felt left out and it had a negative effect on my health.

Finding a community that fosters a safer place for you to feel welcome has helped me feel more comfortable, I sat in a discord group once and listen to all the stories people talk about being bisexual and the stigma they go through every day, they gave me some helpful articles surrounding bisexual stigmas and now I know I’m not left out, it’s ok to be more attractive to men and still love women or vise versa, you still bisexual despite what you prefer to love the most.

Night in the Woods is a game I really felt connected to, the main character Mae especially, the whole game has a great understanding of going through emotional trauma and gives a good representation of mental health. Mae is dealing with depression and anger issues and trying to repress the feelings she is having, she’s a bit misunderstood but as you go along you see her more compassionate side. I love that about her, it reminds me of me growing up. It was a good escape to play through the story, made me feel ok with what I was going through myself, I felt at peace. If you haven’t tried the game out, I highly recommend you do.


Lilylefae

I’m Lily and I’m a streamer from Brazil. In general, coming to the US and adapting to a new culture was hard, but streaming gave me the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. However, I love seeing other latinx content creators but could also definitely feel the lack of representation. A lot of the latinx streamers I see are born and raised in the US, most of them have an American culture and fit right in. I would love to see more people who have the same struggles as me, who overcame xenophobia and how they did that. I’d just love to see more diversity all around, not only concerning my culture, but every other aspect that needs representation too!


Karen Lee  

I used to spend much of my time in MMOs such as Runescape and World of Warcraft. Being a Canadian-born Chinese who moved to Hong Kong for much of my high school life, online games allowed me to connect back with my North American upbringing with like-minded folks. I mainly played from Hong Kong—meaning I’d stay up late at night so I could properly sync up my playtime with North American servers.

I truly felt that I belonged in these games, despite feeling different from my peers in Hong Kong. There was no judgement based on age, race, geographical location, or gender. We focused on the game and that was it.

I continue to love online multiplayer games. I’m overjoyed that I’m now seeing characters that align with my actual Chinese Canadian heritage! Frost from Rainbow Six Siege is an immediate favourite that comes to mind. However, I’m eager to see even more video game characters and stories develop around the unique culture of Asian-Americans in the future!


Richard Lee Breslin 

Representation comes all in forms. It could be skin colour, upbringing, sexuality, disability, mental wellbeing, and more. In one way or another, whatever our background, representation can be an important aspect of our mental health.

Other than being physically disabled, I’m an adult with autism and up until recently, I was scared to talk about my autism. I was concerned with how society might judge me, even some of my family and friends. However, with the help of social media, I learned that I’m not alone.  

There are loads of people like me from all backgrounds who are on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a different experience for each individual.  But the one thing that connects us all on social media, is that none of us are alone, and we’re all ‘ausome’ 😉”


Emma Withington is a freelance writer and Senior PR at Bastion who has worked on campaigns for a variety of titles, including Control and Final Fantasy XIV: Online.

She is currently spending time focusing on the wider community and how she can help others through her personal journey with mental health.

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Safer Together: Thank You

On May 1st 2021, we launched our very first #SaferTogether fundraising campaign as part of Mental Health Month, in an effort to raise awareness of our mission, encourage positivity, playing together and reaching out for support.

The fundraiser spanned the whole month of May, with Safe In Our World All-Star Community streams within the first week. 

Safer Together raised over £23,000 in total, which will make a huge difference towards our future initiatives, investing in the evolution of the charity and allows us to continue in our mission. 

Thank you to everyone who supported us through streaming, donating, sharing, playing with us, or watching the multiplayer chaos ensue over the month of May. We’ve seen some amazing examples of how games bring us together, and can support our wellbeing through opening conversations that are challenging to have, through the medium of games.

We’ve clipped together some of our highlights of the last month, through community streams that we were lucky enough to participate in, or dip into. If you have clips that you’d like to share from your #SaferTogether streams, tag us on social media and share with us, we’d love to see!

We kicked off Safer Together by talking to a wonderful panel alongside Ukie’s Raise The Game to discuss the ins and outs of imposter syndrome, how it affects us, and what we can do about it. This panel was recorded, and you can watch the panel discussion here.

Special Thanks

Though every single person who supported the campaign is incredible, we’d like to give a special thank you to the following people who went above and beyond to support the charity within Mental Health Month.

Corsair, Curve Digital, Embracer Group, GameByte, Good Vibes Gaming, Hannah Rutherford, NZXT, OPMJobs, Playground Games, Raccine Malcolm, Ripstone Games, SevenSquared, TkLayla, Wired Productions

& everyone who got involved with the Safe In Our World Community Streams! 

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Safer Together: Safe In Our World Launches Community Focused Discord

We are delighted to be launching our very first public Discord server, Safer Together.

Looking to join Safer Together? Click here or go to discord.gg/safertogether

 

Safer Together will launch during the London Games Festival and continue beyond, with the purpose of providing a public platform for gamers and industry folk to connect, find players, discuss games, and be a safe space for all to talk or find resources.

“Opening up the mental health conversation further will also be a strand for the festival as it partners with games industry charity Safe In Our World on its new Safer Together Campaign.”

We’re excited to be a part of the Festival to show our support for diversity and innovation within the industry, and be able to launch such a timely campaign for so many who are looking for a safer space to connect with fellow gamers.

The Discord won’t be to talk exclusively about mental health, though it is welcomed as part of general conversation to continue to reduce stigma. The purpose of the Discord is to create a safe community where like-minded people can connect about video games and other hobbies.

We must also highlight that this server is not run by any medical staff or qualified mental health staff. We have a dedicated resources channel to support in signposting to professional support. If you need help you can follow this link that provides helplines from around the world.


About the London Games Festival

Games London has one mission: to make London the games capital of the world.

We do this with a year-round programme of support for local businesses, engagement with investors and funders via inbound and outbound trade missions, and delivery of the world’s biggest games festival.

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Mindfulness and Gaming: Unlikely but Wonderful Companions by Ben Huxley

Mindfulness isn’t synonymous with meditation; with sitting on a cushion with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath, or chanting a mantra. They are good ways to practice, but mindfulness as a whole is more than that.

It is a means of living all aspects of your life with more clarity and awareness. According to the NHS website, mindfulness means “knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.” This awareness can transform our relationship with our daily activities quite profoundly; from washing the dishes, to the long commute to work, to the time we spend playing video games.

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness – our lives set to autopilot, going through the motions (or lack thereof) while we worry about tomorrow or ruminate on yesterday’s embarrassing conversation. In this state, we give little attention to what is in front of us. The following scenario may sound familiar: you arrive home, head swimming with worries and regrets. You decide to play a game, and sit down with the aim of having a distracting, fun, challenging, or satisfying time. Yet none of those words describe your experience. Perhaps you keep losing, over and over again, in the same way, as your teeth grit. Or maybe you find yourself on a long and boring side quest, becoming restless and bored at the lack of stimulation. There’s even a chance that you’ll finish gaming, get into bed, and have very little memory of what just occurred.

The blank in your memory can be explained quite easily. It’s because you weren’t really there; you were in your head the entire time, captured by thought. It happens in other activities too. How often do you read a page (or three) of a book, before realising that you haven’t actually been reading at all? Or put on a song, hoping to be soothed by the lyrics, rhythm, and melody – only to realise the song has finished and you weren’t listening? This isn’t to shame my fellow daydreamers (if it’s any consolation, I’m sure I read somewhere that it’s a sign of intelligence), but to let you know that with mindfulness we can avoid being hijacked against our will, and only have a good long think when we want to – on our terms.

It’s hard to express this without sounding hackneyed, but for many of us gaming is more than a hobby. It’s time with our favourite characters, in our favourite worlds, with stories, music, and art that touch the heart. It’s also friendship, community, escape, distraction, challenge, and fulfilment. Are there any better reasons to be more present and mindful as we game?

There are, in fact, some games that encourage us to be mindful. 2018’s Celeste is one such game. Celeste actively encourages us to fail in order to learn. It differs from the norm, where dying feels like punishment. In a meta sort of way, the game encourages us to take deep breaths and visualise a feather floating on our exhalations when the pressure gets too much. This is because the protagonist – Madeline – suffers from panic attacks, and a side character teaches her this technique to deal with them. It encourages us to stop, think, and evaluate the situation, rather than diving in for the hundredth time to do exactly the same thing. Celeste is a tricky game, too, so playing mindlessly isn’t an option. The gameplay is simple; run, jump, dash, climb – but timing and precision are everything.

We shouldn’t reserve our presence of mind for tricky games like Celeste, however. If we want to truly appreciate the game in front of us – be it a battle royale or a visual novel – we should always aim to be present. When we’re on autopilot, we’ll find ourselves making the same mistakes again and again. We also find ourselves missing out on the potential beauty in front of us.

Much like missing a song or skipping the pages of a book, it’s easy to zone out during a particularly easy, or “boring”, part of a game. Perhaps you’re grinding in an RPG, hacking away at unchallenging monsters as a means to an end – telling yourself you’ll enjoy this game as soon as you’ve reached level fifty. Or maybe you’re partaking in a side quest in which you have to walk for an hour to, say, deliver a package to the next town. You grow impatient waiting for the fun to return, and eventually zone out and return to autopilot. The game doesn’t require your full attention, anyway.

In zoning out, however – be that daydreaming or having one eye on social media – we’re arguably missing the best parts of the game. Isn’t the whole point of an RPG to increase and develop the stats of your character? If you find yourself grinding in a laborious and repetitive manner, ask yourself if there’s a more interesting way to do this. Are there tougher enemies that, realistically, you could face? Or are you focusing solely on strength, when there may be a more interesting stat to work on? When we stop and think, better options become available – the easy choice is rarely the most fulfilling.

There is a lot to be said for “boring side quests”, too. Hideo Kojima’s mind-bending Death Stranding has been branded a “walking simulator” by players and critics alike. The protagonist is a deliveryman in a post-apocalyptic America, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s little action and an abundance of travel – but this isn’t a bad thing. Walking or driving from A to B in Death Stranding can be an exhilarating experience if we remain focused, aware, and appreciative. The developers have done a fantastic job of creating such a world, and with this in mind as we play, so much more beauty and awe is revealed to us. I noticed that a lot of the game’s scenery reminded me of the Snowdonia mountains in North Wales, where I often walked in my youth. I know that this nostalgic revelation wouldn’t have come to me if I hadn’t been fully immersed in the game.

Boredom is an emotion that we have to catch first, however, before we realise it’s colouring our experience. The same can be said of stress and frustration. There will be times in which we have these emotions before we boot up a game, and our session is negatively affected. Mindfulness can help with this, too. If we realise that we’re bored or restless before we start a long and eventless walk in a game, we can note and acknowledge this – we can ask ourselves if the game is truly boring, or are we projecting our boredom? The same can be said of stress and frustration. Is it really such a straining game, or was there already a build-up of pressure in your chest?

When we train ourselves to be mindful, it flows into every aspect of our lives. Not only does it bring clarity to experiencing games, but also to our reading habits, appreciating music, commuting to work, washing the dishes, conversing with loved ones, managing your money, studying, exercising. When we’re more mindful – when we’re out of our heads and experiencing the present as fully as possible – we find beauty and joy in the most unexpected of places. It can be a challenging enterprise, but there are few things more worthwhile.


Ben’s Muckrack

Ben is a freelance writer based in North Wales. He believes games are one of the most important and undervalued art forms, and aims to share their value to as many people as possible.

 

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Hellblade developer Ninja Theory announces “The Insight Project,” an initiative to make games addressing mental illness

Ninja Theory, the developer behind cult-favorite titles such as Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and Heavenly Sword, has announced “The Insight Project,” a research and development initiative marrying game design and technology together with clinical neuroscience to produce games specifically intended to promote mental health awareness and assist those suffering from mental illness.

That Ninja Theory would announce such a forward-thinking project centered around mental health wellbeing perhaps comes as no surprise to those who closely follow the industry, as the developer won critical acclaim in 2017 for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a dark action/adventure title rooted in Norse mythology and Celtic culture whose titular heroine, Senua, suffers from psychosis.

Not only is it rare to see psychosis — and, by extension, mental illness in general — addressed in video games at all, it’s even rarer to see the disease represented thoughtfully and accurately, and Ninja Theory went out of their way to make sure Hellblade closely reflected what it can be like to live as one afflicted with psychosis.

Ninja Theory’s “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice” won several awards for its realistic and thoughtful representation of the psychosis its titular heroine, Senua, suffers from.

To say Ninja Theory’s efforts were successful would be putting it mildly: Hellblade ultimately won myriad awards, including five BAFTAs and a Royal College of Psychiatrists award. Following the game’s release, then, Ninja Theory creative director Tameem Antoniades and Paul Fletcher, a psychiatrist and professor of health neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, continued their collaborative discussions on how the medium of video games can be utilized to represent mental illness and play an assistive role for players struggling with their own mental health.

It was these continued discussions that ultimately resulted in the establishment of The Insight Project, which aims to continue and expand the work Ninja Theory and their collaborators started with Hellblade. In Ninja Theory’s own words, with The Insight Project the developer is “planning a program of gaming, technological, and scientific development that will lead to self-contained, individualized, and absorbing game experiences within which people can become an expert at recognizing, responding to, and ultimately controlling their own fear, anxiety, and other negative subjective experiences.”

To ensure the project’s veracity, effectiveness, and overall validity, these efforts will be grounded by “rigorous scientific principles” and will adhere to “strict standards” of ethics and data management.

While The Insight Project is very much a work in progress and meant to take shape over the next several years, the decision was made to announce the initiative early on in order to emphasize a transparent and open approach to its development. An exploratory but experimentally guided project, the initiative’s ultimate intent is to deliver a mainstream solution for treating mental suffering, encouraging mental wellbeing, and bringing mental health treatment into the mainstream.

Senua would be proud.

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