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Is BioShock a Christmas game? How Rapture helps me through the festive period following the death of my uncle by Joe Donnelly

The festive season is a time for giving. A time for family and for friends, for pulling crackers, wearing silly paper crowns and reading aloud even sillier jokes. It’s a time for watching too many novelty television specials that haven’t aged well, and for debating whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It’s a time for asking the same questions of BioShock as a Christmas video game, and… hang on, what? That’s a new one. Let me explain. 

No matter which side of the annual ‘is Die Hard a Christmas movie?’ fence you find yourself on, the fact that cinemas up and down the country now allocate screens to the 1989 Bruce Willis-starring action film at this time of year some 30-odd years on would suggest that, actually, many people believe it is. Listen, I don’t make the rules, I simply follow them. Because despite all the violence, the explosions, the hostage situations, and the yippee-ki-yay-ing, the simple fact that John McLane’s debut gun-toting adventure unfolds on Christmas Eve, for many people, makes it a Christmas movie. The fact that the events of the original BioShock take place in the wake of a New Year’s Eve party places it in the same festive period, which, coupled with the fact that I used Irrational Games’ 2007 first-person shooter to get through a particularly difficult holiday season following my uncle’s suicide the following year, means I now view BioShock through the same tinsel-wrapped lens as many Christmas movie-lovers do Die Hard.

Tying BioShock to Christmas in overarching narrative terms may be a wee bit of a stretch, but in practice, revisiting Rapture now plays a huge part in my build up to the big day itself. My uncle sadly took his own life on May 12, 2008, whereafter I used video games as a means of escapism, to gain perspective and to press pause on what was an increasingly horrible reality for me at the time. I’m sure many of you have used video games in similar ways in the aftermath of loss, and BioShock was my own game of choice, as I found solace in smacking splicers upside the head with Jack’s red-painted drop-forged wrench, nullifying Big Daddies with the deadliest ADAM-infused superpowers, and taking down every last one of Rapture’s autocratic dictators with unwavering precision.

Admittedly, it takes a special game to entice me back after the credits roll, but I found myself in the familiar throes of the shooter once again in late December that same year, experimenting with new Gene Tonic and Plasmid combinations; again revelling in the path of destruction I could blaze through the now iconic setting and the sense of achievement, and subsequent endorphin-rush, toppling the likes of Peach Wilkins, Sander Cohen and, of course, Andrew Ryan could afford.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but BioShock was inadvertently marking the first step on my own mental health journey, which has since led to me being diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder – afflictions levied by the brutal nature of my uncle’s passing, so say the doctors and mental health professionals I’ve since sought the services of in the intervening years. While storming the dimly-lit corridors of Point Prometheus and the sprawling thoroughfares of Apollo Square, I wasn’t fully-aware that I was distancing myself from the grief and looming shadows I’ve learned to live with since, but I’m forever grateful for the respite they were able to provide at a time when I wasn’t ready to face the darkness head-on.

These are strange memories for me, because while I associate playing BioShock at Christmas time in 2008 with my uncle’s death, something I’d naturally prefer not to think about at any given time, they also remind me of my uncle himself. It’s now been well over a decade since my uncle passed away, and yet returning to the watery depths of Rapture ignites a sense of connection in me that perusing old photographs and recalling old family stories that involve my uncle does not. Playing single-player video games can be a very solitary, pensive and personal experience, which is why BioShock has since played an integral role in my build-up-to-Christmas ritual, with me nipping back into random old save files for short bursts at a time – in the same way many of us watch Elf, Love Actually or, if you’re so inclined, Die Hard at various points in December.

For me, it’s a comfort thing, and I encourage you to do the same: to ignore your pile of shame and to play something that makes you happy, brings you joy, or makes you feel safe over this Christmas period. Is BioShock a Christmas video game? Probably not, but it’ll always have a special place in my own preparations. Now, before you go, I’d like you all to do something for me – a Christmas wish, if you will. Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Re-read this article and jot down all the letters that are in bold throughout the copy below the opening paragraph. Read what you’ve written down, and would you kindly have a nice, safe and self-caring festive season.

 


Joe Donnelly
Joe Donnelly is a Glaswegian writer, video games enthusiast and mental health advocate. He has written about both subjects for The Guardian, VICE, his narrative non-fiction book Checkpoint, and believes the interactive nature of games makes them uniquely placed to educate and inform.

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12 Days of Positivity

As 2020 draws to a close, we look back and reflect on the difficulties we have faced and overcome – instead of focusing on the negatives, we can look to see the positive things that have blossomed from this year.

New and innovative hobbies have sprung from lockdown, we’ve found different techniques to relax and wind down, and discovered new games that help us escape. It’s important to remember the positives, and be proud of ourselves and each other for getting through a really tough year, and to celebrate each other as we move forward.

Over the next 12 days, Safe In Our World will be sharing 12 of our positives that we’re taking from this year into the next – with thanks from everyone at Safe In Our World. We will be updating this page every day, so watch this space.

Stay tuned from the 13th – 24th December to read all the different things we’ve been up to, you might read something you want to try yourself!


Day 1 – Richard Lee Breslin

“Whether I’m feeling stressed, depressed, overwhelmed, suffering from tinnitus or just want to pass by an hour or two, there’s very little that lifts my spirits more than painting my board game miniatures.

Due to a lack of confidence, I had put this hobby off for years, but during lockdown I decided to go for it and now it’s turned into one of my all-time favourite hobbies.

With each miniature I feel like I’ve learned something new and I always look forward to the next. If there’s any hobby that you’ve wanted to do, just go for it as you might discover a talent you thought you never had.”


Day 2 – Stefano Petrullo

Patron, Founder of Renaissance PR

“Once coming to this country back in 2006 I was not able to call myself a chef, barely been able to cook eggs and some basic pasta dishes! Now, with years of experience, I’ve found cooking extremely relaxing, and that it completely disconnects me to the intricacies and the complication of day-by-day work.

We are so lucky to work in such an amazing industry which is not affected too much by COVID. At the same time we have to acknowledge how this intense this industry can be. There’s nothing wrong with stopping and having a break, and looking at a recipe (a simple Carbonara, an elaborated Risotto with taleggio, red wine and salsiccia are the perfect way to completely reset whatever stress you have).

Start simple with something you actually like and then gradually experiment. My love for cooking has recently led me to a passion for BBQ… from burgers, to more elaborate cooking techniques to create the perfect dish. Am I a master of this? No, not at all… but cooking gives me this moment of peace between too many press-releases, the occasional embargo being broken, and a difficult feature I am trying to pitch.”


Day 3 – RenjiPls

Ambassador, Content Creator

“The biggest thing I loved during lockdown was making sure I got in my government-approved walks every day. These last few months it’s been a bit more difficult, but I’m looking forward to getting out into the lovely winter weather!”

Just look at the views Renji has on his doorstep!


Day 4 – Lara Jackson

Ambassador, Journalist

“Seeing family is hard this year, so I’ve had to say goodbye to the traditional Christmas tree decorating with my loved ones. Still, the festive spirit is what you make of it, and decorating a winter wonderland in The Sims 4 is almost as good as the real thing! I created a house, got a turkey dinner in the oven and – with Christmas music blaring – I nestled in by the fire to decorate my home from top to toe. It might not be what I expected from Christmas 2020, but it was fun, relaxing and definitely has me in the festive spirit!”


Day 5 – Jack Mullen

Ambassador

“One little thing I came up with was using a resistance band for mini exercises. Back during the first lockdown in April I was in the Shielding category (This meant I couldn’t leave the house for 12 weeks, so became very conscious that I wasn’t getting exercise, from not even being able to go for a quick walk around the block).

I set myself up a little room to do some body weight exercises, including use of a small resistance band for leg side raises etc. I set myself a target of a certain amount each day and increased the amount by 1 each day as a little challenge. Naturally I got a little obsessed, and what was great is that with those exercises is that I managed to maintain the same weight over the period of being stuck in give or take a pound or two. Certainly important to me, as the condition I have that forced me to shield is kept under control by me maintaining a healthy weight.

An added bonus of these exercises is that they’re easy to do whilst multitasking, so quite a lot of the time I would be playing some games whilst getting some exercise, without really realising.”


Day 6 – Antonela Pounder

Ambassador, Director of Global Community at 505 Games

“As someone who knows too well how devastating COVID can be, I’ve spent a lot of 2020 trying to deal with grief. Communication has been key in the healing process. Online gaming sessions with friends and colleagues has helped a lot. Animal Crossing during the wobbly / difficult days proved to be a wonderful distraction and Flight Simulator has taken me places I couldn’t get to. Running has helped clear the mind and most recently, I’ve been spending my spare time making Christmas decorations, which I’ve loved! Keeping the mind active is important and will continue to be during Christmas.”


Day 7 – Nick Powell

Patron, Product Manager – Curve Digital

“Christmas! A time to eat, drink, eat some more and pack on the pounds. That’s how a lot of people seem to think this time of year, but last year I decided to do something a little more beneficial for my physical and mental health and committed to exercising on a daily basis. I challenged myself to come out of the festive period in better shape than when I went in. It’s not just Quality Street that comes in bite sized chunks – there’s a wealth of short, but effective exercise routines on YouTube you can follow from the safety of your own home and Frank Medrano’s calisthenics based exercises were my go to, and still are to this day, where I try and do at least 5 or 6 of them each week to try and maintain my physical health, which in turn really helps my mental health by improving my mood no end.”

This is Nick’s current workout by Frank Medrano! Are you up to the challenge?

Check out Nick’s Best YouTube Fitness Channels below:


Day 8 – SariaSlays

Ambassador, Content Creator

“Something that has helped me very recently is doing a little bit of DIY/decoration and updating my room so it feels more fresh and new.

I recently got some small bits/plants from IKEA to make my room feel more comfortable and it really perked my mood up! I would recommend anybody to try it out, even if it’s just changing the layout of your room, tidying your desk or putting on a nice candle.

I spend most of my day in this room doing work/streaming so it’s definitely worthwhile for my mental health.”


Day 9 – Jeane Wong

Patron, CEO of ONE PR Studio

“I’m a firm believer of staying positive and always trying to find something good in everything the world throws at you. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, each and every experience and situation I go through teaches me something. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should expect to have good and bad days, but hopefully there are more good than bad, and know that you’re in control of your life and how you handle things. To me, being alive and having the liberties and freedoms many of us have is something I feel very fortunate to have and do not take for granted. Things can always be worse, and unfortunately they are for many people so I genuinely appreciate what I have and I humbly try to do what I can for others.

This year certainly tested my belief, and I’m happy to say there were so many good things that happened despite the bad. For me, the pandemic has allowed me to spend more time with my family – human and of the fur kind. There will be wonderful memories that come out of this time, despite what my two teenage boys think right now… mark my words, kiddos! I know my fur kids, 2 awesome dogs, are more appreciative of the time we’ve been spending together.  Even when the corgi loses a game of 3-way blackjack, as seen in one of these photos.”


Day 10 – Emma Withington

Web Team, Games PR at Bastion

It has been a year hasn’t it? 

For me 2020 has put a lot of things into perspective – most importantly, it has shown me who’s there when the going gets tough. Playing social games such as Animal Crossing, Fall Guys, and Among Us have been a huge part of what has made 2020 more than just ‘the year of the pandemic’. It’s allowed me to strengthen existing friendships and develop new ones. The brightest things shine in the darkest of times – so hold on to those guiding lights on your way to a better future. 

So, maybe you haven’t been able to take up a new hobby or try something new – that’s OK. Sometimes the facilities and the motivation just aren’t there and it’s OK to sometimes indulge in life’s comfort food. It’s a Christmas tradition for me to replay the Saints Row IV DLC: How the Saints Save Christmas – so I look forward to, once again, saving Santa with a Christmas-themed dubstep gun and spending time online with those who mean the most.


Day 11 – Nintendo Power Couple

Ambassadors

For us, the year started very rough. We were trying to move out and get back on our feet while finding ourselves depressed every day due to everything negative going on in the world. There were many days where the news was just unbearable to watch and all hope felt lost. However, for our 8-year wedding anniversary, we adopted a rescue puppy we named Milo who has changed our lives for the better in every single way! His constant kisses, cuddles, love and affection have been a positive influence on the two of us. His kindness washes away all of our anxieties and stresses and we find ourselves more at peace when he’s by our side. 

So our tip for not just the holiday season but also life in general is, if you have the means to, go to your local animal shelter and adopt a little furry friend. They’ll change your lives “fur” the better and you will find yourself wondering how you lived so long without them!


Day 12 – Ed Rumley

Patron

This Christmas, my intention is to become the CEO of the sofa in the Rumley household. This year I’ll be focussed on Watch Dogs Legion, Need For Speed Hot Pursuit and Astro’s Playroom. I also need to complete A Way Out with my son as it’s a co-op only game. There’s plenty more in my games playlist if I get through those! I will make sure I leave the sofa as a daily burst of exercise is really important to me. I’m a keen runner and love the “me time” when I chuck on my trainers and lose myself in some 90’s dance classics as I hit the streets! With that said, I’m currently nursing a running injury so am taking it easy on the distance so we will be continuing our family walks that we discovered during lockdown!”

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Safe In Our World Joins The Jingle Jam 2020

Safe In Our World are happy to announce that we will be a part of the Jingle Jam 2020.

From the 1st to 14th December, the Jingle Jam will see streamers across the globe raise funds for 12 causes via The Jingle Jam 2020 Games Bundle. More details will be announced soon about the 40+ games and in-game items that will be available!

We will be joining 11 other wonderful charity projects chosen to be part of #JingleJam2020 :

Access Sport

British Games Institute

Call of Duty Endowment

ILGA

Mental Health Foundation

One25

Open Bionics

Special Effect

The Grand Appeal

War Child

and Whales.org


Safe In Our World Project:

The money raised by the Jingle Jam will fund the creation of Community Managers courses, which we will deliver free of charge to the video games community and industry. We must ensure that we equip those who interact directly with gamers, with the knowledge to be able to support their communities through awareness and mental health first aid. Community Managers are the frontline who interact with gamers regularly, and must be able to offer and signpost the appropriate support and awareness around mental health.

We would like to thank everyone involved in putting this together, and we’re excited to see the event kick off in December.

Keep up to date with all things Jingle Jam on Twitter.

Follow the official Jingle Jam livestreams in December.

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This Christmas… Talk.

Our message this Christmas, is to talk.

Christmas is a time to enjoy with friends and family. It is a time to eat, be merry and joyful, and more importantly… it is a time to catch up on all those games that we haven’t had a chance to play! But Christmas is also a time that affects a lot of people mentally. The lack of friends and family. The low feelings. The negative self-esteem. The depression. No one should feel alone this holiday season. PLEASE help us spread this message, or indeed talk to someone if you are feeling low, and do keep an eye open for others, offer a word of comfort, talk, and share your experiences.

Merry Christmas from the Safe In Our World family.

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