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Gaming for Good with Karla Reyes (Safe Space Podcast Season 2 Episode 4)

In this episode of the podcast, Rosie talks with Karla Reyes, who is Product Manager at Niantic, Head of Business Development at Code Coven, Forbes 30 under 30, the Organiser for the UN Playing for the Planet Program, Global Shaper for the World Economic Forum and Partnerships Manager for BAME in Games!

Karla talks about Code Coven, which aims to provide marginalized developers with the skills and confidence needed to thrive in the games industry. She also discusses what an Accessible Player Experience Practitioner is, and how she became one through Able Gamers.

A photo of Earth from Space is the background, with a SIOW pink cloud at the top with title: Gaming for Good with Karla Reyes. Rosie and Karla are in the foreground smiling, with a SIOW white logo in the bottom right corner.

As the organiser for the UN’s Playing for the Planet Program, Karla chats about how the program came about, it’s purpose, and the real world impact it’s having so far.

We also discuss the origins and work around Square Enix RED – a research group on racial and ethnic diversity co-founded by Karla.

The games industry can be a challenging industry (like many) to enter into, especially as a marginalized person – we chat about some of the resources within the industry that are here to support new-to-industry folks and give some tips on finding help.

Links

Code Coven

Able Gamers

Playing for the Planet

Karla’s Twitter

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

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

Life Is Strange True Colors

The award-winning Life is Strange is back with Life Is Strange: True Colors. Players take on the role of Alex Chen who has long suppressed her “Curse”: the ability to experience, absorb and manipulate the strong emotions of others, which she sees as blazing, colored auras.

After Alex’s brother dies in a mysterious accident, she must embrace her explosive power to find the truth and finally uncover the dark secrets buried by a small town. Players will also experience Alex descending into the orbit of violent Anger, world-altering Sadness, and irrepressible Fear. As she probes the mysteries of Haven Springs, revealing its secrets, Alex will discover moments of quiet transcendence – but also be drawn into moments of sudden, bloody violence – with lasting consequences.

The game also features strong language, drug references, some suggestive themes, and the use of alcohol.

The Life is Strange franchise has been a haven (no pun intended) for a number of gamers, especially those from the LGBTQIA+ community, and True Colors is no exception. Characters like Alex and Steph have inspired many to embrace their identity and who they are, and we’re consistently in awe of the impact this series has had on people’s mental health.

Features:

  • A heartfelt story about uncovering what happened to Alex’s brother.
  • Actions have consequences, the story will evolve with your choices.
  • Explore the town of Haven Springs and find out what deep dark secrets lie within.

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

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

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

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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

‘The Beautiful Optimism of Horizon’ by Harry Stainer

Sometimes I think the future is a self-fulfilling prophecy, when the media you’re consuming is constantly full of negative news stories and relentless post-apocalyptic landscapes it’s very easy to see why we often feel like the world around us is overwhelming.

Not that the post-apocalypse can’t be fun; I spent numerous hours roaming the wasteland in Fallout 3 & The Last of Us is my favourite game ever. It’s just when you’re constantly told the world is going to end it sometimes feels like it actually is.

I often long for the optimism of the past where a man was going to walk on the moon and our future contained flying cars – a past in which we saw the best of humanity ahead of us. However, when a franchise like Horizon comes along it’s a reassuring breath of fresh air to know that optimism is alive and used to tell a beautiful, hopeful story.

The world of Horizon is a post-apocalypse but not one we’ve come to expect – instead of a desolate wasteland we are given a flourishing overgrown world full of greenery. The creatures of this world are hostile, yes, but there’s something majestic and stunning about them and how they are so at one with the environment. Furthermore, the various tribes in Horizon don’t wear rust army gear or have makeshift guns; they each have individual cultures and with them stunning, colourful traditional clothes that pop and make it easy to tell the separate tribes from one another. Horizon presents the end of the world as vibrant and full of beauty.

But the true beauty of Horizon comes from its protagonist, Aloy, who is a ball of optimism and a character with a level of agency which is rarely seen. Aloy’s confidence in what she is doing is refreshing, especially as the character driving the story, but she also instils confidence in the player. Her constant willingness and determination is a constant reminder that we are capable. This extends to the combat too as Aloy will mutter multiple words of self-encouragement, even against overwhelming odds.

Furthermore, Aloy has a general sense of what it is to do good and help others. In one mission of Forbidden West, you help people from a town that has been overrun by water, not because it furthers the plot but because it’s what is in line with what Aloy would do as a character. In another, you help your companion Alva find some historical tech and while doing so you help boost her confidence. Playing missions that don’t necessarily progress the story but instead see you have a positive influence on the environment and people around you presents a world that is kind despite its hardships and offers a unique moment of beauty among the ruins.


Highlighting Aloy’s impact further, we can look at one of Forbidden West’s key supporting characters, Beta. When we meet Beta she is experiencing crippling anxiety and fear because of her traumatic upbringing early in the narrative; we even see her experiencing panic attacks. Beta is an instantly empathetic person and it would be very easy to see that this character is past a point of return in other narratives. However, through the support of Aloy, who develops a strong relationship with Beta, she develops confidence over the course of the story and becomes a courageous character that believes in Aloy’s mission. By the end of the story Beta starts to have faith in Aloy’s optimism that the world can actually change for the better. Showcasing this kind of journey within a character is a great example of how Aloy’s outlook extends to those around her.

Horizon often feels like a love letter to humanity – it views humans as these wonderful beings that are capable of great things. The game often highlights the best of humanity within it’s beautifully diverse characters. For example, Varl exhibits emotional maturity and patience, Erend demonstrates loyalty and Alva showcases intelligence. All these people from vastly different backgrounds, come together for a cause so much larger than themselves. Yes, Horizon is about survival but this cast of characters represents the beauty of seeing the best in each other and accepting one another despite differences in outlook, culture or ideas.

Games like this make me feel hopeful for the future. When things get rough it’s okay to feel overwhelmed but Horizon is a testament to positivity and the power of being able to lift people up and make them feel optimistic about what is to come. It also makes me think of my own outlook of the world and how individuals can be a force for positive change in a world that can sometimes focus on the negative. We may be past the optimism of having a future with flying cars and the space race, but maybe going forward our ideas about post-apocalyptic fiction will change. Perhaps our stories will take cues from Aloy’s story highlighting that ‘the end’ doesn’t have to be a literal end and devoid of a future.


At one point in Zero Dawn, a character named Sylens describes his and Aloy’s very existence as a ‘monument to oblivion’ to which Aloy replies ‘Not oblivion, Sylens. Hope’.

In a world where a lot of what we consume contains the idea of oblivion, it’s nice to be able to see a world with a lot of hope.

Skills utilised:
News

Special Effect, Cosmic Hearts and Through Our Eyes with Paige Harvey (Safe Space Podcast Season 1 Episode 19)

The penultimate episode of Season 1 of the podcast is here!

In this episode, Rosie chats to Paige Harvey about her incredible work with the gamers charity Special Effect and the annual Gameblast event that unites gamers each year in support of the charity. Paige also discusses their work in Charity Stream Team Cosmic Hearts, which is a team of content creators devoted to raising funds & awareness for vital causes close to our hearts while championing safe, diverse & inclusive spaces online!

We also discuss Paige’s work in Through Our Eyes through podcasts and streams, and the inspirations behind it.

 

Links

Special Effect

Cosmic Hearts

Through Our Eyes

Paige’s Twitter

Skills utilised:
News

In Sound Mind

In Sound Mind is a psychological survival horror game developed by We Create Stuff and published by Modus Games.

In Sound Mind throws players into the shoes of Desmond Wales, a psychologist who has just awoken to find his town has flooded and a mysterious chemical looms around every corner. The narrative is an interesting one, a game that keeps you guessing throughout your playthrough. We believe that In Sound Mind belongs on the list due to the portrayal of each fear. While the game is a survival horror, it’s quite the experience getting to delve into each of these mysterious worlds to try to solve what is going on with Desmond, and what happened to his patients.

These worlds are so unique to each other, each with a very dark representation, from ghost-like entities to almost alien-like creatures, no world is the same, you must do what it takes to solve the mystery. Virginia the first patient struggles with social anxieties, Allen struggles with fear, Max has issues with his anger and Lucas’s PTSD was taking over his life. By solving the mysteries you can bring the patients and Desmond peace.

In Sound Mind boasts a mesmerising visual style with beautiful lighting effects. The game is dark, but it’s the chemical compound and the atmospheric lighting that is eye-catching. It also showcases a great soundtrack by Living Tombstone. With such a narrative-driven game, We Create Games have secured some brilliant voice acting talent that conveys the emotion in each of the patients and the fear in Desmond; the fear of not understanding how he got here and why.

Features

  • Interesting puzzles that blend in with patients fears & touch on mental health/illnesses
  • Creative boss fights
  • Beautiful graphics especially the lighting effects
  • A creative narrative that keeps you guessing

 

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

The Good Old Days: How gaming nostalgia can provide a virtual comfort blanket by Ian Collen

There’s an old joke about nostalgia not being as good as it used to be, but the truth is that, certainly within gaming circles, there’s never been a better time to revel in days gone by.

Whether its going full retro and digging out those old 8-bit classics, reliving a rather more recent favourite getting remastered or perhaps picking up a long-awaited sequel such as with this summer’s fabulous Psychonauts 2, a blast from the past can serve up a lot more than reliving a few good memories.

On one hand, there’s an air of familiarity with playing a game that you already have some experience of. Even though the original Psychonauts was launched way back in 2005, those who played it will remember the core gameplay and feel an affinity with the characters and the world they inhabit. This means that jumping into Psychonauts 2 – a brilliant game that addresses mental health issues in an overt manner but with a beautifully light touch – needn’t feel complicated or intimidating. Instead, you can carry a degree of confidence or control into those early hours, rather than any uncertainty that might come from starting something completely new.

Another benefit of the nostalgia effect, is that it can transport you back to the time of the original. Much like a song or a film can instantly trigger memories of your school days, a holiday or some other distant era, certain games will tie themselves to aspects of your past. It’s not always a specific pin you can stick into a calendar, but just thinking back to where you were when the original Psychonauts came out some 16 years ago is bound to throw up a few memories from that era in general, whether that’s standout events or just questionable haircuts and fashion choices!

This can extend even further, with the likes of Stubbs the Zombie and Destroy All Humans – both launched in the same year as Psychonauts – getting re-released in the past year or so. Not only is there the trip back to 2005 at play with these games, but each of them is also set against a 1950s American B-movie backdrop which can take you back even further – albeit into a largely imagined or fictional interpretation of years gone by for all but the most seasoned gamer. However, this does echo the way in which games can lift your mind out of the real world and into another place entirely, and having a sense that you’ve been there before can make it feel all the more welcoming.

Playing those older games, even dating back to those 8-bit classics, can also seem that much simpler. Not because they’re any easier, as many of those now-retro games were notoriously difficult, but for the most part you only have to worry about a few buttons and maybe a couple of special moves. Compared to more recent games that demand multiple inputs in varying combinations, with skill trees, loadouts and many more gameplay layers to contend with, simply running and jumping sideways on a 2D platform can seem like much less of a hassle.

The combined familiarity with both a game and the time it harks back to can offer up a warmth and reassurance, like a virtual comfort blanket that we can feel that little bit safer in. It’s a reason why people love a sequel – even if takes a decade and a half to roll around – because you’ve already invested energy and emotion into that world, and so going back for more can feel like a return on that investment and a reward in itself. It’s interesting to note that with the recent launch of Far Cry 6, while some gamers were complaining that not much has changed since the previous titles, others were revelling in how much it reminded them of their glory days in Far Cry 3 back in 2012.

This same sentiment can be applied to any long-running franchise, from FIFA to Call of Duty to the latest Legend of Zelda. Obviously, being a fan of the core gaming experience each series delivers is the major motivation for picking up the newest release, but there’s also a comfort in almost knowing what to expect and, in turn, what will be expected of you when you pick up the controller. Looking back on those vast back catalogues, certain titles will stick in your mind for various reasons, whether that’s just because the game itself was great, or perhaps it reminds you of where you were, or even who you were, when you played it. Of course, it is worth noting that not all trips down memory lane will lead us back to a happy place, and so it could be that some games are best left in the past.

Nostalgia needn’t be the only reason to pick up an old favourite or pre-order that long-awaited reboot or sequel. We’d happily recommend you check out Psychonauts 2 simply because it’s a brilliant game. The fact that it openly embraces mental health concepts and, if you played the original, can act as a teleportation device back to 2005 are just further reasons to enjoy it. And there are plenty of other upcoming opportunities to enjoy new games laced with old memories, from the imminent Halo Infinite to the Saints Row reboot early next year and beyond. Right now, nostalgia isn’t just as good as it used to be; it’s much, much better.


Ian Collen is a writer and editor with more than 20 years experience – with well over half of that spent working in videogames. He’s worked on the likes of XBM, 360 Gamer (later known as One Gamer), and the innovative digital publication, Gamer Interactive. He also learned more about drones than he thought possible as editor of the self-explanatory Drone Magazine and is currently working as a freelancer.

Skills utilised:
News

Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan

Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan puts players into the shoes of Billy.

The day was a day like no other – everyone was happy, celebrating and being kind to one another. Positivity was in the air and nothing could ruin it until the Leviathan arrived. The Leviathan unleashes their evil powers and zaps all the colour, positivity and kindness from the world, leaving the fate of the world with you and your friends.

To restore and help your friends recover, you must talk and listen in a unique twist in turn-based combat: by talking and listening. This will restore them to their usual selves and in turn, they will help you on your quest.

It’s an imaginative way to teach players of all ages about empathy and understanding feelings, instilling methods to notice when their friends aren’t quite seeming themselves, as well as self awareness and reflection on their own mood.

Features

  • A wonderful story about friendship, positivity, empathy and understanding
  • A unique art style that is a joy to look at
  • A fun game for all ages that puts a spin on turn-based combat

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Delving Into Our Own Minds in Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 players are loving the bizarre but wonderful world that Double Fine has created. Specifically, players are appreciating connecting to their own mental health experiences, and the strong advocation of healing within the game. Psychonauts 2 puts players in the shoes of Razputin, an ex-circus performer turned psychic spy part of the Psychonauts organisation.

The organisation is tasked with keeping an eye on the world and rescuing people’s minds by going into their heads and trying to fix the issue at hand, so that the person in question feels better. You’ll explore many different characters’ minds whilst also trying to find a mole within the organisation who is trying to bring back Maligula, a cruel hydrokinetic who the organisation took down 20 years ago after destroying the fictional city that Raz comes from. Along the way, you’ll find more about the organisation and its characters that we’ve come to know and love.

Psychonauts 2 is a 3-D platformer that offers a myriad of fun tasks to take on. While the main story mentioned above is key, there are also a lot of side quests for players to take on, and exploring the world of Psychonauts is nothing short of wonderful. Double Fine has created a world full of character and lore which makes checking out every little nook and cranny of the game feel very rewarding. Not only do players broaden their understanding about mental health and empathy, but get to check out some fantastic art design and creative ideas on the journey.

Mental health themes are so key to this game. After all, you’re tasked with delving into different people’s minds! In one instance, Razputin must go into the mind of Compton to help him with his performance anxiety. To do this, you enter a gameshow with some pretty horrifying puppets which represent the staff around the psychonauts HQ. In the show, you must cook some very bizarre meals by using the audience (who are ingredients) to make these dishes. The more you make, the harder it gets; but the better Compton feels.

Double Fine covered mental health themes in a very unique way. You are notified at the start of the sequel about the subjects it delves into, already signalling what is going to be explored, from trauma victims with PTSD and others with psychosis. This offers insight to those who might not fully understand the illnesses and what a person may feel like. The way Double Fine has used these subject matters in such a respectful way but also provided a way for everyone to tackle is downright wonderful. While mental health is becoming more understood, we have a way to go, but developers using imaginative ways to tell stories of relatable events in the mental health world is providing more with an understanding. This is especially inviting for the gamers who perhaps aren’t as interested in delving into video games that are purely mental health orientated and perhaps just feel like playing a quirky platformer. By putting the subject matter into an engaging storyline, it allows more subtle explorations into topics that many games don’t explore.

From the initial reviews, you can already tell that people are loving the game, not only because of its quirky ever-changing gameplay and style, but because of its relatable way of exploring mental health in more joyful and positive ways.

Safe In Our World has always recognised the power of video games and telling stories, which is echoed by our affiliates and our community. Psychonauts 2 manages to cover so many tough subject matters in such a unique way, which makes us hopeful that more developers will engage and experiment with mental health representation within their games in the future. The video games of today are constantly changing and evolving, and provide a platform for gamers to explore and reflect on their own mental health in an engaging way.

Skills utilised:
News

Lake

Set in the 1980’s, players take on the role of Meredith Weiss, a woman brought back home to help her father by taking his role as a postal worker while her family enjoys a holiday away.

Along the way, players will deliver packages and letters whilst discovering more about the locals and choosing how they interact with them.

As time passes, you start to realise how alive Lake feels, whilst the gameplay focuses on choosing your path, listening and communicating.

As the game moves forward, you see the effects of what you do on the people you talk to, you’ll also make some new relationships and possibly even a love interest along the way. We chose Lake because while playing through, it stood out as a game that taught you to sometimes stop, and listen, one small act of kindness can change a life and who knows where these little acts could take you. Empathy and understanding are key throughout the game, though it is all down to player-choice which makes the learning process a lot more interesting. When not talking to the locals, you’ll be delivering packages, mail and sometimes even other little tasks depending on how you communicate with certain people.

Features:

  • Explore a beautiful lakeside town and make friends with its inhabitants
  • Choose the way you live the life of Meredith Weiss
  • A fun and relaxing postal working job

 

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 allows players to fly some of the most notable aircraft from around the world in a complete photo-realistic representation of Earth. Whether you’re a casual flyer who is looking for some time in the clouds to find your own home, or a hardcore simulator player who wants that true to life pilot experience, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has you covered.

This game might just be one of the most relaxing games up there (no pun intended). With the ability to fly to absolutely any location around the world, you can visit the Pyramids, explore some of the most tropical beaches in the world, or visit famous city landmarks. You can really turn this game into your experience and with live traffic and a live weather mode, you can experience what’s going on in the world right from your own home.

You can truly lose yourself in just flying from point A to B. We recommend sticking Spotify on in the background with our Safe In Our World playlists for an extra surreal experience.

Features:

  • Whether you want a casual fly or the true pilot experience, you choose your path
  • Fly to absolutely anywhere in the world, even your own home
  • Relax and watch the world go by, chase storms or just admire the forces of nature

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Sym

Sym introduces you to a teenage boy named Josh, who struggles with social anxiety.

Sym builds a world in which this is displayed in a unique black and white world that coexist with each other, a world he has created to escape his fears. Players will navigate through a world full of puzzles and obstacles to guide Josh through his journey.

Alter egos Caleb and Ammiel both help him navigate these worlds; Caleb lives in a world that is on the fringe of reality, fighting to overcome fears whereas Ammiel longs for isolation and detaches himself from any form of human contact, a relatable conflictual feeling that affects many people with anxiety.

There are points within the story where Josh is overwhelmed by all of the stimuli surrounding him, to the point where the cocoon that takes him into the dark world which feels like his safety net, simulated by the dampening of the audio, visuals and gameplay.

Sym aims to show the player what social anxiety is like. The game is challenging, as is navigating social anxiety, which reflects well as a daily struggle that many face.

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

An Interview with Sketchbook Games on Lost Words: Beyond The Page

We sat down with the wonderful people at Sketchbook Games, who are #LevelUpMentalHealth Partners with Safe In Our World, to talk about Lost Words: Beyond The Page. Let’s take a little dive into the inspirations behind the game, and the deeper meanings embedded within the development.

 

The Interview

What were your inspirations behind Lost Words: Beyond The Page?
We took inspiration from films like The Labyrinth, Never Ending Story, A Monster Calls, games like Ori, Child of Light, Night in the Woods and a range or still images, music, adverts, videos and more! We try to draw inspiration from as a wide a pool as possible.

We thought that the interactive platforming diary moments were very unique, what was the thought process when deciding to go this route?
It all started as a mistake during a game jam which led me to me seeing the character stood on the sentence in the middle of the screen and I thought, “Hey, that’s really cool! I’ve not seen that before”, which led me to pivot and try it out.

How did you feel when developing Lost Words: Beyond The Page?
Lots of different ways over the course of development! Getting the opportunity to make our own game was very exciting but there were also lots of challenging moments and everything in between.

A story of Love and Loss can be difficult to get right, I personally felt that this story felt close to home and nailed every part of the process, how did you manage to represent grief so well?
Rhianna Pratchett wrote the game and drew from her own personal experiences, having experienced a lot of loss in her life over the last decade. The also asked the rest of team about their own experiences and everyone drew from those for their respective areas of the game.

The art and design are lovely, from the diary pages to the water-coloured fantasy adventure, what made you choose this style?
Lots of research and seeing what we thought would fit the game, character and narrative. Watercolour is a really beautiful style so it was a hope it would help the game to stand out well too.

What piece of advice would you give to developers that want to go out and make a game?
Get started! Staring is often the hardest bit. Then when you’re going you can improve, learn, iterate, test it out on people and keep doing all those things as you go.

What do you want people to take away from the experience of playing Lost Words: Beyond The Page?
We really wanted it to be a beautiful and moving, but ultimately uplifting experience, so we hope that’s what people feel!


 

Skills utilised:
News

Lost Words: Beyond The Page

Lost Words: Beyond The Page takes players on an emotional journey of love and loss. You play as Izzy, who’s grandma is unwell. Throughout the story, you’ll learn more via beautifully designed interactive diary entries. Players will also take part in a fantasy adventure written by Izzy with lots of personal choices to make along the way.

It tells the story of this particularly difficult part of life which comes when losing a loved one, but also reflects moments of hope and reflection on the happier memories you have. Modus Games have developed a title that is so utterly relatable when it comes to the process of knowing a loved one is unwell and all the emotions that come with it.

Lost Words: Beyond The Page is a charming, emotional and can hit very close to home for those who have recently experienced loss, but illustrates the tough subject of grief in a very respectful and impactful way.

Features –

  • A wonderfully handcrafted interactive journey
  • A story about love and loss that is respectful and impactful
  • An adventure game that is easy to play and fun to be a part of

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Lockdown Connections: How Gaming Has Brought Us Together In The Year of Being Apart

How the Video Games Industry united through Lockdown 

 

Nobody could have ever predicted how 2020 and 2021 would play outA pandemic hit the world that would change the lives of everyone in many waysSociety felt like it would never be the same again. 

It wasn’t all darkness, thoughA light shone through as the video games industry took up arms and made it their mission to bring people together, providing new ways of social interaction for gamers and people who have never touched a game in their life. From giveaways and games for carers, to free memberships, events and much more. 

Favourite characters such as Geralt from The Witcher series, developed by CD Projekt Red, spoke to The Gaming Bible and gave hope that things would get better: 

“Stay on the path,” Geralt’s gravelly voice advises me over Zoom. “Things are going to get better. I know they’re bad now, but they can only get better. So stay on the path – and kill those monsters.”   

Chris Baraniuk wrote an article for the BBC that showed games weren’t just a distractionbut how beneficial video games can be in people’s lives, especially during the pandemic: 

For many, games don’t just provide a way of connecting with quarantined friends, they are also alternate universes where the reality of pandemic can be momentarily forgotten.”   

The article also talks about the hit title, Animal Crossing, that launched just as most of the world were heading into the first lockdown. It was a ray of sunshine for many, providing a place for players to meet, explore and hang out in their own wonderfully crafted islandThe game delivered a much-needed escape in such challenging times.  

Then the government realised the opportunity of reaching people through games. They started getting involved with video game companies to put safety messaging about COVID-19 into popular games, such as Sniper Elite, Dirt, Candy Crush and more. In doing so, the plan also showed one of the many ways gaming could be used for good, leading Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, to express his delight in seeing  the UK’s brilliant video games industry stepping up to strongly reinforce this message to gamers across the UK.”  

Gaming for Carers was an initiative that saw many AAA and Indie companies coming together to give free games to those who are working on the front line. It was a way to show a big thank you to NHS staff for going above and beyond, with companies such as Codemasters, Konami and Team17 contributing their games to the cause.   

Another notable organisation helping people stay connected over the pandemic was CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). CALM teamed up with UKIE to offer advice on how to get connected and how gaming could help through the tough times ahead, whether gaming with friends, offline, or watching gaming content via Twitch, YouTube and more.  

England Cricketers used online gaming to pass the time on tour, support mental wellbeing and keep up team rapportCricketer Stuart Broad found it particularly transformative, saying: “Gaming, for me mentally, has been vital.” Talking about the gaming sessions the team have streamed online, his experience was very positive: “There’s no abuse. There’s no agenda [...] It’s all just really positive chat about gaming and good fun, which I’ve really enjoyed. It’s quite rare for social media, to be honest.” 

Some gamers had described Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV as a massive help throughout the pandemicNME’s Alan Wen wrote an article highlighting how the game has been a lifeline for many through these uncertain times: FFXIV has made me feel like I can be with people even when I’m in quarantine. The way the game’s social aspects encourage teaming up with strangers to turn them into friends, the roleplaying scene, and all the amazing people has been incredibly positive.” 

We also asked some of our SIOW representatives how video games have helped them during the pandemic.  

Antonela PounderDirector of Global Community @ 505 GamesSafe In Our World Ambassador:  

“Our ability to go wherever whenever has been taken away from all of us, which I’ve found brings about a feeling of loneliness, even if you don’t live alone. Forming new friendships with others through current friendships has been incredible. We basically now have our own online support bubble where we talk about anything and everything (but try to avoid COVID chat!). Calls almost every evening has helped hugely, whether this be on Discord or using PlayStation parties, as well as engaging in online multiplayer gaming sessions together. Regular communication has been key, whether it be with friends, family and/or colleagues.” 

The Demented Raven, Streamer, Safe In Our World Ambassador: 

“Whenever some of my friends have had a rough day or feel alone, we decide to play video games to brighten up our day. One of these games is Overwatch and it always ends up with wholesome laughs, silliness, banter and pure joys of friendship. Video games have the power to really help people reach out and are a reminder that you’re never alone.” 

Matt Murphy, Genba Digital CEO, Safe In Our World Trustee:  

“I was a child of the ZX Spectrum era, and so Way of the Exploding Fist and Saboteur were my Persona 5 Strikers and Dying Light 2, as I saved my pocket money to buy the latest cassette games. But my love for games never waned over the years even if my access did, as work and now kids became my primary focus. I have a son who is 5 and a daughter aged 3, and so they aren’t quite ready to outwit mummy and daddy at Among Us just yet. But I’ve started to use video games as another way to have fun with my children during lockdown at the weekend when we have a spare hour – especially given the creative challenges facing the social secretary for two small children on a Saturday! Yeah,it’s not the latest AAA, but my son loves it when we both play the Lego Movie game together. It focuses him on teamwork, fine motor skills, problem solving and the fact that you can’t always win – a pretty cool life lesson if you ask me. It’s great for our souls in these stressful times and as long as he can be Emmet then everything is awesome.”

What is clear now is that more and more people in the World are recognising that gaming isn’t just for kids, a waste of time or a bad influence. Through 2020, people realised that gaming was able to help us with our social needs, provide much-needed distraction, and support mental wellbeing. The video game industry saw huge growth during these times, with more households buying consoles to play their new favourite games to escape in, whether gaming on their own or with others online.  

Will gaming be recognised in history for providing such an escape in the pandemic? We hope so. And we’ll continue to shine a light on the wonderful stories that show video games can be a crutch to many in dark times.  

 

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

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.

 

Skills utilised:
News

The Difference Between Re-Try and Re-Triumph by Ruby Modica

If you’ve worked in any capacity, be it a job or a creative outlet, then no doubt you’ll have experienced the apathetic mindset of being unmotivated. The continuous cry for lack of motivation can be heard in factories, classrooms, offices and even bedrooms around the world, desperate for something to give them the motivation to continue. Yet things are different when we are playing a video game and are greeted by the words ‘GAME OVER’. 

No matter your favourite genre of game, you will have encountered this message at some point. All of that time, energy, mental gymnastics and finger dexterity invested, only to be met with an emotionally detached screen highlighting your failure. But no matter, we just press a little button and keep on going, letting go of the internalised rage and replacing it with yet more gleeful joy and attention.

By pressing retry we have the motivation to continue further on and overcome the obstacles cleverly designed to impede our progress. In those circumstances we find it easy, but when we are met with similar messages of failure in the real world it can seem impossible to stay motivated. But we can still use the experiences we have attained from our video game journeys as a means to find inspiration.

For starters, think about any arcade-style game you’ve played, with distracting colours and leaderboard scores enticing you to try and do better. A modern day example of this format could be Nex Machina, a retro top-down shoot ‘em up. While it makes for a high-octane experience, the speed and difficulty of the obstacles pretty much guarantees a GAME OVER on your first try. This can be frustrating, especially when you are shown the leaderboards containing names of other people who have achieved higher scores than you.

This chaos is comparable to modern day life, with even the most strategic plans going awry in less than a second while others seemingly get by unaffected. But when you give up, you effectively miss your chance to prove what you have learnt from that experience. The only person you need to prove your ability to is yourself. Even if you end up stone dead last, that does not mean you are a failure. 

Herein lies what causes a lot of people to get disheartened with their progress, and it is something we’d all do well to remind ourselves of now and then: you are not ‘other people’. If you are fruitlessly grasping to achieve higher up the “leaderboard” without taking the time to congratulate yourself on your progress, you will always feel empty inside. Each attempt at a new project is not supposed to always be met with a perfect result. 99% of your efforts will be a learning curve more than anything, and with each new discovery comes insight into how you can improve.

Perhaps you improved a skill, learnt a new one entirely, or even managed to do the same thing a little bit quicker. If you’ve tried to attain something multiple times and not succeeded yet, ask yourself: what can be done to make your next attempt more successful? Only you can really determine what you want to improve in, but viewing each attempt as an experience rather than a failure can make retrying that one difficult level seem much more doable.

However, sometimes you’ve re-tried a level over and over without yielding any progress, and are desperate for a solution. So what can be done? Most will agree that asking someone else for help is of great benefit, especially if they have experienced that before. Therefore, another way of ensuring you can stay motivated when facing these adverse circumstances is surrounding yourself with a community full of encouragement and support. 

Most video games are examples of this; no matter their age or origin you can find at least one other person who likes the same game as you. One game considered the epitome of this concept is Undertale, identifying itself as “The friendly RPG where no-one has to die”. Where other RPGs have expendable characters and enemies, Undertale encourages the power of friendship when you and/or your friends are going through struggles. Similarly, just talking out a problem with someone you trust is often enough to calm down and think about things more clearly. It can be daunting to reach out in these times of need, which is why finding a group of like-minded individuals is a great benefit because you’ll naturally have a shared interest. 

Also, a recurring theme is the usage of “DETERMINATION”, which even appears as a motivation to the player upon reaching a game over screen. Every time you lose the game attempts to instil a force of motivation through you. By remembering that a GAME OVER is an invitation to keep playing and better yourself, you can rise to the challenge and keep coming back until you can proudly declare yourself a winner.

Another commonplace example is in the modern era of gaming, where small streamers are doing their bit to combine their personality and video game endeavours in a way that is appealing to others. Despite this, some may feel disheartened due to their relatively small status. This could include a low yield of viewing figures or a tiny community that they wish to expand. It is easily tempting to try and invest their time into a ‘Small Streamers’ community, but these benefits are usually short term.

It is not the size of your community that matters; the connections you make have far greater benefits for you not just as a streamer but as a person. Don’t underestimate the power that a positive word can have to someone who needs it, and by doing so you can strengthen the ties you have in your circle of friends regardless of its size. Making content for a comparatively small number of friends who genuinely enjoy your work will build love and support for what you do. These serve as a greater motivator than tallying up numbers.

By now I’m sure you can tell the difference between re-try and re-triumph: just a little bit of “umph”! Learn the lessons from video games and see every low point as a chance to retry and do even better until you achieve the victories you desire. If you’re feeling in short supply of motivation, reach out to your friends and communities for support and offer to do the same where possible. Whatever the rest of this year has in store for us, don’t give up. Keep on trying and retrying until you reach that goal, and remember to stay determined!


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

Get Well Gamers – Children’s Mental Health Week

From the 1st – 7th February 2021, it is Children’s Mental Health Week in the United Kingdom.

The theme of this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is Express Yourself, which encourages finding ways to share feelings, thoughts, or ideas, through creativity. This could be through art, music, writing, gaming – the creative process is in their hands.

We’re delighted to be teaming up with Get Well Gamers in order to raise awareness on the resources that are available for children in relation to their mental health, as well as the important work that Get Well Gamers are invested in, in order to improve wellbeing in children’s healthcare settings. Get Well Gamers is a UK charity that takes donated video games and consoles to hospitals, hospices and other healthcare settings. They recognise that video games are an effective and proven pain management tool, providing much-needed entertainment for young people during long hospital stays or in circumstances in which recreational activities can be beneficial, and are currently linked up with over 100 hospitals and organisations across the UK.

“At Get Well Gamers, we know that being in hospital for children can already be a really tough experience. Throughout these especially difficult, unprecedented times, we’ve been working hard on getting donations out to make sure we can do our bit in assisting the fantastic and vital work that the Health Play Specialists and other staff members do, supporting the mental wellbeing of the children in their care.” Eleanor, GWG

Joe’s Story

Joe has been a long-term patient at The Royal Alexander Children’s Hospital, and his Mum kindly shared their experience and the effect that games have had on Joe:

My 12 year old son has been an inpatient at The Royal Alexander Children’s Hospital for 5 months. Due to Covid, visitors are not allowed & Joe is not able to leave his room apart from short outings outside to the hospital sensory garden. It has also not been possible to socialise with anyone else. Therefore, keeping Joe occupied & entertained has been a big challenge. It is with enormous thanks to the Play Team that Joe has been able to play an Xbox & Nintendo Wii, watch DVDs & have access to many different games & movies. Joe has a severe learning disability so access to this technology in order for him to play games has been fundamental in making his long hospital stay a positive experience for Joe & has also relieved a lot of stress for him & his parents.’ – Joe’s Mum

 

Ben’s Story

Ben is 14, and attends the Hospital Youth Club at Derbyshire Children’s Hospital. 

“I love playing on the Wii with my friends at the Hospital Youth Club. It’s a chance to have fun and a laugh with people who are going through similar issues to me.”

~ Ben, Aged 14

“We are so fortunate here at Derbyshire Children’s Hospital to receive donations from Get Well Gamers. We support a wide variety of inpatients and outpatients. We are able to use the donated technology to support patients individually and in groups.

These donations mean so much to patients as they provide that bit of escapism from whatever they are going through. Whether it is a console for an isolated patient or a team game during our Youth Club session on the Wii, this technology always makes the time go faster and puts smiles on faces.”

~ Louise Melbourne, Senior Youth Worker at Derbyshire Children’s Hospital

 

Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, Brighton

I cannot emphasise enough the value of gaming for children in hospitals. Very few things can completely distract and involve a child or young person like video games. We are fortunate to have a range of gaming consoles, all of which have been donated either from the public or from charities such as Get Well Gamers. As we do not have a budget for these resources we are enormously grateful for these donations. Get Well Gamers has been fantastic as they manage to find specific games that have been requested by patients. For example a young oncology patient was very keen to play super smash bros during his chemotherapy treatment which Get Well Gamers was able to provide. This distracted him from the nausea and anxiety during treatment and helps him to have positive memories of his time in hospital.’ – Louisa Cusworth, Play Team, Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, Brighton.

 

Resources

Global

7 Cups of Tea is a free emotional support service with a special service for 13-17 year olds

 

United Kingdom

For those in the UK, find what resources are available to support children’s mental health from the NHS at this link for children and this link for parents and carers.

The following helplines are available to children as well as adults, and have professionals to support you if you need it:

Samaritans – 116123

Rethink – 0300 5000 927

Mind – 0300 123 3393

Youngminds – 0808 802 5544

Child Line –  0800 1111

 

There is a list of more specific situational helplines available here.

 

Teachers & Parents: 

Twinkl is an amazing online resource for those teaching children at any age. From lesson plans to mental health activities, it covers all ages and brings together online resources for many young people going through homeschooling.

 

Australia

Kids Helpline – Website – Phone 1800 55 1800
Free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25

 

Canada

Kids Help Phone – Website – Phone 1-800-668-6868

 

New Zealand

Kidsline – Website – Phone 0800 54 37 54

Skills utilised:
News

Genetic Haemochromatosis & Music Escapism by Steven Coltart

Across 2016-2017, I worked as Audio Lead on ‘Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier’.  A massive personal undertaking, and a project I am still especially proud of for a number of reasons.

I was individually responsible for not only composing the soundtrack, but also the implementation of these assets within Unreal.  This allowed me to really shape the music across a large number of choice based pathways, using a bespoke UE4 system.  Additionally, for the majority of the project I was sound designer too (Calum Grant later joining me who played a huge part, an ex-student of mine – more to come on my role in education later).