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Eliana Zebro and #AudioIndustryGame (Safe Space Podcast Season 1 Episode 9)

On this episode of Safe Space, Rosie is joined by Eliana Zebro, creator of the recently released #AudioIndustryGame and audio professional in media projects.
We discuss the motivations behind releasing the game, which tells the stories of marginalised gender folks and their experiences within the audio industry; including stories referencing discrimination and harrassment. 
Eliana discusses their personal experiences in working as a marginalised gendered person within the audio industry and how issues are rife across creative fields. We highlight the importance of being able to tell these stories to promote positive change and transparency to those who can push for improvement from a more privileged position.
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Safe In Our World & Ukie Discuss Imposter Syndrome In Games – 29th April

Safe In Our World have teamed up with Ukie to deliver a mental health panel on the 29th April, 16:00 BST.

We’ll be discussing the issues surrounding imposter syndrome within the industry, and how identity and diversity might play into the presence of imposter syndrome, as well as a general mental health discussion within the realm of video games.

Have we got your interest? You can sign up to attend this event free of charge now, just click this link!

As for now, why don’t we introduce you to our wonderful panel of speakers?


Shahid Ahmad

Shahid has been named one of Games Industry International’s Top 10 Persons of the Year and 100 Top Influencers in the British Games Industry, Develop’s 25 People that Changed Games, one of MCV’s Brit List 100 and received Develop’s Publishing Hero award for his team’s role in opening PlayStation up to developers and for commissioning over 100 titles, including No Man’s Sky, Hellblade, The Persistence and Velocity 2X.

Now in his 40th year in the video games industry, Shahid does A&R for Team 17, makes games (Virtue Reality), ports games, helps others make games (Floor 13: Deep State), coaches developers for PlayStation Talents, writes the weekly “Dancing Monkeys” newsletter, podcasts on “Remaster” for Relay FM and is on the advisory board of the BGI. He is the author of “Papa Can I Be” — a short book of verse for children illustrated by Faryal Ahmad. In his spare time, Shahid likes to make music.


Dr. Amiad Fredman

Dr. Amiad Fredman is a medical doctor, and lifelong gamer, dedicated to utilizing the power of games to improve the health and wellness of others.. He is the founder of games for health podcast and content channel, Digital Doc Games, where he explores the intersection of games and medicine. Amiad consults with medical and gaming companies to guide them in the development of innovative and medically accurate games for therapy, education, engagement, or entertainment. He is a proud advocate for mental health awareness, and he is proud to sit on the board of multiple mental health non-for-profits in the gaming industry.

Antonela Pounder

Antonela has been working in the games industry since 2012 and is a Director of Global Community at 505 Games. She’s worked on a number of titles over the years and is now spending most of her days working on Death Stranding, Control and Assetto Corsa. For Antonela, video games have always been a form of escapism and actively wants to highlight the positivity they can bring to people’s lives. When not gaming, Antonela enjoys travelling, Formula 1 and photography. As someone who uses social media on a daily basis, Antonela wants to help change how mental health is seen in the wider world and encourage others to not be afraid to speak out.


Suneet Sharma

Suneet is a legal professional with experience working with the Associated Press, BBC and, currently, SEGA Europe in Legal & Business Affairs. Suneet hopes to bring his lived experience of mental health matters and passion for LGBTQ+ issues to assist Safe In Our World. Suneet loves how videogames can bridge experiences.


Chair: Gina Jackson OBE 

Dr. Gina Jackson OBE is a Video Games Industry pioneer. She was awarded an OBE in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to diversity and education in the Video Games industry, has recently received the MCV/Develop Women in Games award for her outstanding contribution and has a fellowship from Norwich University of the Arts for her contribution to the UK Video Games Industry. Gina started in games development in 1992 and has worked for developers, publishers, and distributors covering console, PC, and mobile games. She is passionate about diversity, games education and mental health with a particular focus on games development and production management and process. She is a trustee of GamesAid, sits on the board at NextGen Skills Academy, is Visiting Professor in Games Industry and Business at the Norwich University of the Arts and is an advisor to several games developers.


 

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A Look at LGBTQ+ Mental Health in the Games Industry by Suneet Sharma

The Ukie UK Games Industry Census from 2020 recently shone a spotlight on many areas of mental health. The focus of this article will be the representation of LGBTQ+ mental health and highlighting some of the key resources that may help those who identify as, or wish to support someone who is, LGBTQ+.

The 2020 survey was the “most comprehensive and detailed assessment of diversity within the UK games industry workforce ever conducted” with over 3,200 games workers providing responses. It found that 21% respondents identified as LGBTQ+, a significantly higher proportion than the national average which sat at between 3-7%. As Safe In Our World states “the videogames industry creates incredible worlds where a huge number of vulnerable people find refuge.”

What is concerning is that the prevalence of depression and anxiety within the LGBTQ+ group was in some cases double the number of cases within the heterosexual community. This was particularly the case with those who identified as bisexual.

Unfortunately, these findings are not surprising. As the survey points out, higher rates of anxiety and depression among LGBTQ+ people are commonplace in society. Feelings of difference and being subject to harassment, persecution and having a lack of role models can all contribute to feelings of isolation. As a gay man who has been diagnosed with depression myself, I can say firsthand that at times I felt isolated and different from my peers, something which contributes to negative thought cycles and patterns. In some cases, people I know have been subject to homelessness as a result of their parents not accepting their LGBTQ+ status. The Albert Kennedy Trust helps young people who face these issues.

Turn your focus to the trans community and you find even more concerning statistics with the census finding that rates of anxiety and depression are almost triple the national average:

Again, these findings were consistent with long term research into long term mental health conditions within the trans community as compared to the cis community.

It is unacceptable that these figures are commonplace. They reflect the different struggles these minorities face in acceptance. However, this does not have to be the narrative in relation to LGBTQ+ people and mental health. Much can be done to help assimilate change and support those who are feel marginalised. Charities such as Mermaids provide excellent support to trans children and their parents with matters such as gender reassignment and mental health.

Out Making Games

OMG is a gaming industry wide LGBTQ+ group that supports its members in their path through the industry. OMG runs events, provides networking opportunities and establishes support for LGBTQ+ people throughout the industry. The Group also publishes guidance for games studios on increasing equality and diversity throughout recruitment and talent retention. Groups like OMG are key to help tackle the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people within the industry and support wellbeing.

We spoke to Michael Othen from Out Making Games (OMG) who said:

“The games industry is becoming a far more diverse and inclusive space, but mental health issues are still disproportionately high. Our goal with Out Making Games is to build a network that supports its members and amplifies their voices, so that we can help make the industry more welcoming, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Resources for LGBTQ+ Mental Health

There are some amazing charities and support groups at the forefront of the difficulties between the intersection of mental health and LGBTQ+ status. These groups acknowledge and focus on the unique challenges faced by these groups, providing bespoke LGBTQ+ services. Here is a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of LGBTQ+ resources that may help you and those you care about in finding support for mental wellbeing. All the services below are free of charge.

A note for allies and parents

It may be that you are an ally or a parent who is concerned about another’s wellbeing. Whilst there is no one size fits all support its important you find a process and outlet that works for the concerned party. Be sensitive to their own journey in respect to both their sexuality and their mental health. Perhaps take steps to educate yourself by contacting one of these groups first so you can provide considered, meaningful support where appropriate. Always remember to respect the privacy of those involved.

 

RESOURCES:

Albert Kennedy Trust

The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are homeless or living in a hostile environment.

LGBT Foundation

The LGBT Foundation provides advice, support and information for LGBT people via their helpline, 0345 3 30 30 30.

London Friend

A great support group for LGBT mental health and wellbeing. They offer specific trans and intersex support.

MindOut

A LGBTQ+ dedicated mental health service. You can call them on 01273 234839 or contact them online for support.

TransUnite

TransUnite is a great resource which can help you find your nearest trans support group.

Trevor Project

A charity providing dedicated support to LGBTQ+ under 25’s.

Stonewall’s Information

Service Stonewall is a leading LGBTQ+ charity which provides a helpline for any LGBTQ+ person seeking support. You can contact their LGBT Switchboard between 10:00am – 10:00pm on 0300 330 0630.

 

Whilst these great organisations and the census itself is a great positive step in the right direction, these figures serve to highlight that the difficulties faced by the LGBTQ+ community are serious and there is always more that can be done. To this end, please follow the links provided if you wish to support these organisations or donate.


*Please note Suneet Sharma is not a mental health professional and this article is based upon opinion and is not a substitute for professional advice.

**A copy of the full Ukie Report can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senua would be proud.

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