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Stardew Valley

The player inherits their grandfather’s old farm plot in the beautiful town of Stardew Valley, which is your chance to start a new life and create a thriving farm. Players throughout the game will get to know Stardew Valleys inhabitants, make friends, start relationships and celebrate being together.

Stardew Valley is a feel-good game that you can lose hours in just taking care of your farm or doing other activities such as mining, fishing, mini-quests, and so much more. When we ask our community their comfort game, Stardew Valley has been in the running every time!

Features:

  • The farm is in your control do what you want with it
  • Meet interesting people, form friendships and relationships
  • Customise the game to your liking
  • Take part in events each with mini-games and things to do

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Life Is Strange Through The Lens by Georgie Peru

Playing as Max, an 18-year-old photography student, Life is Strange was primarily developed to deal with the struggles teenagers face. The game covers difficult subjects including cyber-bullying, mental illness, and suicide.

When Max was a young girl, she was given a Polaroid camera by her parents. This major gameplay element accepted her into Blackwell Academy and allows the player to complete optional photograph objectives throughout Arcadia Bay.

During her photography class, Max experiences a strange vision of a tornado destroying the local lighthouse. In the midst of a panic attack, Max knocks her camera off her desk and rushes to the school bathrooms, and quickly hides in a cubicle when two students storm in fighting, resulting in the death of a girl. Desperate to save the girl, which is quickly revealed to be Max’s childhood best friend, Chloe Price, Max witnesses discovers her unique powers – the ability to rewind time and change the past to help her and others around her.

As the story evolves, players can decide whether to use Max’s powers to alter the past or not. When a school bully is forced to get a taste of her own medicine, do you choose to show her compassion or humiliate her further? Life is Strange doesn’t shy awry from dealing with tough issues – using a combination of virtual photography and Max’s rewind ability, players are compelled to make decisions, for better or worse.


Bullying

Life is Strange is full of psychiatric themes, either explicitly or implicitly. The game aims to explore these through Max’s investigative nature, wielding her Polaroid camera, and gathering the materials needed to make potentially life-changing decisions through her rewind ability.

One of the more challenging stories focuses on Kate, a student who is relentlessly bullied by her peers and online. As Max explores Kate’s dormitory, it’s soon clear that Kate has a very judgmental family. Following an incident where Kate is drugged at a party, leading to a compromising video of herself, she falls into severe depression.

Discovering more evidence using her camera, Max discovers that Kate covers up her mirrors so she doesn’t have to see herself. Her room is filthy, her beloved Violin hasn’t been played in weeks, and it’s soon clear that Kate feels utterly helpless and hopeless.

Despite the game offering multiple opportunities where the player can support Kate, she ends up on the roof of a building, intending to commit suicide. If the player has paid enough attention up until this point, through the features of virtual photography, there’s a strong chance you can convince her to come down.

Life is Strange makes a huge effort not to trivialize the issues surrounding mental health. If the player hasn’t attempted to build a relationship with Kate or is insensitive toward the issue, the implied suicide attempt shows things can go horribly wrong. Although Max’s power is a major gameplay factor, the developers made a point to remove her abilities from this scene, dealing with depression and suicide on an entirely human level.


Our World

Despite Life is Strange being a game, what makes it really poignant is that it takes place in our world as we know it. The characters aren’t unlike people we would meet in our everyday lives. This makes the underlying themes of mental health even more prominent, allowing players to get closer to the details through Max’s camera and her abilities.

Tackling issues like suicide, depression, and bullying are confronted head-on in Life is Strange. But more than just presenting us with issues and scenarios that involve or could lead to mental health issues, the game offers openings to players to further delve into key and trigger moments, being in the right place at the right time.

It’s clear from the story that Blackwell Academy left Kate feeling alone and desperate. Turning to her photography teacher, players will catch the last part of Kate and Mr. Jefferson’s conversation, but if you choose to rewind time, Max will hear Mr. Jefferson accusing Kate of being an attention seeker, with Kate walking away saying “Nobody cares about me, nobody”.


Through the Lens

Equipping players with the ability to rewind time and Max’s pivotal Polaroid camera, Life is Strange puts matters into the hands of the beholder and challenges a wealth of psychological issues.

The game finds its footing and establishes a deep connection with players through taxing themes like ADHD, sexual orientation, abuse, neglect, and more. By allowing individuals to “hide” behind a camera, Life is Strange explores the effects of morality, as well as the outcomes of ignoring obvious signs of characters’ struggles and the events that play out from the choices made.

Skills utilised:
News

What Comes After

From the creators of Coffee Talk working alongside Rolling Glory Jam, they’ve created What Comes After – a heartwarming story that is described as a love letter to all of you who feel that you’re a burden on other people.

Players take on the role of Vivi, who is on a journey that takes her from where people go after they have died to what comes after. Make your way through the train, whilst you encounter souls of people, animals and plants that are on their own personal journeys leaving this world behind. Vivi will talk to many of them and learn about love, regrets, life and death.

Features:

  • A heartwarming story that will resonate with many
  • A personal journey that aims to teach you how to love yourself
  • A tale filled with both love and comedy
  • A unique and colourful art style
  • Easy to pick-up gameplay

 

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Sea of Solitude

Sea of Solitude takes players on a personal journey of a young woman’s loneliness in a beautiful and evolving world where nothing is what it seems. Players will explore a flooded city by boat, foot and swimming, and discover what lies beneath the surface in a world that is haunted by a struggle of darkness and light. 

Players will be faced with monsters from the darkness, puzzles that piece together tainted memories of the world, all in an effort for Kay to discover what it truly means to be human.

Features:

  • A beautiful world to explore
  • Puzzles to keep you engaged
  • An interesting mystery to solve
  • Meet monsters with their own struggles

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Hub World – Motivation

Hub World – Motivation (February)

Welcome back to Hub World!

This month, we turned the Safe In Our World spotlight on to the topic of motivation. What strikes me most about the word ‘motivation’ is that it can carry so many different meanings, depending on the individual and what it means to them to be motivated. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of motivation? Is it tied to your career, the day-to-day, or maybe your social life? Ultimately, motivation is a constant – it’s what drives us to do pretty much anything. But, because everyone views motivation differently, it can be difficult to gauge or feel a sense of motivation if your view is based on another persons perceived success (as a result of seemingly limitless motivation juice).

Motivation is not directly tied to material success – we should congratulate ourselves more for the little things. You got out of bed today? Great! You spent some time with friends or loved ones? Amazing! If you can keep going through the day-to-day, no matter how mundane the task, you are motivated by something.

To get myself motivated, I try and immerse myself as much as possible in something – anything that drives my interest and will feed into other areas of my life, because it makes me happy to do so. Be that playing through Persona 5 Strikers, which is taking me on a wonderfully vibrant tour of Japan, or immersing myself in Final Fantasy XIV Online in order to fuel my passion at work.

Let’s take a look at all of the different ways other members of the Safe In Our World community keep themselves, and each other, motivated!

Antonela Pounder

Over the past year, keeping the mind active and staying motivated has been more important than ever. I’ve spent my spare time looking for ways to improve in my career, engaged in arts and crafts, had regular online gaming sessions with friends, set DIY projects (even if it’s only a small project to rearrange the stuff in our house) and began planning future trips for when we can travel the world safely again. These might be small things, but they have really helped to keep me motivated over the past 11 months.

Richard Lee Breslin

It can be difficult to keep yourself motivated at times and I can forget how those around me offer inspiration on a daily basis.

Whether it’s family or friends, sometimes it can be forgotten that you have people who would love the world for you if they could. Sometimes it can be easy to take that love for granted and I’ve been guilty of that myself.

Whether it’s loved ones, a friend that you game with, or a social media buddy. Inspiration and motivation can often be right under our noses, even if we don’t know it. Sometimes I have to take a step back to realise how amazing family and friends can be.

Sarah Sorrell

So staying motivated whilst working from home all day everyday is a challenge. I find little rewards really help me, for example after a certain amount of work that I need to get done I treat myself to 10-15 minutes of selfcare and do something I enjoy. This could be painting my nails, reading a few pages of my book, or phoning a friend just to escape for few minutes and re-charge my batteries. Especially in the winter, the days are long so it’s important to break them down into manageable sections and celebrate what you have achieved each day – that may be something big or small, or just even getting though the day.

Sarah Sorrell

Rosie Taylor

I’ve found that my motivation has been a rollercoaster throughout the pandemic, so I try to work with what I’ve got. Surrounding myself with positive and encouraging people has helped me find my own ways to bring myself out of a motivation-less hole. The main thing I do is try to set lots of small easy goals, rather than big ones; breaking down big tasks makes me feel more accomplished and means I can celebrate little victories, which spur me on to keep going.

 

Matt Murphy

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.


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

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

Twitter.

Skills utilised:
News

Ruya

Described as a game of tranquillity through the art of matching pieces of Ruya in the world of her dreams.

Players will engage in a wonderful and relaxing puzzle experience in which you will face a multitude of challenges aimed to help relax the player. 

With 64 handcrafted puzzles, players will slide, swipe, pop and release cute characters so that Ruya can progress and unfold her memories. 

Features: 

  • Relaxing gameplay
  • Beautifully handcrafted puzzles
  • Visual narrative to encourage positive emotion

 

 

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Tell Me Why

DONTNOD Entertainment brings you their latest title: Tell Me Why. Follow the story of reunited twins Tyler and Alyson, who travel back to Alaska to sell their childhood home. They soon start unravelling the mystery of their past using the unique supernatural bond that they share. 

Players will be given choices throughout the story and learn more about the two very unique characters through a captivating and emotional journey. 

Key Features:

  • Uncover the truth using the twin’s unique supernatural bond. 
  • Each choice directly affects the story and relationship between the twins.
  • Master the game’s puzzles to open a window into the twin’s fantasy world. 

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Tetris Effect: Connected

Tetris is back, in a new and mesmerising way.

Tetris Effect: Connected offers different gameplay modes in classic Tetris style, accompanied by uniquely relaxing, dulcet sounds.

While it seems like a simplistic title, the combination of a classic challenge and a calming soundtrack can easily whisk you away from reality.

Key Features:

  • Colourful and unique design
  • Music that changes as you play
  • A challenge that starts off easy and increases the better you get
  • Different modes to suit your play
  • Multiplayer

 

 

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Coffee Talk

In Coffee Talk, players will listen to various character’s modern-day problems in a unique fantasy setting. 

Set in an alternative Seattle, you’ll encounter all sorts of problems: from a love story between an elf and a succubus, to an alien trying to understand how humans live. 

Coffee Talk encourages players to open up, listen and talk, using a visual novel with a deep narrative to keep the conversation going.  

Key Features

  • Help people solve problems through talking
  • Unique 90’s art style
  • Encourages conversation
  • Fantasy setting reflecting real-world issues

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Interview with Krish Shrikumar, creator of PLAYNE: The Meditation Game

We talked to PLAYNE: The Meditation Game creator, Krish Shrikumar, about the inspiration behind the game, the mental challenges in making it, and why a game provides the perfect platform for mastering meditation…

So what was it that set you on the path towards game development? 

I think it started after I played Quake. I spent a lot of time fiddling with it and creating levels. I mapped my home in the Quake engine, and it freaked out my mom seeing our home in the game with floors made of lava. Then came Half-Life, and that came with even more native tools for mapping.

At the end of school, I heard about SourceForge and got the bright idea of making an open-world, narrative-driven, first-person game using an open-source game engine called Ogre3D. I got a team together in SourceForge, wrote a game design document with loads of awesome, complicated features, but thankfully it didn’t take too long to realise how impossible it was. Although the project didn’t work out, I did meet some incredibly talented folk, some who I still collaborate with today. After this, I stuck to just playing games.

I went onto film school, did a bunch of 3D ArchViz projects and ran a web business with my brother. I was trying a lot of different things and it was a stressful period in my life. There was a severe lack of self-care that left a mark. Five years ago, I reconnected with meditation. It had been a significant part of my life as a kid, with my dad being a meditation/yoga teacher.

As I reconnected with meditation, it somehow pointed me back towards games, and I had the idea for Playne. So, I installed Unreal Engine and started to learn game development to create Playne.

Tell us about the main objectives of Playne and how the game is structured. 

Playne as a game helps players learn and build a habit of meditation & mindfulness so players can better understand and better relate with themselves.

Every day that the player returns to Playne and meditates, the game world grows and transforms. There are guided meditations, breathing exercises and other techniques that I’ve learnt and practised over the years that have helped me to understand myself better. I wanted to create a game that would teach these techniques, that could be taken away by the player and used in their daily lives.

Why did you think meditation would be an effective central theme to a game?

I spent a shameful amount of time playing Guild Wars, so I know games are great at building habits. I also spent a lot of time learning to fly a Learjet from Edinburgh to London using FSX. I realise the power that games have in helping us build habits and how they can help us learn without necessarily studying. Bringing this together, Playne is an attempt at creating a game that helps players learn and build a habit of meditation.

What was the inspiration behind the visuals in Playne?

Around the time I was reading Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, in which Robert Louis Stevenson talks in length about camping outdoors. His writing is very visual, and there was a warmth about how he described those night times, smoking a cigarette out in the wilderness. That contrast of the orange of the fire and the dark blue of the night was what inspired the night scene in Playne. I’m also from Scotland, so all those trips into the wilderness played a part in it as well.

There is a place called Trossachs up in Scotland that is meaningful to me. It was one of the first places  where I experienced the enjoyment of nature. I also ended up shooting my first film, Home, up in the Trossachs and the experience was incredibly meaningful to me.

The fox was inspired by my dog Meg. She’s always around and she’s always keeping me amused, so I wanted something like that for the players as well.

I wasn’t always so appreciative of nature though. I’m a city boy, so nature was a bit too `wild`. I remember going on holidays up Scotland as a kid and I would take my PlayStation with me. I couldn’t bear the thought of being up in Orkney without video games. Later, I slowly started to open up to nature. My wife would always encourage me to go out into it more, and I’m thankful for it.

What mental challenges did you have to tackle whilst developing the game?

Working solo is great because you can go where you want to go, it’s freeing. But it can get a bit tedious at times when there aren’t people to share the celebrations and failures with. I’m finding that the more I work alone, the more I need to make sure that I have a healthy approach to my work.

Building a consistent habit of working alone for 6/8 hours a day takes a lot of work. Keeping the head level, moving on from failures, swimming out of the deep waters calmly and quickly. I get excited very easily as well, so it takes a bit of work to keep things going evenly. Most of the creative projects I’ve taken on in the past have ended up with me overworking and getting burnt out. I’m still learning how to have a healthier approach to my work and what helps are small habits that I try to be consistent with.

I consistently try to meditate, exercise, eat healthy, step into nature and spend time with people who bring joy to my life. I’ve also built strategies around failure as much as I can. It’s crazy how fast I forget good advice, so I’ve got these little cards with strategies to deal with difficulties (thanks Ryan Holiday for introducing me to index cards). Like remembering that life is happening right here and not there. It reminds me to take it slow and experience life as much as I can.

Having said all this, there are days when I go all out and eat a whole pack of doughnuts, without even sharing.

Did making the game have any positive effects on your own mental health? 

It’s fulfilling to give someone an experience that you imagine. It’s like you are transferring a bit of yourself to someone else, and it makes you feel more connected.

There are of course times of stress, especially when sales are slow and you get a bit worried about how long you’ll be able to keep creating and pay the bills. I suppose it’s also a bit like building a sandcastle. It’s fun as long as I remember that I’m at the beach, playing, and not thinking that it’s more than what it is.

Do you plan on developing more mental health-related video games down the line?

That’s the plan! Creating Playne has been so fulfilling, and the community around Playne has been inspiring to be a part of.

Right now I’m developing Playne VR, and then I’m going onto a mobile game that I hope will make the mechanics of Playne more readily available.

What are your overall hopes around Playne when it comes to player experience? 

The hope is to make meditation a bit more approachable and show players the wisdom that helps them to not get lost in suffering.

We end up lost in the dark because we don’t know enough about ourselves, both as individuals and as an animal/organism. My hope is that meditation imparts enough wisdom that in time, the players can shine intelligence and wisdom onto the ground and see their path for themselves.

Playne is designed to be transitory. It should help players learn something that they can take away with them for the rest of their lives. When I hear players on Discord who have stopped playing Playne but have continued meditation, that’s the hope.

Meditation takes discipline! Do you have any tips for those playing the game for the first time? 

Playne makes building a habit of meditation easier. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself time to learn about discipline.

It’s important to find out what works for you. It’s important to know that if we can’t stick to a habit, it’s not because we are weak. It’s just that we don’t know enough about discipline and habits.

Habits are about getting good at deciding to do something. I think the ability to learn is what’s common between those of us who are not great at building habits and those who are. I think as we get less shameful about failing, the better we get at learning to be more disciplined.

A few quick tips:

  • Aim to meditate twice a day.
  • Set a time and aim to do it at that time every day. If you like taking small steps, then try just 10 minutes a day and build it up.
  • If you like jumping in the deep end, they try sitting for an hour and see what happens.
  • Try to slot a bit of time where you meditate out of session by giving 5 minutes in the middle of the day just to watch your breath.

PLAYNE: The Meditation Game is available now via Steam.

Skills utilised:
News

PLAYNE: The Meditation Game

PLAYNE aims to provide you with a virtual open space for meditation – and in a world where we are spending more time indoors, this is a welcome escape!

As you meditate daily, the landscape grows and evolves around you. The more you nurture yourself through meditation, the more your own personal space will flourish.

Features:

  • Encourages you to commit to daily meditation
  • Teaches you breathing techniques and methods to focus your mind
  • A calming, natural environment – meditate among trees, by the sea, a cosy campfire and more

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Safe In Our World: 1st Anniversary Charity Bundle

To celebrate our first anniversary, we are releasing our very first charity bundle dedicated to providing free Mental Health CBT courses for games industry professionals and gamers around the world. The Safe In Our World  1st Anniversary Charity Game Bundle is available now exclusively via the dedicated partner Fanatical for $4.99 / £4.65. Only 10,000 sets of keys are available for this extremely limited edition bundle.

The Safe In Our World 1st Anniversary Charity Game Bundle features seven games, each sharing a unique and relatable message about mental health:

  • AVICII Invector by Tim Bergling aka AVICII / Hello There Games
  • Dear Esther by The Chinese Room / Curve Digital
  • Fractured Minds by Emily Mitchell
  • GRIS by Nomada Studio / Devolver Digital
  • Meadow by Might and Delight
  • RiMe by Tequila Works / Six Foot
  • The Town of Light by LKA / Luca Dalco

Proceeds from the 1st Anniversary Bundle will go towards the creation of Safe In Our World’s own tailored, games-focused Mental Health CBT courses, which will provide much-needed mental health support at no cost to games industry professionals and gamers alike.

CLICK HERE for the complete bundle on Fanatical

CLICK HERE to download our bundle assets

The 1st Anniversary Bundle celebrates an amazing inaugural year in which Safe In Our World has made a significant impact on the games industry, thanks to support from wonderful partners. Since the launch last year on World Mental Health Day, the global non-profit organization has been able to:

  • Launch the hugely successful #LevelUpMentalHealth campaign featuring over 50 leading and indie games developers/publishers, including 505 Games, the Embracer Group, Wargamer, Curve Digital, NDreams, Mediatonic, Wired Productions, and many more; supporting 10,000 employees. (A full list of partners can be found here)
  • Further grew the SIOW ambassadors and patron list, with close to 100 key influential members of the industry representing the charity
  • Launch the COVID-19 Hub, a global resource set up at the beginning of the pandemic to help gamers and industry folk with information, tips, articles and resources, with traffic increasing by 146% from over 130 countries
  • Help to drive support for 1 million downloads of Fractured Minds, a game developed by BAFTA young game designer recipient Emily Mitchell
  • Reach 10 million players through messaging in key partner’s games
  • SIOW spokespersons join panels and events participation to help talk about mental health conditions within the industry, as well as sharing the touching, personal stories of many games industry professionals and their mental health through safeinourworld.org
  • Hire two full-time staff members, each with their own passionate stories, to further increase the impact and support within the games industry
  • Become a fully operational organization in less than 12 months

“2020 has been such a trying year for us all, but we are so proud and thankful for the impact Safe In Our World has been able to make in our industry so far,” said Leo Zullo, Safe In Our World Chairperson. “We now look to 2021, expanding our team and opportunities, as well as further increasing awareness, access and positivity towards mental health and mental health facilities in the games industry. Our message remains the same; it’s ok to not be ok. We have a duty of care to our gamers and our people and we implore the whole industry to unite and ensure this is considered at all times.”

Safe In Our World will continue to build and grow its support for those in need, and more announcements will be made as we head into our second year.

Skills utilised:
News

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is a procedurally generated Universe with over 18 Quintillion planets to explore – build bases, take on missions, hang out with friends or go it solo, No Man’s Sky has it all. 

No Man’s Sky is perfect for taking a break from the struggles of reality as it features a universe worth of content, regular updates, and has a strong community behind it.

The No Man’s Sky universe is a feast for players that love to explore – with so many planet variants, you’ll discover the most amazing and bizarre places you’ve ever seen. From strange fauna and flora to scan and register, locations with stories to uncover, and interesting NPC’s – exploration is a joy. You can also name everything you discover and it will get stored in the database. Planet Safe in our World, anyone?

For those who want a more action-orientated experience, you can take to space in your ships and hunt down pirates, help freighters in trouble or even become a pirate yourself. For Sci-fi fans, players can now explore derelict freighters with friends and investigate what happened to the crew. 

Features:

  • Explore an infinite universe that is always evolving
  • Single-player and multiplayer
  • A huge amount of interesting lore
  • Unique graphics and design
  • A universe worth of content and regular updates

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Rime

Rime is an adventure-puzzle game which follows a boy exploring a mysterious island, guided by a fox-like spirit companion. After a storm destroys his and his father’s boat, the boy discovers his father didn’t make it. 

The game revolves around the boy’s journey climbing the island’s tower, with each area representing one of the five stages of grief; reaching the top of the tower represents acceptance.

The boy will encounter many different puzzles involving climbing, carrying objects, pushing and pulling and more. He can also sing and shout which can trigger events that are tied to nearby statues. The combination of the in-game interactions and the storyline makes this game a unique experience. 

Key Features

  • Explore a mysterious island full of puzzles 
  • Single-player
  • Captivating storyline
  • Unique graphics and design

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Spiritfarer

Spiritfarer follows Stella and her cat Daffodil who are chosen to take on the mantle of ‘Spiritfarer’, as Charon (Death) goes into retirement. Self-described as a “cosy management game about dying,” the Spiritfarer is tasked with helping lost souls in the afterlife move on and come to terms with their past.

You manage a ship which you expand and build upon as as more souls decide to come on board. Each anthropomorphic soul comes with their own interests, unique traits and needs that you will need to manage for the duration of their stay. The connections you make are at the heart of Spiritfarer, as you learn more about each individual and the complex feelings they have toward their past and what comes next.

As you nurture your passengers by fulfilling their requests, giving them hugs, or feeding them their favourite meal – the player has a unique opportunity to work through the process of loss and grief in a way that is ultimately very comforting and rewarding.

Features:

  • Play in co-op with Daffodil the cat
  • Relax and spend time with your passengers
  • Soothing soundtrack
  • Beautiful 2D art style

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Ghost of Tsushima

You play as a samurai named Jin Sakai, whose primary goal is to defend Tsushima from the Mongol invaders. However, to defeat such a formidable enemy, Jin must bend the samurai code and become the ‘ghost’ to survive.

Ghost of Tsushima is an unexpected recommendation, but it has proved to be a great mental escape for many players.

Ghost of Tsushima’s combat system is fluid and accommodates a variety of playstyles. You do not level up in the traditional sense, and as a result you spend very little time concerned with your skill level. This gives you the space to enjoy the game’s quieter, more serene moments. As an example there are Haiku spots, where you spend time composing this short form of poetry within breathtaking surroundings and is presented as a meditative experience.

The UI elements are also very minimalistic – you are guided by the wind to your next objective, golden birds lead you toward hidden secrets, and foxes take you to hidden Inari (fox) shrines.

Features:

  • Rich storytelling
  • Stunning locations
  • Extensive photo mode
  • Haiku/meditation spots and hot springs to relax in
  • Scaling cliffs and outcrops is effortless, as you reach some of Tsushima’s highest points to discover Shinto Shrines
  • Pet the foxes!
  • Minimal UI elements – use the controller’s touchpad to activate the guiding wind
  • Play the flute via the touchpad
  • Accessibility options – including the option to turn off blood, simplify controls, and make subtitles easier to read

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is Takeshi’s Castle meets Gang Beasts. You play as a small gelatinous bean, with the aim to make it through a variety of challenges without getting eliminated!

While Fall Guys doesn’t tackle mental health directly, we have found it to be an uplifting game to play with friends – particularly as we continue to navigate the effects of the pandemic.

Features

  • Battle Royale-esque gameplay, up to 60 players join a match in the first round
  • You and up to three other friends can join a game together and in team-based rounds you will all automatically join the same team
  • Bright and colourful aesthetics

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Experience 12 Survey Research Shows Playing Video Games is Beneficial for Mental Health

At the beginning of July, pop culture marketing agency Experience 12 conducted a survey that revealed the positive impact video games have had on the public’s mental health during the pandemic.

With over 3,000 participants, a whopping 97% found that playing video games has been beneficial to their mental health during this time. 

64% of those surveyed said that playing online has significantly helped them remain connected throughout lockdown, helping to ease the feeling of isolation and positively impact their mental wellbeing.

The research also revealed that we have been spending more of our spare time immersing ourselves in other worlds. 33% are playing more than 20 hours of video games a week, compared to 14% before lockdown.

At Safe In Our World we believe that video games have an important role to play and this research is an important step to showcase the strength of the medium’s impact on our mental wellbeing. Our very own Leo Zullo, Chairman of Safe in our World commented on the Experience 12 research and said:

“This survey shows the vital importance of gaming to billions of players around the world, and to their mental health. To see such an emphatic impact the worlds we create has on our players is heart-warming.

“There is much to do in encouraging those suffering to talk, but to know that games can help and encourage positive mental health, gives our industry affirmation that we’re on the right track. This survey is an essential driver for the research Safe In Our World intends to facilitate”

Skills utilised:
News

The Last Guardian

A young boy finds himself isolated among castle ruins, in a valley known as the Nest.

Here, he discovers a winged, mythical creature called Trico that’s wounded and chained up, and decides to nurse it back to health. Together they begin to forge a strong, emotional bond on their journey to escape the ruins.

Features:

  • There’s no dialogue in The Last Guardian – you form a bond with Trico that is non-verbal and based on emotional exchanges
  • Pacing is suitable for anyone who wants to invest time in a short, immersive story experience
  • Stunning meditative soundtrack and soothing atmosphere

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

A Free Ride to Friendship in the Elite Dangerous Community – by Barry Floyd

Here’s a bold statement to begin with. I firmly believe a video game and its community saved my life. How’s that, I hear you ask? What’s the punchline? Well, dear reader, the statement is the statement. Take it as read. I firmly believe a video game and its community saved my life.

On Boxing Day 2012 my 44-year-old wife, who I’d been with for 24 years, died having fallen ill just 72 hours before. The doctors at the hospital switched off the machinery at tea-time and, whilst most of the country settled down to cold turkey sandwiches and a Bond film, pretty much everything I’d known for most of my adult life crumbled and collapsed around me.

I won’t go into detail but, despite putting on a pretty darned good show of behaving ‘normally’, I lived the next few years like a wraith. Ghosting around in the remains of my old life and trying to mend something that couldn’t be mended. To block out my anxiety and self-loathing I’d drink and watch rubbish on TV. Anything to save me engaging with the outside world, away from work. I’d get home from work, go to my room away from my two grown up kids and cry for half an hour or so before coming downstairs, pouring a glass of wine and plonking myself in front of the TV. I’d thrown away the anti-depressants the doctor had prescribed. I think it was because I felt I didn’t deserve to be happy, but I can’t be sure. My head was all over the place at the time.

It was in the run up to Christmas 2014 that I jumped on Kate Russell’s ‘Slough Bells Ringing’ Christmas fundraising stream for the brilliant SpecialEffect. I saw her playing Elite Dangerous, chatted to her viewers and the combination caused a spark of my old self to reignite. It was enough to make me want to investigate more.

Six years later, having established myself firmly in the game and the Hutton Orbital Truckers community group, I look back and think of the friendships I have made in the community and the incredible support they’ve given me and SpecialEffect. I thank the stars for them, and for Frontier – for unknowingly reaching out for my hand and pulling me out of the abyss. So, as I said, I firmly believe a video game and its community saved my life.

I’m in a good place now. In 2017 I got together with my wonderful partner Ali (who also works for SpecialEffect and is very tolerant of my Elite obsession). I love my job, have great friends and look forward rather than back.

So, when the lockdown kicked in back in March, I thought long and hard about the possible effects of isolation on some of my Commander friends and saw an opportunity to try and pay them back for the care and kindness the community have shown me over the years. The engines of Baz’s Banter Bus rumbled into action.

The idea of the Banter Bus was to set something up in Elite Dangerous that would act as a gathering point to members of my Hutton Trucker community if they’d had a lousy, lonely, lockdown day or just wanted to join in a bit of fun in-game. Each evening at 9pm (UK time), there would be a sanctuary for them to visit and a group of like-minded gamers waiting to chat or just listen whilst we played.

The community’s technical guys set me up with a Banter Bus Teamspeak channel and publicised the Banter Bus each day on the group’s Facebook channel. At 9pm on 26th April, I sat down at my controls and heard ‘user has entered your channel’. The Commanders were answering the call.

Over the coming weeks, we established a core group on the Banter Bus who would be with me night after night. And most nights, other Commanders would jump on too. From the UK, USA and Australia, they came. The Banter Bus had become a thing. The exact thing I wanted it to be. A safe, constant place to go, chat and have a bit of fun exploring sites and places in the ether we’d never been to before.

And Frontier did their bit too. The wonderful Stephen Benedetti, one of the Elite Community Managers, joined us on the bus to chat and answer questions on the latest update to the game. Another example of how supportive Frontier are of community initiatives.

The Banter Bus was scheduled to stop after 26 days. On the last night, the 21st May, we cut the handbrake cable and let the bus carry on going and it’s been running ever since. That safe place, out in space, where Commanders can go for company and laughs is still there ready to welcome new faces and old. With a mix of gentle banter, puerile humour and friendship, the Banter Bus is a great example of how communities can support and help each other through some bleak times.

Did the Banter Bus help as far as mental wellbeing is concerned? I’ve no idea but I’d like to think so. The important thing is, it was there for anyone wanting to jump on and, if nothing else, it drew together a random group of the community who barely knew each other and established some firm friendships that will hopefully continue long into the future.

I’d love to see more community initiatives across all games that promote positivity, care and support of other players. I hope I’ve paid back a fraction of the debt I owe to my community and Frontier but will continue to try and lead the way in showing the haters how wrong they are about us gamers. That we can be – and are – a force for good.

 

Skills utilised:
Stories

Abzû

Explore underwater environments that are bursting with life and discover the secrets that are buried deep in the ocean.

Abzû is a relaxing journey that aims to highlight the environmental impact we have had on our oceans. You explore the sea as an inquisitive diver, who discovers the remains of an ancient civilisation. Along the way you also come across a harmful energy source that is damaging the ecosystem. On your journey, you are aided by a great white shark that will help guide you as you restore life to the ocean.

Features:

  • Explore gorgeous underwater environments as the diver
  • Discover secrets and engage in light puzzle solving
  • Locate what’s harming the ecosystem and restore life to the ocean
  • A meditative experience influenced by Journey
  • Dynamic soundtrack by Austin Wintory (Journey, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate)

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Journey, Anxiety And The Unavoidable Importance Of The “Walking Simulator” – by Lara Jackson

One of my favourite games of all time is thatgamecompany’s Journey. Originally released for PlayStation 3 back in 2012, Journey is a relatively short game in which you play as a cloaked figure traversing the desert. Your goal is to reach the distant mountain, aided by collectible cloth-creatures which form your scarf, an item that allows you to float and fly across the various landscapes.

Journey will forever be one of my all-time favourite games as it taught me (and continues to teach me) the importance of tuning out the often overwhelming noise of daily life. It reminds me of the need for human companionship. It tells me that, in order to reach your goals, you’ll need to persevere through the worst of the storms. Journey is a masterpiece, and it’s been an instrumental tool in managing my anxiety. 

The Need For “Walking Simulators” 

One of my biggest bugbears in gaming is the derogatory use of the phrase “walking simulator,” or “walking sim.” It’s a term which is most frequently used to bash games which favour minimal gameplay and lots of exploration over, say, your typical shooter. Though it’s easy to dismiss such titles (after all, they don’t fit the bill of the stereotypical video game) there’s a lot to be said for so-called “walking sim” games.

Walking sims such as Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, Abzu and Journey might lack the bright lights and loud bangs of your average AAA action adventure, but they have, in their own right, become some of the most meaningful and memorable experiences you can have with a controller in your hands. 

By stripping out the glitz and the glamour of your typical video game, walking sims invite players into the lives and worlds of unimaginable creatures and characters. Diving into the depths of the ocean and swimming alongside schools of fish in Abzu, or wandering around an English town lost in time in Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, provides players with a virtual experience like nothing else. Games like these – and like Journey – create universes for their players to explore and discover at their own pace, without the need for complex goals or difficult-to-master controls. For those suffering with mental health conditions such as anxiety, they’re the perfect escape from the suffocating claustrophobia of your own mind. 

A Guiding Hand

When it comes to managing my anxiety, a game like Journey helps me in multiple ways. Unlike the huge and sprawling video games out there, Journey is a small and guided adventure, holding your hand but also encouraging you to take your time and explore the world around you. This is something that my own personal anxiety really finds helpful, as it serves to gently keep your focus on the game, allowing you to block out any real-world nastiness without the need for overwhelming complexities. Journey is a distraction that isn’t mentally exhausting, yet it offers more detachment from reality than, say, a simple puzzle game, thanks to its beautiful levels.

The world of Journey is split into a handful of different landscapes, including the golden sands of the desert, the dark depths of the tunnels and the snow-capped mountains you see in the distance. The game is a visual masterpiece, even now, eight years and a whole console generation after its original release (it did get a PlayStation 4 remaster and a PC upgrade). The world glitters and shines all around you, begging for you to take note of its beauty. The game’s simplicity and lack of realism adds to the feeling of existing in a magical world, and no matter how many times I’ve completed this game, I’ve yet to get bored of just wandering around and taking in the views. It’s a world like no other, and when you’re in a mental tangle, it offers you the chance to escape to a place a lot more mythical and far less cluttered.

Playing Your Personal Story (And Beating It)

The story of Journey is another reason why I credit the game for its positive effects on my mental health and wellbeing. Simply put, the story of Journey is crafted in a way which invites the player to draw parallels between their own life and the life of the nameless character you play as. 

You unlock the history of your people as you discover different tapestries around the world, but these segments are only explained through a series of images, leaving interpretation fairly open. Your character remains nameless, genderless and voiceless, allowing for a blank canvas which invites you to fill in the blanks for yourself. In Journey, you project yourself onto your character, becoming the cloaked figure.

The task of reaching the mountain at any cost is one that everyone can relate to. Whether you see it as a symbol of life, hope, love or loss, the story of Journey is about overcoming adversity, trusting your struggle and knowing that the end goal will be worth the pain. These themes, combined with the blank canvas playable character, guide the player into a story in which they persevere and overcome their own struggles, as well as those of the game. I’ve completed Journey dozens of times, and I still sometimes deeply need to remember the powerful message the game instills in me: I can be unstoppable.

This is a massively important message for anyone with any type of mental health struggles, and it’s wonderful to see such a complex idea laid out so simply, beautifully and effectively within a video game. 

My personal anxiety means I can get overwhelmed very easily, so having a simple and singular task to complete is one that I find immensely comforting. When you need to switch off, it’s sometimes hard to escape into other video games, especially those with huge and multifaceted quests and stories.

Facing The Music

One of my favourite aspects of Journey is the music, which comes from composer Austin Wintory. The soundtrack for Journey consists of some of my favourite musical compositions of all time, and sets a new standard for video game music as a whole. The music of Journey works along with the beautiful visuals of the game, but still manages to be its own entity outside of the on-screen story. It carries you with it, allowing you to soar just like your nameless character through its unburdened ebb and flow. 

I own it on vinyl and even sitting on my own and feeling the music, without playing the game, is enough to transport me to a calmer and happier place. 

Many of the scenes in Journey evoke the deepest and most personal responses within my core. The music of the game is so inextricably intertwined with this that the standalone tracks are powerful enough to be a cathartic experience, even without the need to turn on my console. 

Being There For Others

There are many, many wonderful things about Journey, but one of its most powerful and unique features is the game’s multiplayer mode. If you want to play Journey solo, you absolutely can, but I’ve found this can be a lonely experience. Sometimes you just need to feel like someone is there, like someone is experiencing this small slice of your life with you, and Journey does this in the most magical way imaginable. 

Journey will randomly match you with another nameless player, one who you can only communicate with through a series of musical notes. There’s no voice chat, which is perfect for someone like me, who struggles to find the confidence to speak with strangers due to my anxiety. Though that’s more than welcome in my book, it’s not what makes playing with others so special.

You’ve probably heard at some point in your life that you don’t always need to say the right thing to someone – sometimes you just need to be there for them. This is one of the core concepts of Journey. 

By stripping away the ability to communicate through words, players automatically bond without the need to worry about narrating the experience. There’s no anxiety over saying the right or wrong thing, trying to impress people or attempting to make small talk, because you simply don’t have that power. You can make your musical sounds, run around in circles, and you can draw a heart in the snow if you’re particularly creative, but that’s all. These are the only ways you can communicate in Journey, and it has a strange effect – it leads players to assume the best in people. 

You can’t harm yourself or other playable characters, you can just explore and continue onwards, which means the only option you have is to help each other. This game mechanic organically invites you to accept that this is what the other player will work towards too. It creates a bond between players which is only strengthened by the adversities you’ll face together on the path to the distant mountain. By the end, you’ve shared a wonderful, wordless experience with other humans which is not only rare, but also impossibly meaningful.

I’ve had some wonderful experiences with people in Journey, and I hope some of those people can say the same of me, wherever in the world they might be.

The Trouble With “Walking Simulators” 

The term “walking simulator” should, in my opinion, never be used as a slight against slower-paced games. Games which invite you explore, imagine, and consider the world around you are infinitely helpful to those with a range of mental health challenges. They provide players with an immersive experience that isn’t too mentally draining, and that can harbour a deep and meaningful message at its core. 

Next time you’re reading a review or purchasing a game which focuses on exploration or simple goals, I invite you to disregard the derogatory term of “walking sim.” Walking sims are one of my favourite genres of games, blurring the lines between a passive movie and the immersive experience of gaming. 

If you’re looking for a gaming venture that encourages you to take your time, forges friendship without expectation and which will show you that you can achieve more than you think, I highly recommend checking out Journey on PC, PlayStation and iOS.

Skills utilised:
Stories

A Short Hike

In A Short Hike, you play as a young bird named Claire who is determined to climb Hawk Peak. She’s expecting an important call and that’s her only chance of getting mobile reception.

Embark on a peaceful journey across the mountainous landscapes and along the island coastline. Interact with other visitors and residents of Hawk Peak Provincial Park and unravel a series of touching tales on your way to the top.

Features:

  • Hike at your own pace and explore the island’s hidden treasures and secrets
  • User-friendly traversal to hike, climb, and glide across the natural landscapes
  • Relaxing side activities to lose yourself in – from fishing to collecting shells for a friend
  • There’s no fail state and you can do as much or as little as you like
  • Dynamic soundtrack that evolves along your journey

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

Last Day of June

Last Day of June is a touching representation of a person’s psyche during the process of grief.

After a tragic car accident take’s June’s life, her husband Carl is left alone and wheelchair-bound. Through June’s paintings, Carl explores that fateful day time and time again from a variety of perspectives – from the kid next door to the village eccentric. Carl clings on to this otherworldly ability to change seemingly innocuous events that took place that day, in order to try and change June’s fate.

Features:

  • Striking Burton-esque, impressionistic art style
  • Visual representation of the grieving process
  • See June’s last day from a variety of perspectives within the village
  • Light puzzle solving

Skills utilised:
Games & apps

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