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July: Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep

This July, our monthly theme is shifting to the trio of exercise, nutrition and sleep.

We know that these three things, when kept in check, can give us a boost in our mental wellbeing. But how can we use games as a vehicle to learn healthier habits?

This month, we’re going to be exploring the concepts of how games can promote healthy living, both physically and mentally. Through game highlights, podcast discussions, articles, resources, analogies and more, we’re going to work through it together.

And we’ve got a hell of a schedule waiting for you! Take a look.

Here are just some of the things you’ll be seeing from us this month:

Making video game foods with Rosie and Sky [Stream] – we’re going to be tackling the fan favourite butterscotch cinnamon pie from Undertale, and it will be chaos.

Games highlights

Gaming for Good with Karla Reyes [Podcast]

A Fairer Games Industry with Rami Ismail [Podcast]

Nature for Wellbeing Exclusive Partner Training

DIGIPRIDE Panel with Gayming Magazine

How VR breathing game DEEP helps with sleep, anxiety and long-COVID

Finding Balance: Can a person in ED recovery participate in exercise and focus on eating a healthy diet?

Planned vs impulsive behavior with Paul Fletcher [Podcast]

Transferring virtual care to in real life self-care using concepts from The Sims

 

So, stay tuned, keep talking, and most importantly, stay Safe In Our World.

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

Stonewall: Pride Month 2022 Highlight

As part of Pride Month 2022, we’re highlighting companies, charities and organisations doing great work within the LGBTQ+ space, and today’s highlight is Stonewall.

 

What is Stonewall?

Stonewall is an organisation that stands for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people everywhere. The work of the charity has helped bring the issue of LGBTQ rights to the mainstream political agenda, changing both attitudes and policy.

 

When did it start?

Stonewall was founded in 1989 by a small group of people who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act. It was later granted charitable status in 2003.

 

What was Section 28?

Section 28 was an offensive piece of legislation designed to prevent so-called  “promotion” of homosexuality in schools; as well as stigmatising lesbian, gay and bi people, it galvanised the gay community.

What does ‘Stonewall’ mean?

The Stonewall Uprising began on June 28, 1969, when a gay club in New York City called The Stonewall Inn was raised by police leading to six days of violent clashes between the police and the gay community of Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Uprising served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the US and around the world.

 

What has Stonewall done?

Since 1989, Stonewall has been instrumental in LGBTQ+ rights movements:

  • An equal age of consent for gay and bi men
  • The end of Section 18 in Scotland, England and Wales
  • Same-sex couples being free to adopt children
  • LGBTQ+ people being free to serve openly in the armed forces
  • Protection from discrimination at work
  • The right for same-sex couples to have civil partnerships
  • The right for LGBTQ+ couples to be legally recognised as parents
  • The right for same-sex couples to get married
  • LGBTQ+ inclusive teaching in the national curriculum

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

How can community managers within the games industry practice self care?

Our Charity Manager, Sarah, recently spoke to GIBiz on the importance of mental health training within the games industry, especially for Community Managers.

Sarah Sorrell

So, how can community managers within the games industry practice self care, set boundaries, create psychologically safe work cultures and welcome imperfection?

Sarah dives into the fundamentals of why community managers seem to have the most endless remit of all within the games industry, and why mental health training course brings together key techniques in supporting yourself within this role. At the moment, we’re on our second round of training Community Managers free of charge in managing their mental health. You can read more about the course, and our achievements at this page.

There are many steps that people working within the industry can take, within the community-focused role, to help set effective boundaries, provide opportunities to learn, achieve balance and connect with others in the same situation, and it doesn’t just come down to the Community Manager to implement these changes.

Sarah talks about the importance of those in senior positions to support their Community Managers, and how setting the precedent of a healthy work life balance is imperative to fostering a safer workplace culture.

The evidence is that many organisations struggle to create and sustain a culture where people feel okay speaking truth to power — disagreeing with the boss can still carry negative consequences. Senior leaders need to step up and take genuine responsibility for creating cultures that empower diversity of opinion and ideas.

It’s also vital to become self-aware, with what might be causing your stress, change of mood, or even in decision-making. We must welcome imperfection to embrace what is it to be a person, rather than a robot, and by moving away from a perfectionist mindset, we can be kinder to ourselves as well.

If you’re interested in reading up more about the tips that CMs can take on board regarding their mental health, and how workplaces can support them, check out the rest of the article over at Games Industry Biz.

Read the GI Biz article here.

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

Custom Pronouns in the Sims 4 with Momo Misfortune (Safe Space Podcast Season 2, Episode 2)

In this episode, Rosie and Sky chat to Momo Misfortune. Momo is a Twitch partner who is known for streaming The Sims, as well as campaigning for pronouns in the Sims, and a founder of YOUphoriaTV which is stream team focused on uplifting the voices of Nonbinary and Gender Non Conforming creators on Twitch.

We discuss the incredible causes such as Able Gamers, Trans Women of Colour Collective that they have supported, and the Change.org campaign Momo made for adding pronoun options into The Sims 4 which had almost 25,000 signatures before it became a reality.

Momo talks about It Gets Better as an Ambassador and their connection with The Sims 4, and also about their experience with chronic illness and how it affects their mental health.

Links

Skills utilised:
News

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

Another Day, Another Interview

In this interview, Rosie catches up with Another Dollar Studios; a student game dev team from Falmouth University about their game ‘Another Day’.

The game was part of the Cornwall House exhibition during the G7 Summit in 2021, and portrays the daily struggle experienced by those living in isolation in a claustrophobic environment during lockdown while suffering from depression and anxiety.

 

What were the inspirations behind this storyline?

 

Another Day was a deeply personal project for much of the team. Being students ourselves, and some of us having our own complex histories with mental health, we put a lot of ourselves into the project. The result is an amalgamation of our collective experience as students during nationwide lockdown.

 

The game for me (Rosie) perfectly illustrated what it was like having depression during the lockdown – how do you want players to perceive this game who may be less familiar with this feeling?

 

Thank you, we took a lot of time and effort to try to ensure that the experience felt right.

One thing the team identified during the idea development stage of the project was how difficult it can be for people who have not experienced depression to relate or empathise with those who are struggling, which can lead to them becoming isolated from friends, family members and colleagues when they really need their support.

Games are a powerful medium for storytelling and sharing experiences, arguably more than films or books, as players do not passively watch events, but actively take part – when reading a book or watching a film, we refer to the main character and their actions in the third person, however when playing a game we refer to the player character’s actions as if it was ourselves performing them. We want players to use the game as an educational tool to gain a better understanding of mental illness and what it can look like when someone is struggling.

We hope that this will be able to allow those who have not gone through the experience to feel empathy for people in their lives who may be going through a similar situation to the player character in Another Day. Although the experience may not be fully familiar to every player, small elements will be, even if it’s something as simple as struggling to complete a simple daily task.

We also want to emphasize the importance of reaching out to those who may be struggling. Depression and anxiety can be incredibly isolating, and popping round for a cup of tea, a phone call or even a text can make all the difference to those who are feeling low.

If someone feels they are able to better understand a loved one who has depression after playing this, it would be truly amazing.

 

Another Day made it feel tiring to get up and do the basics – a lot of people who experience poor mental health will likely relate to this – why did you choose to tell this story in this way?

 

We knew from the outset that if we were going to make a game tackling mental health, we wanted to reflect reality, and not glamorise the experience for the sake of making the game more ‘fun’. We decided to lean into the inherent strength of games, using deliberately tedious mechanics with a heavy amount of repetition which become increasingly arduous to convey the difficulty that mundane tasks present to people with depression.

In addition, as the in game week progresses the player character’s self-talk becomes increasingly negative regardless of the player’s efforts to choose the more positive dialogue options. Dialogue branches depending on the selected options, but will always end up in the same place. This lack of agency was a deliberate choice to represent how oppressive mental illness (in particular intrusive thoughts) can be, and how difficult it can be to break free from the cycle of negative self-talk.

This focus on everyday tasks emulating a real world scenario helped to maintain the relatability of Another Day. We hope that those who have struggled with their mental health may find it validating to see a literal representation of their struggles, while those who have not experienced mental illness may understand how overwhelming and exhausting simple tasks such as brushing your teeth can become.

 

What were your biggest challenges and successes in creating a game that touches on mental health?

 

When engaging with any sensitive topic, it is incredibly important that delicacy and compassion are your primary tools in representation. Certainly, there were times we wanted to add in features or mechanics that, while sounding good on paper, would have likely detracted from the overall message we wanted to deliver.

Working closely as a team to ensure that all elements of the game reflected the experience that we wanted to create, as well as discussing our personal experiences and conducting extensive research and QA testing helped to ensure that Another Day represented depression and anxiety as accurately and respectfully as possible.

In addition, protecting the mental health of our players was important to us, and it was crucial that we made sure that the game’s trigger warnings were well written and clearly visible on our page, to ensure that players are able to make an informed decision before playing.

Protecting the mental health of the team was also highly important, especially as for many of us the game reflected personal experiences. The team made an effort to look out for and support each other, and in addition to holding daily team meetings to check in with each other, we held regular online game nights where we could chat, bond and let of some steam without the pressures of work.

Another challenge was maintaining a balance between it being a video game and a piece of educational media. Another Day was never intended to be a fun game, but a certain level of engagement needed to be attained so a player would not lose interest while playing. We tried to achieve this through an engaging narrative, and through the collectable books and games that the player can find around the apartment, which provide light relief from the rest of the game.

As a team we feel that we managed to create engaging player experience that tells an earnest and authentic story about someone struggling with their mental health. We were incredibly happy with the feedback we received when we released the game, as many players informed us that the game had left a lasting impact on them, and that they felt that the game dealt with mental illness in a sensitive and accurate manner.

 "Your team is relying on you to get that done; how could you be so selfish?" There are two responses: "There's just not enough time." and "I know."

 

What would you like to see from other developers when addressing real-world problems?

 

When representing serious topics by gamifying them the difference between doing more harm than good and doing good is a serious grey area. While the intent can be to spread awareness for a topic, harm can still be done.

Accuracy and sensitivity is key. Perpetuating harmful stereotypes, spreading misinformation, insensitive depictions of real world issues and glorifying or romanticising serious situations adds to stigma and can be incredibly triggering for players facing these issues. While it is hard to foresee the impact a piece of media can have on its audience the most important thing any developer can do is put in the effort: do research, talk to people who have struggled, listen to professionals and above all else, include representation of serious topics to represent them and not for their shock value.

We would love to see more developers using the unique medium of videogames to raise awareness and shine a spotlight on issues that are in dire need of discussion. While there have been some stand-out successes, our industry has barely scratched the surface of what can be achieved in this area. We can’t wait to see what more talented developers are able to make in the coming years!

a screenshot of an email in-game from the company director asking about the player how they're doing, as they haven't been completing tasks assigned in their usual time.

 

What is your biggest take-home for players of Another Day?

 

For those who have gone through or are going through struggles; you are not alone. Although it can be tough, there are people who are there to help.

For people who haven’t experienced mental illness, hopefully they have a better understanding of what mental health can do, possible ways to identify those who may be struggling and ways they can help. – Jacob (Programmer)

To those who have experienced or are experiencing mental illness: I want you to know that you are not alone, and that your experiences are real and valid. It can be such an incredibly difficult, horrible space to be in, and it can feel like you may never get out, but things can and will get better. Be kind to yourself. Don’t suffer in silence because you are concerned about judgement or you are worried about being a burden to others – there are people who can help and support you.

To those who struggle with their mental health: I hope that this experience can be a cathartic, validating experience for you. You are not alone, and you are not weak. You are loved; sometimes you’ve just got to pick up that phone. – Samson (Designer)

To those who know someone who is struggling: Reach out and tell the person how much they mean to you. Listen to what they have to say. Be patient and understanding.

To everyone: Mental illness can happen to anyone, sometimes with no obvious reason. It can be incredibly challenging and debilitating, and it is important that we work together to break the stigma surrounding it, and look out for each other. – Katie (Writer)

Your struggles are valid. No matter what anyone says, including your own brain. If you are struggling, you deserve help and support. If you are struggling it is important that you seek help, and for people who know someone who may be struggling, it is beyond essential that you reach out to them. We’re all in this together. – Kim (Writer)

We’ve added Another Day to our list of mental health related games and apps.
Play Another Day.

A dim studio apartment, everything has a dull tint to it. There is a notepad in the corner with the task "Brush Teeth" on it.

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

Skills utilised:
News

The Beginner’s Guide – A Subtle yet Powerful Trans Allegory by Ruby Modica

The Beginner’s Guide (TBG) is an environmental narrative game written by Davey Wreden and tells of his experience with a friend who used to make games.

TBG is a tightly written venture that poses many questions but answers only a handful of them by the end, leaving much of the story open for interpretation. Despite the overarching themes of game design and creator burnout, there is also room for an allegory that focuses on one of the characters being transgender and their difficult journey of self-discovery. 

The term “transgender” refers to an individual who lives as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth. This Pride Month, where many will be proudly celebrating their right to be themselves and love themselves despite oppression, it is important to remember that trans people have come under serious attack in recent years. Therefore, examining this trans interpretation of TBG is important for those who may be unaware of the difficulties a trans person typically goes through, or even for someone who is unsure of their gender identity. 

Davey tells the story of his friend who uses the nickname Coda. Since the entirety of TBG is narrated by Davey, we are only given access to Coda’s life through another person’s perspective, which is why the conflicting story details might not accurately portray Coda’s gender identity. Hints at Coda’s true identity are revealed in subtle ways all throughout TBG, something that can be easily overlooked on an initial playthrough. 

a screenshot of an empty room with cream coloured walls, one wall is open and there are bars across the length of it

Firstly, Davey uses he/him pronouns when talking about Coda, initially suggesting that they are a cisgender male (that is, assigned male from birth and living as a male). However, this simple detail becomes less credible as the game progresses, since most of the games Davey shows feature multiple sound clips of a woman’s voice guiding the player directly, such as The Whisper Machine’s announcer. Davey’s voice is recognisably male, but if Coda is assumed male then the voice’s origin becomes unclear. 

Other examples of female-gendered dialogue are found all throughout TBG. The second game Backwards reveals several pieces of short text, using the pronouns “she” and “her” throughout. The Island and Machine levels also portray the player as female, and other minor references appear in the Notes level that have all seemingly been written by Coda. 

4 images within corridors inside a building. There are words on the walls: "The past was behind her", "when she stops and looks it becomes clearer", "but if the future is always behind her" and "how will she find strength"

Based on other interpretations seen in TBG, each game created by Coda simulates something personal and experimental. Despite Davey’s attempts to connect them and add meaning, it is clear that Coda’s games are a safe creative space. In turn, it would make sense that these private thoughts would better depict Coda’s desired mental state, one where they use female pronouns and exist as a female. 

If Coda is indeed a trans woman, then the continued use of he/him pronouns by Davey could add another disheartening layer to the allegory. Refusing to acknowledge a trans person’s identity can cause trauma and dysphoria, both of which lead to psychological damage if unchecked. 

However, if Coda is a trans man (female-to-male) then this would be the inverse: Davey is respecting Coda’s new identity. The timescale for Coda’s games takes place over several years, so it is possible Coda begins transitioning during the course of their game development. That would also explain why Coda becomes more detached from their older games due to featuring an outdated version of themselves. Artefacts like their old username and voice clips can easily trigger dysphoria, which would parallel most trans people’s experiences. 

Additional signs of Coda’s female presence include the small number of NPCs appearing across TBG levels. One NPC model is seen in the Theatre level, where the disembodied narrator states that this person embodies everything the player wants to be. The deliberate gender choice is expanded upon when the game forces the player to recede back from the stage, followed by prison gates closing in. 

The only realistic female body seen in TBG comes at the end of Island, which depicts a crying woman behind a prison barricade. It is possible that all of these factors depict Coda’s thoughts of being trapped in the wrong body and unable to escape. 

An animated character with long brown hair is sat in the corner hugging their knees, with 3 dialogue options in the corner: 1. Hello?, 2. Where am I?, 3. What is this?

Coda’s happiness occurs in the House game where a male-bodied NPC is portrayed in a feminine manner. This could symbolise Coda’s desired gender identity, which contrasts heavily with the Theatre game where the player is told to hide themselves away instead. With this in mind, both of these levels could simply be a portrayal of Coda’s euphoria and dysphoria respectively.  

Of particular note is the final message to Davey, where there are certain lines that refer to distrust and insecurity brought about by Coda’s games being shared publicly. Coda states that this is “violating the one boundary that keeps [them] safe”, a potential allusion to having their gender identity publicly outed against their wishes. This has resulted in numerous upsetting instances in real life where kids are disowned by parents and/or suffer bullying, which would serve as a more impactful reason for Coda to cut contact with Davey. 

an animated tree on a series of grassy islands suspended in a white background/space

This trans allegory portrays the everyday difficulties that trans and non-binary people face on a daily basis, from finding their identity to a lack of help. Thankfully, despite all the attempted attacks, the world is gradually becoming more accepting of trans people. Deltarune and Tell Me Why are just a few gaming examples that feature trans/non-binary protagonists who are presented as independent and strong, a proud depiction that LGBTQ+ individuals and allies can empathise with.  

Additionally, there are many charities at hand such as Mermaids and GLAAD specifically designed for reaching out to trans individuals with support and guidance. There is hope for the future that the tragic trans allegory from The Beginner’s Guide will soon be a thing of the past, and this Pride Month is a good opportunity to show support where possible. Even small actions like respecting one another’s pronouns and helping those dealing with dysphoria can go a long way to making the world a better place. 

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

Returning to the Office Post-COVID: Insight and Best Practice 

Any period of change can be a volatile time for those who suffer from mental ill health.

Two years ago, for many, that change was the switch to working from home full-time, which came with rising concerns about loneliness, work-life balance, among other things. Now, with many businesses returning to their offices, the opposite problem is presented: what can be done to support employees who have anxieties around returning to the workplace? 

Since the pandemic began, the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression has increased by 25%. Now more than ever, your employees may need support with their mental health and wellbeing. 

There are dozens of articles online telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing about returning to the office, and the advice is often conflicting. Ultimately, all people and teams are different so there’s no real cookie-cutter solution for how to approach office life post-Covid. The most important thing you can do as a leader is to speak to your team about how they’re feeling. What are their main concerns? Do they have any ideas for how the transition could be made easier? What did they think worked well with their homeworking setup that could be replicated in the office? 

One aspect to consider is illustrated in episode 3 of our Safe Space podcast, where Robin Gray of Gayming Magazine talks about how returning to an office environment can be difficult for some LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly those who are trans or gender nonconforming. Sometimes a person’s home office is a safer environment for them as they can be more authentically themselves. Taking some of the measures Robin discusses here may help to turn your office into a safer space. 

The UK-based employment advisory service, Acas, discusses the Health & Safety aspects of returning to work now that most, if not all, Covid-19 restrictions have ended. It would be a good time to make your employees aware that they can request reasonable adjustments, as well as helping them understand their rights in the workplace. 

It may be that working life never returns to what it was before Covid – and that might be a good thing. The University of Southampton did a study on what learnings could be taken from homeworking throughout the pandemic with a view of incorporating hybrid and flexible working patterns into the “new normal.” The University offers 10 steps for succeeding in hybrid working, including the need to engage with staff preferences, and thinking about offering flexibility with working hours, not only location. 

If you have any success stories or learnings from your experience of returning to the office, we would love to hear about them! Please get in touch with Sky Tunley-Stainton via sky@safeinourworld.com 

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day with Xbox Mental Health Best Practices for Developers

The team at Xbox Accessibility have just released their Mental Health Best Practices Guidelines as part of their accessibility resources, and we were excited to play a part in it.

The guidelines are aiming to educate developers on ways to create inclusive and safe experiences within their games for all players, by providing content warnings, content customization options, and avoiding the use of stereotyped or stigmatized representations of in-game characters with mental health conditions.

The guidelines are thorough, and contain support around the initial concepts and scoping of developing content that will elicit a challenging response in players, depict trauma, mental health conditions and behaviours.

They also discuss where mental health considerations can be important within game development and player experiences, and provide examples of ways this has been done well in other games. By highlighting the best practices that exist already within these spaces and uplifting and empowering developers into being more inclusive when portraying mental health within games, we can create safer experiences for everyone.

We’re excited to see a detailed resource aimed at game developers within mental health and are delighted to be involved in this project. Please check out the full guidelines here.

Skills utilised:
News

Existential Anxiety and how FFIX Helped Liam Wilson (Mental Health Month Podcast Special)

In this short series of stories as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Rosie talks to Liam Wilson from Sock Monkey Studios about his journey in mental health, and how supportive workplaces are foundational to supporting our teams and employees.

We also discuss the power of FFIX in Liam’s story and how a story arc within the game helped with his existential anxiety during a particularly difficult time in his life.

Listen to the episode here.

Skills utilised:
News

Free Mental Health First Aid for Community Managers Returns

It’s happening again in 2022!

After such a positive response to the mental health training provided to 200 Community Managers in 2021, we’re delighted to be re-opening the course to another 150 delegates. 50 of these delegates will be prioritised for our Level Up Partners.

The role of the Community Manager can seem limitless and, without clear frameworks and defined expectations, the internal and external demands can also be overwhelming. Managing online communities presents significant challenges that require a confident set of supportive peer skills.

Community Managers also need to know about the relevant professional resources available to them should they need to refer people onwards for support. Safe In Our World has developed a course, in conjunction with Mind Fitness, that will provide the knowledge, confidence and practical skills for delegates to be able to effectively set boundaries, provide non-clinical Mental Health Support and know how to take care of their own, and their community’s wellbeing.

This course assembles current best practice around Mental Health First Aid and applies these principles to the specific challenges that Community Managers have to cope with.

This course will be broken down into 4 individual sessions of 3 hours, each delivered over a 2 week period, with learning coursework between each session.

Download the full details of the course here.

Click here for the latest dates and courses

REGISTER YOUR INTEREST HERE

a desk with pc, monitor and games set up

Skills utilised:
News

How Experiencing Addiction Changed My Life with Grant Hill (Safe Space Podcast Season 1 Episode 20)

In the season 1 finale of the Safe Space Podcast, Rosie talks to Grant Hill, esports caster for Race to World First for Method and occasional streamer.

He’s previously delved into esports journalism, as well as casting for Starcraft II.

In this episode, we discuss Grant’s journey, including how he was introduced to Safe In Our World, and the recent Race to World First Tournament. Grant opens up about his struggles with addiction, and how it has affected his career and life over the years, including his recent overdose and subsequent path to recovery.

We also discuss the issues surrounding mental health within the esports realm, and how he thinks we could start to change the culture for the better.


Links

Grant’s Twitter

Race to World First

Method

Skills utilised:
News

Safe In Our World Welcomes New Staff and Trustees during Mental Health Awareness Month

This mental health awareness month, Safe In Our World announces a series of new initiatives and proud milestones to continue its charter of raising vital awareness for the charity and mental health during May for Mental Health Awareness Month.

This year’s theme of “Together for Mental Health” is one that rings loud and true within the games industry, known for bringing people together through the love of games and accepting communities of all types. 

Leading the way is the ‘Play Your Way’ Campaign, encouraging gamers to play the games that mean the most to them whilst raising funds for the charity’s future initiatives. Throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, Safe In Our World will be delivering talks, facilitating discussions and initiating conversations around mental health specifically within the industry.

Following the success and response to the delivery of mental health training to 200 Community Managers, Safe In Our World have committed to train 150 more by the end of 2022. This is just one of the many ways the charity is committing to make positive change within the industry.  Since the launch of the #LevelUpMentalHealth campaign in May 2020, the charity has united the industry with its drive for the removal of stigma around mental health and ensure gamers and teams can find the right support. Now over 100 of the biggest gaming companies have joined to forward the charity’s mission and ongoing activities.

Amidst such turbulent times globally Safe In Our World has taken a proactive approach to offer a Crisis Hub which offers targeted resources to support those affected by crisis.  It offers help, support and guidance to those affected during this difficult time.  The charity wishes to thank Embracer Group, Koch Media and Form for making this hub possible to those in need. 

“The world remains a tough place to be in, which speaks to the ongoing need of taking care of mental health needs,” said Leo Zullo, Safe In Our World Co-Founder & Chairperson. “Our industry continues to show its resilience, strength and support for those in need through our unified love of games and community, which is why Safe In Our World is growing and further aiding the industry, gamers and all those around. It has become even more important to maintain good mental health, and help those who need it. This year’s ‘together’ theme couldn’t be more indicative of our industry.”

Safe In Our World also announces the appointment of two new members of staff as it expands its actions and further commits to its global mission. Benn Wiebe joins as the Strategy and Corporate Partnerships Officer and comes with vast experience as a social impact strategist and TV producer who has lived across the United States, Denmark, and the UK.  Sky Tunley-Stainton takes the role of Partnerships and Training Officer who will focus on expanding the #LevelUpMentalHealth campaign to provide even greater support and training. 

There is a SIOW pink/red background with white text titling 'Welcome our new team members' There is a SIOW logo in the top right corner. There are two squares with photos of Benn and Sky above their names in white below. There is a #SafeInOurWorld and safeinourworld.org text at the bottom of the image.

Benn Wiebe and Sky Tunley Stainton join Safe In Our World as the newest Team members.

The charity is also pleased to announce and welcome the joining of four new Trustees; Suneet Sharma, a legal professional with experience working with the Associated Press, BBC and currently SEGA; Alex Boucher, Co-Founder of Game Dev Heroes and Analog fanzine; Ian Harman, an experienced chartered accountant and currently Finance Director at Beat Capital Partners; and Gem Abdeen, Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives at Media Molecule. The new Trustees will guide the charity’s output, help deliver the mission and leverage support from within the industry. 

There is a SIOW pink/red background with white text titling 'Welcome our new trustees' There is a SIOW logo in the top right corner. There are four rectangles with photos of each Trustee above their names in white below. There is a #SafeInOurWorld and safeinourworld.org text at the bottom of the image.

Alex Boucher, Suneet Sharma, Gem Abdeen and Ian Harman join the Safe In Our World Trustee Board.

Zullo further said, “We are proud to grow our charity with these new additions, who each bring their unique  perspective and experiences, while sharing the same passion and commitment of everyone, for raising mental health awareness in our industry. Together, we will continue to grow our charity and charter our programs to serve the needs of our global community.” 

According to the WHO, global suicide deaths amounted to over 700,000 in 2019 with men dying at about twice the rates among women. Research from the Wellcome Trust in 2020 shows across the world, 92% of people consider mental health as important or more important than physical health for overall well being, and around one in five people said that they had, at some point, experienced anxiety or depression. With those statistics in mind, coupled with the passion of all those involved, Safe In Our World continues its commitment to raise awareness and offer assistance to gamers and the industry alike. 

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

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

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

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

What is Safe In Our World working on?

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

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

How can I help?

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

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

Click here to download our assets pack for this initiative!

Fundraising Incentives

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

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

Skills utilised:
News

Hub World: Stress

We asked our wonderful community the ways that they handle stress, and we had a lot of responses!

We split them up into three key areas; how to manage stress, which games we use to de-stress, and how we support each other. Everyone handles stress in their own way, so we wanted to explore the vast number of ways we can practice self-care when our stress levels soar. Perhaps you might find a new strategy to try!

 

How do you manage your stress levels?

 

“As a completionist, having goals to work towards with clear steps helps me sort through internalised stress, such as things in real life becoming hectic and unplanned. Despite the occasional steep challenge, games with fun trophies and objectives offer a satisfying conclusion like checking off a to-do list.” – Ruby Modica

“When I feel really stressed I head off into a room alone and listen to some music. I find that music can change your mood so if you want to destress then listen to some chill music and beats.” – Derek

“I tend to use mindfulness techniques to assess stressful situations and act accordingly. It could be simply by using immediate stress busting methods like deep breathing, visualisation and grounding or just removing myself from the situation altogether to diffuse my mind with a distraction like…cleaning the kitchen!” – Sally Morgan-Moore

“I’ve been walking along the seafront listening to the sounds of the waves, and taking in the sea air. Just doing any of these, helps me manage my stress levels, keeping me relaxed.” – SithGamiing

“I manage stress levels by engaging whole-heartedly in my life outside of work. Putting in effort to make room for life outside of your work, even when it’s busy and stressful (believe me) is incredibly important.” – Adam Clarke

“I like having a plan and taking action with it. Without those two things, its easy to become overwhelmed, especially on “off” days. Knowing what I have control over and also the things I don’t have control over is key.” – Andrew Pappas

“I really try to take even 10 minutes outside a day, walking round the garden or just grounding myself and being in that moment. Something new I’m trying is if I know the cause of the stress, especially in work, I will set that task aside and go back to it.” – Charlotte Callister

“Writing things down helps a lot. If it’s workload related, I tend to note a list of things I’ve achieved during the day and not just what I’ve got left to do. This has helped hugely over the years. In general though, I just tend to talk to anyone who is willing to listen. They say a problem shared is a problem halved and I’ve found this to be the case over the years. Particularly during COVID times.” – Antonela Pounder

“We all have our own hobbies to lift our spirits and each one can help us de-stress. However, the most important thing is communication. If we tell our loved ones, family members or friends that we’re not feeling ok, they just might give us the support we need or the space to breathe. Talking and being as open as possible can also lift a weight off our shoulders. Speaking about troubles can be challenging, but it can also be the best thing for our mental health.” – Richard Breslin

“I manage my stress by doing things such as gaming, watching movies and tv shows, and going to watch the football, I make time to do these things to help manage my stress levels. I also journal which helps to control the stress.” – AntarcticNinja

 

What games do you use to de-stress?

 

“I avoid the games that I know will get me annoyed and opt for something more relaxing. I go for games such as Stardew Valley, for me games like that where I can build, create a garden. But games like House Flipper also, I find if they’re relaxing and cheerful – they can help de-stress you.” – SithGamiing

“Different types of stress require different games. Being overworked with deadlines requires simple ‘checklist’ goals (examples include open world objective markers like inFamous, or challenge map settings such as Hitman), whereas anxiety and discomfort leads towards gaming nostalgia such as retro/artistic games (examples include ICO, Metal Gear Solid 1, Half Life 2, Portal).” – Ruby Modica
“Simulation games always help me escape from life stresses. Call me biased but there’s no greater “zone out” for me than escaping into the Galaxy of Elite Dangerous to revisit past discoveries or look to seek new ones. The stillness of space! Can’t beat it.” – Sally Morgan-Moore

“If I’m feeling agitated and worked up, some brutal button bashing with some classic God of War or Devil May Cry might do the trick. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I might immerse myself in an expansive open world with plenty of fun side activities such as Yakuza. If I need to focus and be totally distracted, I might play Gran Turismo7 which would require my 100% attention without a second thought of anything else. Perhaps I just need to kick back and relax, which is why Unpacking is my perfect yen game. At the end of the day, we all come from diverse backgrounds and have different tastes. So, finding the kind of game that will benefit us most in our time of need can go a long way in relieving some stress to help lift our spirits.” – Richard Breslin

“Puzzle games, I love to take my mind away from the stresses by having to think about next moves in a game, really helps to change my thought patterns” – Tracy Clark

“Open world games are my go to a lot of the time. They’re so powerful in that they allow us to explore a world so vastly different to our own, with so much freedom. They provide an amazing distraction. For me, games like DEATH STRANDING and Horizon: Forbidden West help a lot to de-stress.” – Antonela Pounder

“To destress, I LOVE playing nonograms and logic games. I have dozens of nonogram apps on my phone and games like PictoPix on my computer. I also have some Minecraft servers that are available for some mindless tree chopping.” – Grace O’Malice

 

How do you support others during stressful times?

“I like to share mindfulness techniques I’ve picked up along the way as methods of stress management. Things like the STOP method or mindful breathing exercises to help people “in the moment” with stressful situations, or it could be something as simple as having a cup of tea and a chat to break things down and be a listening ear for them.” – Sally Morgan-Moore
“When friends are stressed out, it’s important to make a point that you can make time for them. Not just listening to them vent, but also suggesting spending time with them. Even small gestures like visiting them for an hour, going somewhere relaxing like a local park or cafe, or (with gamers) doing some casual multiplayer to suit their needs and take their minds off of the stressful triggers.” – Ruby Modica

“I reach out and suggest a break from what they are doing and have a coffee or chat over something that they really like.  Just to help them focus on something positive.” – Tracy Clark

“Listen to how they’re feeling, what they’re saying and what it is that’s making them feel stressed. Showing someone you’re there for them, if they need to talk – is one of the ways we can help others. But it’s important to note, we can’t force people to talk if they don’t want to. This will only make them feel more stressed, which will impact their mental health further.” – SithGamiing

“I usually send my friends so many memes or Tik Tok videos! I’m also really careful to let them know that I’m there to talk to, and thinking of them, but with no pressure for them to open up if they don’t want to.” – Charlotte Callister

“Offering them a distraction in some way, shape or form helps a lot. Whether this is grabbing a coffee with a friend / colleague, jumping on an online game together or just chatting on a call together. Something that gives others a brain break. In a workplace setting, 1 on 1 meetings are essential for checking in on the wellbeing of your staff. These check-ins give teams the opportunity to talk about anything and everything with someone in a position to potentially help. Just having someone ask you if you’re OK, can really help.” – Antonela Pounder

“To support other people when they’re stressed, I just try to be available. I know how incredibly relaxing it can be when someone lets you just vent for a moment, or even to just know they have someone who will always answer a text message or a phone call when they’re having a bad day.” – Grace O’Malice

Skills utilised:
News

Safe In Our World Launches Crisis Hub

We have launched our new Crisis Hub, aimed at offering more targeted resources and support to those affected by crisis.

We want to make it as easy as we can to signpost people to useful resources, charities, and even games that we think could be of use during this turbulent time. Click to visit any of the resources below. We’ll be continuing to grow the content within the hub to provide as much support for those in need as possible.

How to support yourself and others who are indirectly affected by conflict

Verifying information and limiting news time

Charities supporting those affected by war

Safe in your virtual world: using video games as a healthy break from the news

Dealing with grief – advice and video games that explore themes of grief

How to talk to children during crisis

Crisis Support Lines for those dealing with war

Recognising PTSD

and PTSD Awareness – how to support yourself and others, information and signs

We’re incredibly grateful to Embracer, Koch Media and Form for supporting the creation of the Hub

Skills utilised:
Crisis Hub

Crisis Support Lines for people struggling with war

The events in Ukraine are deeply saddening and distressing. If you are currently in Ukraine, or know someone who is, please make sure they are aware of the following contact details for support around the clock.

 

Emergency Services

Call: 112

112 is the universal emergency number in all 27 EU member states, as well as other European countries. This number can be accessed by landline or mobile to reach the fire brigade, medical assistance and/or the police.

 

Lifeline Ukraine

Call: 7333

Website: https://lifelineukraine.com/

While originally established as a mental health support line for Ukraine Armed Forces veterans, Lifeline Ukraine is offering help to anyone in the country who needs it right now.

The Red Cross

The Ukrainian Red Cross Society

Call: 0800 331 800

Website: https://redcross.org.ua/

The Ukrainian Red Cross Society can be contacted from anywhere within the country for on-the-ground assistance – including, but not limited to: medical items, shelter material and essential deliveries.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

The ICRC is working to deliver urgent medical items to Kyiv hospitals, as well as food, water, and other essential items to the areas affected most. The ICRC can be contacted in the following locations 24/7.

 

Kyiv: 0800 300 155

Slavyansk: 0800 300 115

Severodonetsk: 0800 300 125

Mariupol: 0800 300 165

Donetsk: 0800 300 185

Luhansk: 0800 300 195

 

Migration Support

Safety advice for those leaving Ukraine is provided by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), with hotlines available for a number of countries listed on the IOM website here.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides additional safety advice for those remaining in Ukraine and for those leaving – linked above and here.

 

Parental support for children

The Global Protection Cluster provides a help sheet for supporting children during bombing here.

 

Guidance and resources UK

The following resources can be access via the UK government website:

 

* (or call 0808 164 8810 free 24/7 from anywhere in the UK)

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Verifying Information and Limiting News Time

How to make sure you’re getting the truth without overburdening yourself with difficult or even false information.

Whether it’s the conflict in Ukraine, the continuing concerns about Covid-19 or the accumulative factors in the rising cost of living, it can important to keep yourself informed of the latest developments. However, with so much information, and the rise in misinformation, particularly online, if can be difficult to know what to believe. Such is the wealth of often contrasting or even contradictory reports, it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious as a result but there are a few steps you can take to help put your mind at ease.

Photo by Adrienne Surprenant/MYOP: Poland and Ukraine refugees. Courtesy of DEC

We may all have our preferred and trusted sources of news, whether that’s the BBC or our daily newspaper (and/or its website and social media feeds), but even those aren’t always a guarantee that the information you take away from a news story is entirely accurate – or at least a fair reflection of your own situation within the unfolding events. The likes of the British Red Cross have posted articles looking at the effects of news on vaccine hesitancy for Covid-19 and the same theories can be applied to other crisis scenarios.

Asking Questions

Of course, the likes of social media provide a platform for all voices to present themselves in your news feed, some of which are actively pursuing false, or at best controversial, narratives for personal or financial gain. To filter the good from the not-so-good, it can help you to process their intentions by keeping a number of simple questions in mind. One of the more obvious starting points is to consider the source of the article.

As mentioned, you may have your own trusted news outlets but you’ll find links to numerous other websites proclaiming to have the inside scoop on the latest developments. The first step is to evaluate the intentions or assumed neutrality of the source. Is it a nationally-recognised outlet with a clear history of quality news coverage? Does there seem to be a certain bias or agenda at play (both in the article and from the outlet as a whole)? The same questions can be applied to the author if a byline is given, while it’s also worth checking the date as old posts are often regurgitated as breaking ‘news’ simply to generate extra clicks.

You can also relate the same thinking to the people or experts quoted in the article. Are they a known and reliable source (such as those mentioned in our charities and crisis support articles)? For example, when it comes to Covid, a quote from some directly involved with the NHS or World Health Organisation may carry more authority than a general soundbite from a largely unknown or vaguely attributed source – such as someone just described as a doctor or ‘an expert’ rather than being given a specific job title or linked to a known organisation.

Many people claiming to be political experts or even doctors won’t have the same qualifications or experience as those they claim to know better than, so you might want to do a little research into those quoted. Were they working in related fields before this situation arose? Do they have a job title or a biography that supports their given field of expertise? Could they simply be seeking to raise their own personal profile by saying something outlandish? If you’re still not sure, you might want to check if their comments are reflected by more familiar expert figures or official organisations.

Photo by Polish Red Cross: ICRC teams deliver 16,200 litres of potable water to Olenovka village in Donbas on February 25. Courtesy of DEC.

Of course, online it’s even easier for such information to be faked, so just be on the lookout for newly-created accounts or bots that repeat the same kind of content. You should also be wary of those looking to mimic or replicate the appearance of official organisations such the NHS or Red Cross, by using similar logos, fonts or web addresses – even pretending to be connected to such an organisation, but if you hover your cursor over a weblink you’ll see it redirects you somewhere completely different.

In short, don’t be afraid to ask questions and to doubt even your most trusted sources. Mainstream outlets are not immune to misinformation, or may have a story that presents a certain narrative but the information inside it might include contrasting expert analysis. Be sure to draw your own conclusions from the full article, rather than making quick assumptions based on the headline or a soundbite shared on Facebook or Twitter. You can also use resources such as the BBC’s Reality Check or Full Fact to help point out the half-truths and false narratives.

Limiting Your Exposure

With so much information, and misinformation, out there it can feel overwhelming at times, so do allow yourself some breathing room by taking a break from it all. Even small steps such as disabling videos from auto-playing potentially distressing footage as you scroll down can help. While it’s good to be informed, there’s also such a thing as too much information, and taking some time out to let your brain absorb and process the latest events can be far more productive than endlessly scrolling through a blur of social media posts. Maybe there’s a game or three you can happily distract yourself with for a few hours!

If you can, talk to friends, family or someone you can trust to have an open conversation with. The chances are they’ll have been looking at the same stories as you have and share many of the same fears or questions, so being able to talk things through can help both of you to further understand some of the more complex issues. Ideally it should also give you a little more reassurance about what might be true and what might be rather more contentious – and maybe give you a few new leads on where to find the right/best information.

Photo by World Vision: Romanian firefighters helping Ukrainians on the border with Romania called Vama siret. Courtesy of DEC.

Despite those on social media loudly proclaiming the opposite, when it comes to staying on top of ongoing crisis events, accept that you can’t be an expert on everything. Instead, be happy that you’re able to stay well-informed with key information from trusted sources. There may well be several sides to any given story, and there’s merit in having at least an appreciation of all of them, but take care to check statements against facts, and that those making them have the creditability and authority to be trusted. Facebook shouldn’t always be taken at face value…

No-one can avoid being distracted by misinformation all the time, but by asking the right questions and being honest with yourself that the answers might not always suit what you want to hear, you should be able to analyse things with a greater confidence. Just don’t forget to give your mind a breather from time to time to let your brain process everything and allow yourself some stress-free ‘me’ time!

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Crisis Hub

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