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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

How Minecraft Helped Me to Combat Loneliness by Sky Tunley-Stainton

It was Christmas Day and I was 6,000km away from my partner and family. I loved my job and had made good friends while abroad, but it was very isolating to be away from my loved ones at a time that was so built around routine and togetherness.

I got a message from my partner to join our Minecraft server. We’d been spending time on the server together from afar, so I was excited to be able to see him and hang out for a little while. What I found when I logged in is honestly still to this day one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.

2 minecraft characters sit on a sofa together

In front of me, in the center of our base, was an enormous spruce tree covered in coloured glass blocks and light sources. We weren’t far along on the server at the time, so it must have been pretty difficult to create something on that scale. Beneath the tree were several chests (which were, of course, re-skinned as gifts for the season as always) and an enormous gift made of wool blocks. My Christmas gift that year was a set of fully enchanted diamond armour and tools, and inside the wool gift were two Minecraft cats for me to tame and keep.

If anyone’s ever drawn a picture for you, written a poem, or produced anything creative for you, you’ll know how this gesture made me feel. Even years later it’s a memory I treasure and helped form my belief that games are so powerful when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships.

Last year, on our anniversary, it was my partner’s turn to be away for work. Each November we would usually watch a fireworks display together, but with him away in Scotland – and with Covid restrictions still in place – this was not going to be possible. Inspired by his thoughtfulness in previous years, I spent hours in Minecraft working out how to craft all the different types of firework rocket and setting up a (very rudimentary) redstone fireworks display. We logged in and, as the Minecraft sun set, we were able to watch the fireworks together as we always did.

This isn’t something unique to me, either: the game has been used for people all over the world to stay connected during what was perhaps the most isolating time of all of our lives. For just one other of many examples, The Warren Project ran a Minecraft server to connect young people during lockdown, helping them maintain friendships, and make new ones, from afar.

At some of my loneliest moments, Minecraft has helped me connect and share experiences, proving that games can be vital in the fight against loneliness.

Words by Sky Tunley-Stainton

Skills utilised:
News, Stories

From a Game of Minecraft to a Best Man’s Speech with Alex King (Mental Health Month Podcast Special)

In this special episode of the Safe Space Podcast for Mental Health Awareness Month, Rosie talks to Alex King, Community Manager from Ripstone.

Alex and Rosie discuss the power of games communities, and in particular how Alex found his friendship group of 12 years through Minecraft.

There is also a wasp related incident that occurs mid-recording so, um enjoy? Rosie was very frightened.

Links

Alex’s Twitter

Ripstone – Alex’s Story

Skills utilised:
News

Safe in your Virtual World: Using videogames as a healthy mental break from the news

Booting up your favourite game can prove a welcome respite from stressful events and give your brain a chance to relax a little.

It should come as little surprise that Safe in our World would happily support the use of videogames as a means to address your ongoing mental health wellbeing, be it in a time of crisis or just for your day-to-day troubles. Of course, gaming isn’t going to be a solution to those problems, but it does offer a place where you can leave your stresses and strains behind you for those moments after you hit the Start button.

There are plenty of obvious contenders for the kind of games you could be playing, and a quick Google search using terms such as ‘relaxing’ or ‘stress-relieving’ will throw up far more suggestions than we could possibly list here. However, there’s no real one-fit solution, as it’s all about finding a restful place in whatever kind of videogame you like – whether that’s Minecraft, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Unpacking or Grand Theft Auto.

Of course, in times of conflict it might be wise to avoid the potential triggers of violent videogames, or those with a war theme. However, at the same time, if immersing yourself in the vast lands of Elden Ring provides a welcome refuge then by all means embrace it. Likewise, you can find games such as Valiant Hearts: The Great War, that provides a rather less-violent take on World War I, that can help you to appreciate the situation while playing more as a passive passer-by.

There can also be something satisfyingly cathartic in letting off some steam against 2D and 3D sprites in an FPS, so if the challenge of Call of Duty or the silliness of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands helps to calm your mind, then stick with it. Indeed, we’ve got a whole article explaining how stress-inducing games can also be relaxing.

Whatever your game of choice may be, perhaps gaming’s greatest ability is the power to remove you from the real world, and drop you in a virtual one where you can have full control over your actions. While situations such as Covid-19, Ukraine and so on might lead to an apprehension and anxiety that you may feel is beyond your capacity to have any kind of directly meaningful impact upon, in a videogame you have the ability to identify and address all problems head-on, and, for the most part, have the knowledge and tools to fix them.

Good examples of this would include open-world or creative-based games, such as the aforementioned Minecraft and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or No Man’s Sky, Stardew Valley and Cities Skylines. These are games that use a fixed system of relatively simple rules (well, simple once you know how!), which means that you can unwind within a virtual world that you can expand and develop completely within your control and at your own pace. You don’t even need to play them through to completion, as creating new worlds, adventures or cities simply resets the rule book back to square one and you can play the game through to different results but with the same comforting degree of control that can make hours pass like minutes.

The point is that while you can still have a lot of fun playing these games, you don’t have to think too hard about what you’re doing or worry too much about the consequences, giving your mind a healthy time-out from reality. It’s not really a case of ‘switching off’; it’s more about shifting your attention into a scenario that you can have control over, and one that has far less serious implications if something does go awry – and if it does, you have the power to make things better or just hit the ‘restart’ button.

Another side-effect of this is that your gaming routine can also bleed into the real world. Although the media (and social media) can make it hard to fully escape newsworthy events, gaming has a habit of working its way into your day-to-day thoughts. The freedom that videogames can provide comes with that ‘what do I do next?’ or ‘how do I do this?’ factor that can have you mulling over potential ideas while at work or flicking through the internet, with almost no end of YouTube videos and feature articles that will be only too keen to offer up suggestions or ways to fine-tune your latest creation.

You may already have your favourite go-to game for when you just need a little ‘me’ time, but sometimes just the simple act of picking up a controller/mouse/phone and letting your mind drift into just about any kind of alternate reality can deliver a much-needed respite. Whether you like solving puzzles, matching shapes, crafting worlds, slaying dragons, racing cars, shooting aliens, managing a football team or just guessing a five-letter word once a day, a little gaming break can prove a very useful mental one as well.

And if you do need a few more ideas for games to try out, other titles nominated by our friends and contributors that we haven’t already mentioned include: Alba, Cosy Grove, Lego Star Wars, It Takes Two, Snowrunner, Untitled Goose Game, Valheim and more. That should be enough to keep your mind busy for a little while!

Skills utilised:
Crisis Hub

Bump Galaxy: The Minecraft Server For Self Healing

We spoke to Bianca Carague, Social Designer & Researcher and creator of Bump Galaxy, a Minecraft Server built to support your mental health through the power of virtual spaces. 

What was the inspiration behind Bump Galaxy, and why did you decide on Minecraft as the medium to deliver it in? 

When I first started playing Minecraft, I was struck by the exploitative mechanisms behind most video games. I feel differently about it now, but at the time, it wasn’t intuitive for me to chop trees and turn cows into beef. When I first spawned in a forest in Minecraft, all ll I wanted to do was pet the fox before me. I was shocked to find that all I could do was kill it. I think that the way we’re taught to play has a lot to do with how we interact with one another in the physical world. I wondered if I could create my own alternate reality within Minecraft’s neoliberal worldmaking system that actually aligned with my values.

Bump Galaxy really just started out as an experiment. I use to practice Reiki (energy healing, for those that aren’t familiar) and tried doing sessions in a smaller Minecraft server called Portal’s Temple. I didn’t have a physical space to do it and lots of healers do it via distance anyway so I thought doing Reiki in a floating temple in the sky overlooking a lake and forest might be a more intimate way to do virtual care.

At some point before the COVID-19 pandemic, I connected with several different care practitioners (counselors, drama therapists, haptotherapists, etc.) who expressed the need to migrate their practices online. They were actively seeking ways to virtualize their practice but didn’t know how. I invited a few of them to visit the server and we grew it into what’s now Bump Galaxy that could accommodate more people and other forms of care. It was really more a matter of small, incremental insights rather than one big burst of inspiration.

I built Bump Galaxy on Minecraft simply because it’s the game that sparked my interest in game mechanics. In hindsight though, I’m glad that I built it there because it was really the quickest, cheapest and most accessible way to prototype and validate different game world therapies.


Would you tell us a little about the different areas within Bump Galaxy and their purposes?

Bump Galaxy has several shared landscapes designed for different types of care, from a meditation forest to an underwater temple designed for hypnotic visualizations. I call them Care Commons. New ones are created all the time, as I meet new people online who would like to collaborate and share their unique experiences in personal development, but I’ll mention a few:

The Meditation Forest is for breathing exercises and meditations that help with relaxation. Here, players can plant a tree, meditate until it grows and leave a message next to it for someone else to read. As people do this, the forest grows into a living, growing monument of the community’s collective wellbeing.

The Sand Dune Dreamscape is, as the name suggests, sand dunes where players can access guided meditations that help them reflect on their dreams and how they can use these insights to grow in their waking lives. It’s about helping people make sense of their dreams for themselves and build their intuitive muscles.

The Snowfield of (Self) Love is a place where players can reflect on and discuss love and relationships.

The Underwater Temple is about diving deep into oneself in order to heal. It’s also about visualizing joyful moments in times of despair.

In these Care Commons, players can engage independently, with friends or with mental health professionals for more formal therapy sessions. They can build on the landscape using resources they get from engaging in the world so that as the community grows, so does the landscape.


You’ve mentioned the use of live events within the server – tell us a bit more about how they work and what they consist of! 

We’ve had events such as a live virtual sound bath and guided meditation in our Symbiotic Jungle called ‘Mycelium to Dry Your Tears’. In an event like this, we would have a DJ or sound artist on the decks, high above a river. Floating just on the water is a meditation floor where the participants gather for the guided meditation. The meditation is about reflecting on our relationships beyond ourselves — with our environment and each other — on ecological solidarity. The meditation is then followed by some journaling, building on the landscape and overall good times.


Do you think this sort of idea could be replicated across other games? 

Definitely. The way I see it, there are so many tools and platforms that already exist. It’s just a matter of exploring new ways of using them.


We’re passionate about games that can do good, especially within the realms of mental health. How have you used real-life applications from mental health support services to embed within the game, and how important do you think that the elements of the game are in portraying to people who may not have had this type of experience before? 

In Bump Galaxy, we have a floating island that we use specifically for Drama Therapy. There, we’ve had workshops wherein a drama therapist would guide participants through using roleplay and improv as a means for social support. It’s difficult to organize these kinds of activities when people can’t go out, but we can do it in a game, even with people from other parts of the world. This type of social support is not only fun and interactive but surprisingly enlightening. It’s especially great for participants that wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable trying it in person.

As for other Care Commons, the inspiration for the mechanics come from activities that I or visitors of Bump Galaxy have found helpful in real life. We turn these physical experiences and techniques into rituals that can be done in the game. In a virtual world, players are cognitively predisposed to (make) believe, much like when watching a play. The beauty of game world therapy is that it’s more engaging than other forms of virtual care.


Bump Galaxy Instagram

Bump Galaxy Website

Bump Galaxy Twitch

Skills utilised:
News

Safer Together: Mental Health Month Fundraiser & Save The Dates

Safer Together is around the corner, so here is some useful infomation about what we’re up to for Mental Health Month.

ABOUT SAFER TOGETHER

This Mental Health Month we’re encouraging everyone to talk. Whether it’s to a friend, colleague, or a professional, talking is the first step to getting support, and we believe we’re safer together. 

We launched our first public Discord server: Safer Together, with the purpose of providing a public platform for gamers and industry folk to connect, find players for multiplayer games, discuss games, and be a safe community for all to talk or find resources. 

The Safer Together Fundraiser is looking to raise money for our future initiatives, invest in the evolution of the charity and will allow us to continue in our mission.

We are aiming to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health within the video games industry and its communities, so that every player and employee feels safe to reach out for help. 

The fundraiser will span the whole month of May, with Safe In Our World All-Star Community streams every day from the 1st – 7th May.


USEFUL LINKS & HEADLINES

Imposter Syndrome Panel in partnership with Ukie: On the 29th April at 4pm BST, we will be chatting with a wonderful panel about imposter syndrome and the effect it has on our mental health across the games industry. Tickets are *free* and you can grab one here.

Now available to watch here

Fundraiser Page:

Whether you’re looking to donate, support others or fundraise yourself – the fundraising page is where all the action will be across May.

For those fundraising for us, we’ve created some pretty fancy Safe In Our World limited edition merchandise that you’ll be sent if you hit fundraising milestones, including a 2021 #SaferTogether Pin Badge, Safe In Our World facemask/bandana and Safe In Our World Resuable Coffee Cup!


Safe In Our World Community Streams: Play With Safe

For the first week of May, we’ll be celebrating our community, and the power of social games, by having 7 days of Safe In Our World Streams! Kicking things off on Saturday 1st May with a custom lobby of Fall Guys hosted by Hannah Rutherford, followed by Mariokart chaos on Sunday with Gamebyte over on their Facebook page.

Monday is going to be back to Gamebyte for a wholesome stream on Animal Crossing Islands, and it’s to No Man’s Sky on Tuesday with our friends at Wired Productions.

Curve Digital and friends will be hosting a Human Fall Flat stream on Wednesday over on their Steam page, and we’ll be building what makes us happy in Minecraft on Thursday.

Finally, to tie up the week, Hannah will be hosting Among Us with the Safe In Our World community, which you will not want to miss!


For the remainder of May we’ll be looking to share and continue to spread the message that we are #SaferTogether and will continue to rally for mental health to be normalised within general discussion.

There will be giveaways, there will be freebies, and there will be multiplayer mischief.

Skills utilised:
News

I met my partner on Minecraft and changed my life! – By Jake Smith

At the age of 12 I remember being on a football field and having this nagging in my head, I was clueless to what it was, it would just scream at me, I kept it secret. It was the early 2000’s and no one talked about mental health. 3 years later it got too much, I broke down to my parents and we arranged some help via a school councillor where we discovered I had OCD intrusive thoughts. I tried my hardest to get help, nothing really calmed it down. But I never let it stop me from getting my GCSE’s and stopping my original dream of becoming an animal keeper. In fact, it fueled it more.

Moving into College was difficult to adapt and deal with the intrusive thoughts. Sadly in college, I then developed hygiene OCD and feared being ill or killing people by not doing certain actions. It got out of control, I’d be hours late to lectures due to showering for hours. The college was on my back about attendance at the time, I tried explaining but nothing happened, I carried on and I had a little help from friends but honestly, I was really struggling. I also knew this wasn’t going to define me, this was not going to stop me from achieving my dreams. I ran into many situations where people just said no, they didn’t want to know because of my issues, or I was told I should quit and go home, but I kept fighting. In the end, I passed the course, out of so much fighting I won and went on to seek the next challenge. And yes, I got to work with animals. Which yes, was amazing!

My story doesn’t end there, however. Like many who suffer from mental health conditions, things didn’t get fixed overnight.

In the years that followed bad things were happening in the background all the time. I turned to Minecraft in the evenings and escaped. I met another gamer, we got on really well and seemed to just connect. I was getting more ill, and turning to my new friends on a Minecraft server to escape. My friend that I met online was there for me like I’ve never had someone be before. Life felt better. And, like all true rom-coms, we fell in love.


7 years later I have a lovely family and my mental health issues are a lot easier to deal with. They’re still there. But I’m learning ways to cope and sure, my story is a lot longer than this, there are sadly a lot of moments that things went against me and constant obstacles have tried to shut me down. The thing that pushes me is that I will not let the illness define me, I will not let it stop me from living my life to the best I can do and getting where I want to be. While many others may have worse or easier experiences, I truly believe if we have a goal, we must keep that goal in mind and find ways to get through it whether it be counselling, therapy, seeking help from loved ones, family or friends.


We can do this, we can fight and we can win. There is help out there. I will never give up fighting for the rights of the mentally ill, that is also my ultimate goal, I want the world to see us equally, I don’t want people going through hell to get what they want and I will forever fight for that.

And when I’m not fighting, yep, I’m still on Minecraft.

Skills utilised:
Stories

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