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Autistica, Mass Effect & EDI with Dom Shaw (Safe Space Podcast Season 1 Episode 8)

On this episode of Safe Space we welcome Dominic Shaw from UKIE’s #RaiseTheGame pledge as our latest guest.

In this episode we talk about Dom’s life; from games he enjoyed growing up through to the games industry introduction and eventually him settling into UKIE. We also go into depth about LGBTQ+, autism, dyslexia and support within the industry, as well as the journey he took to get where he is today. Dom also talks about his work with Autistica Play.

As always, we grill our lovely guest on his all-time favourite games, and talk about Dom’s love for the Mass Effect series and how he used to skip school just to experience BioWare’s ever-growing Universe. We also go into depth about the impact that video games had in Dom’s life.

You can find Dom here on Twitter.

Follow the Safe In Our World Podcast here on Twitter for clips, updates and guest interactions!

Skills utilised:
News

Safe In Our World & Ukie Discuss Imposter Syndrome In Games – 29th April

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

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

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

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


Shahid Ahmad

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

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


Dr. Amiad Fredman

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

Antonela Pounder

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


Suneet Sharma

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


Chair: Gina Jackson OBE 

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


 

Skills utilised:
News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out Making Games

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

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

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

Resources for LGBTQ+ Mental Health

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

A note for allies and parents

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

 

RESOURCES:

Albert Kennedy Trust

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

LGBT Foundation

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

London Friend

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

MindOut

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

TransUnite

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

Trevor Project

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

Stonewall’s Information

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

 

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


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

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

Skills utilised:
News

LevelUpMentalHealth: How a Supportive Work Place Helped Me Overcome My Mental Health Challenges by George Osborn

When you’re having a problem with your mental health, having a workplace that understands what you’re going through makes a world of difference to how you overcome it.

I learned this the easy way, fortunately, when I joined Ukie. I know that in terms of my public persona it’s reasonable to say that I project a certain amount of confidence, of happiness, optimism and care for others – especially in work situations.

But when I joined Ukie as their Head of Communications last year, my mental wellbeing felt far away from the outward contentment that I was projecting.

Last July, my life briefly broke apart. A long term relationship ended; I moved to London to live by myself for the first time; I then started a fantastic, but high pressure, job while I simultaneously wound down my business.

It was, in truth, a bit much. But initially, I didn’t engage with how I was feeling mentally. I constructed some defence mechanisms to keep me going in the short term. I then studiously ignored what felt like a burgeoning spot of darkness hovering just over my shoulder for as long as humanly possible in the hope it’d just go away.

By September, though, it wasn’t possible any more. A hard-working August (as all are in the games industry) and a fairly hard partying one had not washed away my feelings. Instead, I was increasingly weighed down each morning as I dealt with feelings of sadness, guilt and anxiety.

It prompted me to go and seek private help from a therapist. It’s something I’ve done before and found great value in. After all, if you’ll go see a doctor because you’re feeling physically unwell then it makes perfect sense to talk to a therapist to bring some clarity to your state of mind. Straight forward enough, I think.

Previously though, I had been able to see a therapist completely on my own time. I was self-employed on the last occasion I sought help, which meant that I could simply pick a time during the day and build my work around it.

Having just started a ‘nine to five’, I worried I might not be able to do something similar. I was concerned I would either not be able to get the help I needed at all (work comes first etc) or that I would have to cram it in around the working day in an uncomfortable way.

That’s where having a workplace with a culture of understanding mental health issues worked so well for me. I chatted with my boss extensively about my life circumstances and took the opportunity to tell her how I was feeling. I then asked if I could, quietly, book out an hour from 9-10 on a week day to have my sessions, mark it as private time and remove it when I felt ready to.

She agreed on the spot. With that came such a wave of relief. This wasn’t just caused by the fact that I could get the help I needed to at the time. It was also caused by the feeling that I was working in an environment where my mental well-being was catered for and where something sensitive to me would be managed humanely.

In the end, the arrangement didn’t last very long. The fact that I had been to therapy before, felt ready to talk and, fortunately, spoke with someone I clicked with meant I was able to come out the other side of it in three months.

However, it wasn’t the length of the experience that mattered to me. Instead, what mattered to me was that I felt I had room to deal with my mental health issues without feeling like it affected anyone’s perception of me. I was still George, I was just handling some personal stuff.

Since then, I’ve had the best working year of my life. It hasn’t been easy – it never is, unfortunately – but I’ve been able to work on a number of major campaigns and initiatives that have made a difference (including to other people’s mental health.) And I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without the support I received when I needed it.

So, when you’re thinking about how you can make your workplace as welcoming as possible, always, ALWAYS think about what you can do to foster an environment where someone feels able to talk about – and take actions to improve – their mental health.

A small act of kindness from a thoughtful boss made one of the toughest years of my life much more bearable. If you can make where you work similarly kind, I encourage you wholeheartedly to do so.

Ukie has signed up as a partner to Safe in Our World’s #LevelUpMentalHealth pledge to create workplaces with an environment that is safe and supportive for their team’s mental health. You can sign up your business here: https://safeinourworld.org/level-up/

Skills utilised:
Stories

Safe In Our World Launches #LevelUpMentalHealth

Today we announced the #LevelUpMentalHealth global campaign, with support from major game companies across the videogames industry. The campaign is the latest initiative as Safe In Our World continues to roll out dedicated efforts to rally the industry to support those affected by mental health ailments.

The #LevelUpMentalHealth campaign seeks to challenge the videogames industry to unite and commit to positive change, starting with workplaces, ensuring working environments are always safe and supportive of the mental health of its talent.

Visit https://safeinourworld.org/level-up/ to learn more.

As part of the initiative, Safe in our World has co-created an employer’s mental health toolkit, giving guidance and empowering developers, publishers, and service providers to place positive mental health at the forefront of their plans.

Gaming companies and notables from around the world have continued to join  Safe In Our World in its mission, and today the charity announced the latest partners, consisting of leading game publishers, developers and service providers committed to the cause.

The #LevelUpMentalHealth campaign challenges are:

  • Commit to taking the first steps in rolling out a mental health policy in the next 12 months
  • Join Safe in our World as a partner and commit to supporting mental health within the videogames industry
  • Help spread the message to creators and players by sharing messaging and signposting inside the workplace and externally to players via media channels.

Safe In Our World is delighted to welcome 505 Games, Auroch Digital,  Caged Element, Camel 101, Curve Digital, Embracer Group, Explosive Alan, Fanatical, Genba Digital, Heaven Media, Honest PR, Koeken Interactive, LKA, Mediatonic, NeoHype, NextGen Skills Academy, One PR Studio, OPM Jobs, Outright Games, Polystream, PressEngine, Rethink Mental Health, Renaissance PR, Ripstone games, Sheridans, Sold Out, Take This, UberStrategist, UKIE, Wired Productions and more!

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

Games industry unites to offer thousands of free games to NHS workers

Ukie has teamed up with influencer marketing solution, Keymailer, and developers and publishers from around the world to offer free games to NHS workers.

The Games For Carers initiative allows NHS workers access to a game or game subscription as a thank you for all the work they are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope is that the games can provide some much needed escapism and stress relief for workers and their families. Amongst the many developers and publishers on board with the initiative are Bethesda, Sega, Curve Digital, Jagex, Konami, THQ Nordic and Xbox Game Studios. 

Dr Jo Twist, Ukie CEO and Safe In Our World Patron, said of the initiative:

“The UK games industry has been proud to play its part in conveying these vital public health messages during this national emergency. Now our community has united again to say thank you to the truly extraordinary people who make up the NHS frontline team. Games companies of all sizes and players everywhere recognise their exceptional dedication and hope this initiative goes some way to help them understand how respected and valued they are.” 

If you work for the NHS and want to claim a free game, you can find out more here.

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, News

GamesAid Mental Health Jam

GamesAid Mental Health Jam is launching 17th February 2020,  all aimed at driving awareness and helping support people with mental health problems.

In the last couple of years, awareness of mental health has been increased. However, there’s still lots of work to do. In the workplace, mental health illnesses still not recognized the same as physical illnesses and the talk is still difficult for many people. With this game jam, the teams want to keep the conversation and encourage games around this important topic. Which we think is fantastic!

Anyone can enter the Game Jam and there is no specific theme; it’s all just to raise awareness and help those who struggle with mental health problems! If you don’t wish to join the Game Jam that you can still help by spreading awareness of its existence with the hashtag #GamesAidMHJam.
If you wish to get involved you can do so HERE.

 

Skills utilised:
News

UK Games industry census reveals 31% of the UK workforce suffer with anxiety or depression

A survey conducted by UKIE, the UK’s trade body for videogames and creative industries has discovered that 31 percent of respondents have suffered with anxiety, depression, or both. In the largest survey of its kind, these responses are a eye-opener to the scale of the issue within the games industry development community within the UK.

At nearly double the national UK average, this is something we need to change.

When compared nationally within the UK, these rates are nearly double the average rates of reported depression or anxiety, of 17 percent.

Other significant findings suggest that the games industry in the UK employs three to four times the number of autistic adults when compared with other employment sectors.

As an industry, we have an obligation to protect and nurture our staff, and while the report doesn’t go into detail on the root causes of depression or anxiety, it does recognise the sale of the issue at hand. As part of Safe in our World’s mission, we as a charity will continue to work closely with UKIE and others within the industry to raise awareness and affect positive change.

Over the coming months and years, we’ll be launching a number of initiatives with employers, employees and players, targeted to identify and ease the burden of depression and anxiety for our creators, and for our players.

Skills utilised:
News

Ukie Launches Get smart about P.L.A.Y. – Essential tools for parents

Rio Ferdinand, former Premier League and England footballer has joined forces with the UK Interactive Entertainment Association (Ukie) to launch the Get Smart About P.L.A.Y campaign, encouraging more parents and carers to use tools that manage screen time and in-game purchases on video game consoles.

The campaign follows a recent report from Europe’s video game industry body which found that only one in five parents of children who spend money in video games use the family controls available on gaming devices. This is backed up by a 2019 NSPCC study that revealed just 19% of parents of children aged 5-15 use family controls on internet-connected devices.

Playing games is brilliant fun  for gamers of all ages. For younger gamers, time spent playing games is often a highlight, but parents should be encouraged to play along with their children, and with this in mind, the campaign is designed with some key pillars:

Get Smart About P.L.A.Y.

  • PPlay with your kids. Understand what they play and why.
  • LLearn about family controls. Visit www.askaboutgames.com for simple guides.
  • AAsk what your kids think. Discuss ground rules before setting restrictions.
  • Y You’re in charge. Set restrictions that work for your family.

Rio said, “My kids love playing video games but as a parent it is important for me to be able to manage the amount of time they play,” said Rio Ferdinand. “Family controls can help achieve a balance at home between screen time and other activities. They’re easy to use and save a lot of arguments in the long run.”

Jo Twist, OBE, CEO of Ukie added, “These controls can effectively help manage screen time and age-appropriate play even when you’re not in the room. It doesn’t take long to set up the controls and it means families can enjoy games together safely. If a child was given a bike at Christmas, we would expect them to also be given stabilisers – family controls are really no different.”

If you’d like to know more, head over to askaboutgames, where you can find useful videos on how to implement family controls or follow the tag #PLAYtogetherUK on twitter.

Skills utilised:
News

SIOW Joins Ukie

Today Ukie revealed that Safe In Our World has joined as a member. We’re delighted and grateful for the support UKIE has offered us, and the opportunities this will offer for us to contribute to their initiatives, and the extended reach our messages will have.

Founded in 1989, Ukie is the only trade body for the UK’s wider interactive entertainment industry. Ukie exist to champion the interests, needs and positive image of the video games and interactive entertainment industry whose companies make up their membership.

Skills utilised:
News

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