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Gina Jackson OBE Joins Safe In Our World As New CEO

We are pleased to announce Dr. Gina Jackson OBE has joined the charity as CEO.

Dr. Gina Jackson OBE is a Video Games Industry pioneer, becoming an OBE in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours, she was a recent recipient of the MCV/Develop Women in Games award for her outstanding contribution. Gina began her career in games development in 1992 and has worked for developers, publishers, and distributors covering console, PC, and mobile games. Most recently Development Director at Sold Out, Gina will continue her association with GamesAid, stepping down as Vice-Chair but continuing as a trustee, she remains on the board at NextGen Skills Academy, Visiting Professor in Games Industry and Business at Norwich University of the Arts and acts as an advisor to several games developers.

“Gina has been a key individual in the establishment of Safe In Our World, serving as a Trustee and lending her invaluable advice as the charity has grown.” Said Leo Zullo, Co-founder and Chair of Safe In Our World. “The Charity is at a level now where we needed to bring in the right expertise to lead Safe In Our World into the years ahead. After a hard year of lockdowns and COVID-19, the need to ensure our players and teams can find support is larger than ever. With our continued momentum, the Board of Trustees and I are delighted and thrilled to be able to appoint Gina and look forward to a new chapter in the Safe In Our World journey.”

Dr. Gina Jackson OBE, commented, “I am absolutely honoured to be able to take up the position of CEO for this incredible charity. Whilst taking our first steps it was apparent that our goals to eliminate the stigma about mental health and to promote the dialogue surrounding mental health has resonated with both gamers and those who work in the industry.” She continued, “From the companies engaging with the level up programme who are transforming workplaces to support wellbeing to the community manager mental health training, it is clear these are initiatives that are being welcomed by industry.

The feedback we have been getting from our Safer Together discord server demonstrates the power and support that a positive online community can bring and the generosity of those who participated and donated during our May fundraiser continues to inspire us to provide resources, training and tell people’s stories so we can all feel empowered to talk about our mental health and seek support whenever we need or want it.”

Dr. Gina Jackson OBE begins her role with immediate effect.

In the two years since Safe In Our World formed, the charity has united the industry with its campaign for the removal of stigma around mental health and ensure gamers and teams can find the right support. Over 50 of the biggest gaming companies having joined already, including 505 Games, Mediatonic Games, Sega Europe and The Embracer Group, the charities mission continues with ongoing activities, including free training for Community Managers, signposting for support and upcoming Safer Together Campaign in May.


For more information, and to download press assets, please visit:

Safe In Our World https://safeinourworld.org/press-centre/

Skills utilised:
News

Game Changer: How embracing the new in videogames can help us adapt to real-world changes by Ian Collen

We’re often told that change is a good thing, whether that’s in videogames or in real life.

New is fresh and exciting, and any kind of break from the same-old should be embraced with enthusiasm. However, change can also be intimidating and stressful, with many of us finding comfort or a sense of control in sticking to those old routines; happier with repetition and familiarity rather than having to adapt to something new and often beyond our control.

In gaming it’s why people will demand new and improved features for a sequel, but then complain when the new game isn’t quite the same as the original. Admittedly, shooting zombies or aliens or whatever your videogame of choice might be doesn’t necessarily compare directly with those issues happening in your everyday life, but there are many similarities that can echo the fact that while change can be difficult, a little patience and perseverance can go a long way.

In some ways, even booting up a new game for the first time is a rather daunting change. Having spent days, weeks or even months learning every last subtle nuance of one title, you’ll now find yourself sitting in a tutorial for a whole new experience. That reassurance of knowing all the right moves, all the tricks, having the best equipment and never really having to worry about doing the wrong thing through anything other than an honest mistake is gone – and in just about any walk of life, that can be a cause for some trepidation or anxiety.

Sure, many of the parameters might be familiar and you hardly need a reminder of where the jump or crouch buttons might be, but there’s still a wealth of information to figure out, such as how your special abilities work, how to combine those magic potions or one of a hundred other little things. Of course, you would have been in a similar position when you started that last game, and that turned out pretty well – so you can at least take comfort in the process and appreciate that the new will soon become the norm.

Of course, life doesn’t always give you a great deal of choice in the matter (or a handy tutorial for that matter) and enforcing change is also a trick videogame developers can employ to keep you on your toes. Many RPGs or action titles will use it early on, letting you start the game fully maxed out with a raft of awesome abilities, only to then strip them away completely and leave you faced with levelling up from scratch – but having caught a glimpse into what you’ll ultimately become over the next 10-20 hours. Conversely this can also happen mid-game, with the likes of The Last of Us delivering an unforgettable (and un-put-downable) twist by suddenly shifting gameplay from the tough gun-toting hero to the preyed upon girl he was protecting.

This could also apply to origins stories, such as the Tomb Raider reboot, where you know the super-heroine she’ll become, and so getting to oversee that transition from powerless to powerful can be rewarding because you have that awareness and anticipation of how things will end up. It’s not always that clear-cut in real life, of course, but focusing on the end game and accepting that there is a certain amount of ‘levelling up’ to be done to get there, one small upgrade at a time, can help.

Videogames also use change as an optional accessory to further broaden their appeal or, more often, their lifespan. Titles such as Borderlands and Destiny will offer multiple characters, each with different abilities and skill trees to explore that effectively require rebuilding from scratch – albeit in a very familiar environment from your previous playthroughs. Again, these changes come with a sense of anticipation because you’ve done it already with a previous character, even if there’s no way of knowing if this new character is going to better or worse than before. However, there is some comfort to be found in the repeatable format – and ideally plenty of fun to be had in seeing how the new hero or heroine compares. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to your original character and appreciate their super-bad-ass prowess even more.

There are some games that could be seen as more direct ways of embracing and appreciating change. The excellent original season of Life is Strange not only deals with a young girl coming to terms with things that have changed in her home town as she returns after several years away, but the core gameplay mechanic also gives you the power to rewind time and make definitive decisions based on how you see events play out in differing ways. Gone Home is another great example that offers more of a ‘hands-off’ storyline as you simply explore your childhood home and piece together various events that have affected the lives of your parents and younger sister since you moved out.

It’s not necessarily that there are vital life lessons on display that we can all learn from, more of an appreciation that change can affect people in many different ways – and there’s not always a right or a wrong way to deal with it. It’s also worth bearing in mind how some of these situations can seem incredibly burdensome at the time but yet eventually become just another acceptable piece of the bigger picture. Some of those decisions in Life is Strange, for example, can be incredibly difficult to make, but ultimately their impact on the final narrative can be far more arbitrary than many of us had twisted ourselves into knots over.

In some ways it could be compared to moving house – one of life’s most demanding changes. Much like getting used to a certain character or style in a videogame, you get comfortable and feel confident in your old home because you know where everything is and how it works; where the fuse box is, how to fix the leaky sink, the best local takeaway and so on. Having to find a new home and learn all-new answers to those same questions can seem like a lot to take in, but eventually you will get there; you’ll track down the fuse box, acquaint yourself with the pipes under the sink and find a new and maybe even better local takeaway!

Change isn’t always a good thing in the same way that sequels aren’t always better than the original, but there will always be a demand for something ‘new and improved’ and sometimes we have to break out of our comfort zones to find out if that plan succeeds. Embracing change isn’t always easy, but being able to move forwards while accepting that there may be a few nervy steps as new skills are learned and old habits brushed aside, can go a long way. After all, every game you’ve ever played was new once, and we don’t doubt that you’ve gotten pretty good at more than a few over the years…


 

Ian Collen is a writer and editor with more than 20 years experience – with well over half of that spent working in videogames. He’s worked on the likes of XBM, 360 Gamer (later known as One Gamer), and the innovative digital publication, Gamer Interactive. He also learned more about drones than he thought possible as editor of the self-explanatory Drone Magazine and is currently working as a freelancer.

 

Skills utilised:
Covid 19, 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

An Interview With Joe Donnelly, Author of Checkpoint

We were delighted to interview Joe Donnelly, who is the author of Checkpoint, which explores how video games can contribute positively to our mental health through personal journeys, discussions and interviews. Safe In Our World was able to be a part of Checkpoint, through an interview between Joe and Leo Zullo, our Co-Founder and Chairperson.

The Interview

 

The book begins by telling the story about your uncle, Jim. Do you have any words on how to cope with loss, for readers who might be suffering the same thing?

This is sort of stating the obvious, but loss is such a personal and idiosyncratic experience, so I think the first piece of advice I could ever offer anyone is: do not compare yourself with anyone else. Your feelings are your feelings, which is something worth remembering and reminding yourself of in the wake of a loved one’s passing. I’ve lost a few loved ones in my life, but the nature of my uncle Jim’s is the hardest I’ve faced. With the virtue of hindsight, I’d say: know that it’s okay for things not to make sense, especially in the early stages of the grieving process. Suicide is so confusing and in its aftermath it’s natural to consider the ‘what if’ elements – what if they’d spoken out, what if I could have done more, what if X, Y and Z had or hadn’t happened etc. Let yourself have these thoughts, process them, don’t feel guilty about having them, but try not to obsess over them as doing so can be unhealthy long term. Talking to those around you is key in coping with loss, letting people know where your head is at, and what you might do to overcome your lows whenever you’re ready to do so. Disregard any notions of British stiff upper-lip-ness and get talking – speaking from experience, keeping regular dialogues with family and friends helped me so, so much.


Within the book, you explore the mechanics of permadeaths in games, and whether these can broaden our perception of loss within real life. Do you feel as though games have broadened your perception of permanence? How else do you think game mechanics can teach us about real-life scenarios and obstacles?

Games have absolutely broadened my perception of permanence, and not just from games which explicitly tackle themes of mental health and mental illness – such as Actual Sunlight (Will O’Neill) which deals with permanence as it relates to suicidal thoughts; Neverending Nightmares which explores permanence through the lens of the developer’s (Matt Gilgenbach) OCD; and Papo & Yo which tackles alcoholism and the enduring nature of addiction, to name but a few. Genre games which include permadeath – Darkest Dungeon, The Long Dark, Spelunky, XCOM 2 – force you to consider every move, every decision and every action, in the same way we do in real life. When writing Checkpoint I heard an analogy tied to both this and player agency that said: when we play games, we put ourselves into the player’s shoes. We don’t say Mario died, for example, we say I or we died. I think that can speak directly to our understanding of permanence and player agency both in-game and in the real world.


Your book, and a lot of other people have stressed the call for more research within the sphere of gaming and mental health. What questions would you be interested in exploring through research of this nature?

As outlined in Checkpoint, I’m by no means a mental health professional, but I’d like to see more studies on what we can learn about mental health through the lens of gaming. Be that from indie games which explore suicide, depression and anxiety on a more explicit level, to the potential benefits of socialising in games like Minecraft, GTA 5, Fortnite, Sea of Thieves and The Sims. I’d like to see more studies on how overcoming challenges and obstacles in games like Dark Souls can improve our sense of worth, and, looking back to question two, how permadeath games can help us appreciate permanence in reality more than we already do. There are a number of studies out there already which are scratching the surface on all of the above, but I’d love to see some real deep dives into the process, with more empirical data (as much as this is possible) and case studies relevant to games from different genres, with different mechanics and with varying budgets.


For the benefit of those who have not read Checkpoint, what made you decide to write a book on mental health and video games?

I decided to write Checkpoint as a means of telling my own mental health journey following my uncle’s suicide in 2008. At the time, I was working as a plumber and gasfitter, and, as a lifelong gamer, I threw myself into my hobby as a means of escaping the harshness of the reality around me at the time. As a result of my uncle’s death, my own mental health spiralled and, after travelling to Australia for a couple of years, I returned to find my mental health at its worst. Between times, I pursued a degree in journalism, and specialised in writing about video games for a number of mainstream and specialist publications, and ultimately wrote a monthly column on games and mental health for VICE. During this time, I discovered a number of games which tackled themes of mental health head-on (including the ones noted above), and, through playing them, sought professional help for my own state of mind. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and have been on a course of daily medication for the last several years. After my VICE work was discontinued, I felt I had more to say about games, mental health, my own journey and the integral role video games played throughout. I pitched my idea for a narrative nonfiction memoir to Edinburgh-based publisher 404 Ink, and I was delighted when they agreed to take me on.


There are multiple testaments from different people, each with their own compelling stories behind how video games have helped their mental health. Do you feel there is a sense of community around this shared experience?

Definitely, and I think that’s the essence of Checkpoint: gaming is so often a shared experience, and the same should apply to mental health discourse. Before writing the book, I was very clear that I wanted to include stories from other players and gaming enthusiasts, and had envisioned a single chapter dedicated to their tales. It was, however, my publisher 404 Ink who suggested we intersperse the stories throughout, and I’m so glad they did – I think it works really well in not only breaking up my narrative but also highlighting how common and relatable mental health issues are, both big and small. I’ve had some lovely and encouraging feedback since publication, including shared stories, which again, I believe, underscores the importance of the book’s message.


What is the main take-home that you’d want your readers to come away with after reading Checkpoint?

Further to question four, I wanted to tell a story which was relatable. Again, everyone’s mental health journey is unique to them, but there was always going to be similarities or parts which overlap. I wanted to illustrate the power of video games as a storytelling tool and how the interactive and persuasive nature of the medium leaves it uniquely placed to inform and educate. The take home message, then, isn’t necessarily about mental health per se, it’s about broadening our understanding of video games and their place in important discussions.

 

You can find Joe Donnelly on Twitter 

You can purchase Checkpoint at 404Ink

Press Kit for Checkpoint

Skills utilised:
News

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