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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

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

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

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

The ongoing situation in Ukraine is affecting so many of us, inside and outside of the country itself.

Whether you live in Ukraine, in surrounding Eastern European countries, or thousands of miles away; whether you have personal ties to the conflict zone, ancestral relations or no direct connection at all, the feelings of collective stress, despair, anxiety, sadness and, indeed, grief are universally valid. To make matters worse, we are, of course, still in the throes of a global pandemic, which can amplify feelings of loss and grief both directly and indirectly.

Video games can offer escapism from reality, but can also be an invaluable tool for informing and educating – be that through first-hand reliability or perspective-broadening appreciation. Alex Thompson works at UK charity Marie Curie, whose incredible work helps people with terminal illness, and believes video games can play a vital role in helping players deal with, process and understand grief.

“When it comes to dealing with grief through the lens of video games, I think there are two ways to look at it,” says Alex.

“One is directly, in the games that tackle themes of grief and grieving head on. I played Spiritfarer last year and that is a really insightful video game that deals with themes of grief and grieving. It’s so varied in the different ways that the characters tell their stories. You take on the role of a palliative care worker, but the ways in which each character that you interact with deals with their situation, the impending climax of their journey is really interesting and different for each character. Spiritfarer is really powerful in the ways in which it forces you to interact with those characters who’re each experiencing grief and loss in their own ways.

“The other side of using games in relation to grief is pure escapism. That might be playing something that has nothing to do with grief, but that allows you to switch off and get lost in a big RPG or even something as simple as Tetris. It’s well – documented that video games can offer respite from the bad stuff going on in your life, which is, of course, really helpful for people’s mental health.”

Alex says he believes having more serious conversations around death and grief can be made easier when playing video games, because the medium itself helps to balance focus. “I’ve used video games myself for that exact purpose,” Alex continues. “I’ve played a lot of the LEGO games with my sister because that’s something we can play together. At the time, she wasn’t really into video games, so we were able to use these games as a space to chat and hang out. We were able to chat about some of the stuff we were going through at any given time, and it was easier to do so while playing games than it might have been in public. That’s one of the beauties of video games, it’s a really flexible medium.”

5 video games that explore themes of grief

It goes without saying that any video game that brings comfort in trying times is worth playing with escapism in mind. The following five video games are thoughtful and expressive in their approach, as they deal in and around themes of death and grief.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched on March 20, 2020, which, for many people around the world, was when nationwide quarantine and lockdown measures came into place in response to the ongoing global pandemic. As such, millions of players sought respite in this virtual version of paradise in the face of an increasingly challenging reality.

Moreover, as many people lost loved ones at a time when regular funeral services had been disrupted because of the pandemic – attendance numbers were significantly reduced, social distancing measures were put in place, singing was banned, for example – many Animal Crossing players sought to create their own tributes to lost loved ones in– game. At a time when real world exploration became impossible overnight, players used the game’s cemeteries to host in– game services and vigils for lost loved ones –  poignant tributes that are still popping up in– game today.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn 

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, or Final Fantasy Online as it’s less formally known, is a sprawling MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game) that lets players create and customise characters by virtue of an extensive customisation suite – altering everything from name to race, gender, appearance, starting class and more. Quests and missions, as well as an overarching narrative provide structure for players keen to progress the game’s story, however many players use the game as a virtual playground for simply meeting up and hanging out in. As such, much like Animal Crossing above, grieving players used Final Fantasy Online to host in-game funeral services for friends who’d passed away in real life over the course of the global pandemic. Moreover, players have erected points of interest around the game world in memoriam of lost loved ones – which allows friends who don’t live in the same country to pay respects from afar by way of video games.

Journey

Journey is a beautiful, pensive and thoughtful indie game about a traveller roving the vast desert, sometimes on their own; other times alongside other players online. Denied the ability to speak via voice chat, players converse exclusively via their actions as they help one another overcome obstacles in the game’s sprawling sandswept world. While not explicitly centred around death and grief, Journey’s narrative explores death, coping with grief and being able to live with loss. In a talk delivered at the Games for Change conference in 2014, Jenova Chen, the creator of Journey, said he’d received “thousands” of personal stories from players who’d used the game to help them cope with the loss of a loved one –  so powerful and cathartic is Journey in its handling and delivery of its themes.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a touching adventure game that sees two young siblings exploring a fantasy world in search of a cure for their sick father. Players assume control of both brothers at once – with each one directed by the control pad’s respective left and right analogue sticks – as they work together to overcome puzzles, defeat trolls and aid various players littered across the game world. Death and grief are omnipresent themes throughout the brothers’ journey, as are themes of struggle, suicide and wellbeing.

Spiritfarer

Spiritfarer is an intriguing indie adventure game where players are tasked with managing the needs of the recently deceased on a boat journey across the sea. While befriending and helping the spirits, the player character, Stella, learns of their backstories, their plights and struggles in reality, and how they came to be in this situation. Despite the fact death and grief are core themes in Spiritfarer, the game’s narrative is often lighthearted, feel good, and funny, with many aspects of the spirit’s lives (and deaths) open to interpretation and therefore relatable in the real world. The ending is a real tear-jerker, but that only serves to elevate Spiritfarer in storytelling terms.

Skills utilised:
Crisis Hub

Unpacking Is An Unexpected Delight That Makes Me Feel At Home by Richard Breslin

Shortly before its release on Xbox Game Pass, I had seen the thumbnail for a game called “Unpacking.” The name of the game didn’t draw me much too it, but I remember having a feeling of warmth appreciating the artwork. Then I thought to myself, can a game called “Unpacking” really have much to it? Surely there must be more than just unpacking, right? 

Well, I was wrong. Kind of. Sure, the main emphasis in Unpacking is to unpack. Yet in this simple concept, I discovered there’s far more to this game, at least on a personal level. Unpacking, as you can guess, is about unpacking (shocking, I know). Upon reaching the main menu, I already had a sense of calmness. The ease of the 16-bit era soundtrack and the equally nostalgic pixel art. Instantly I felt a level of comfort before the game had really begun. 

 

The game has a subtle story, which progresses moving from house to house in various stages of life. It also has a visual form of storytelling instigated by your yearbook which is essentially chapters split into generations. You’ll also notice little pop culture references that might spark a personal heart-warming memory of yesteryear. 

Once you begin the story of Unpacking, you start in a small bedroom. Unpacking a few simple boxes and placing them in the relevant places of your room. There is also no time limit to Unpacking, so you play the game at your own pace in what is one of the most pressure-free games I’ve ever played. You’ll casually unpack box after box and before you know it, you’ll be laying out the bedroom just how you want it. A teddy on the bed, a picture frame on the wall and a handheld gaming device on your bedside desk. 

I didn’t realise it initially, but I had unknowingly become immersed in this simple, yet wonderful and charming puzzle game. I felt intrigued to progress to the next page in the yearbook, wondering what delights I would have to unpack and furnish my digital home. I had a constant feeling of warmness, ease, and satisfaction that I’ve never really felt in any other video game before. 

But what was it about Unpacking that made me feel so at home? Was it the charming, pixelated visuals and soundtrack? Was it the calming approach to puzzle-solving? Perhaps it was that inner satisfaction of placing items in my digital home exactly where I wanted them to be? In truth, it was all the above and then some. There’s something special about Unpacking that I can’t quite pinpoint, but I can’t stop thinking about it. 

As well as being on Xbox, Unpacking is also available on PC and Nintendo Switch. Living with autism, there are so many things that can make me feel instantly overwhelmed and sometimes things can get unexpectedly too much. I often take my Nintendo Switch on my travels, just in case I feel overly anxious. When feeling overwhelmed, the Switch is a device that can help calm me down. 

Should you ever choose to play this delightful indie game, you’ll find your own reasoning as to why you’ve fallen for this wonderful experience. And in an odd kind of what, Unpacking is just that, it’s a wonderful experience. Whatever it may be, if you want a game to chill out to and just relax doing the simple things, Unpacking might just be the game for you. So, if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, please check out this simple, yet unique indie darling. Because Unpacking just might be the perfect game to make me feel at home. 

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

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