Whilst doing a quick google search to find out what’s going on in the world of emotional well-being & mental health I came across what on the face of it appeared to be a bit of an odd headline;
How ‘Hellblade’ explores real life mental health issues
The first thought that ran through my head was …
‘This is a gaming website (Wired.co.uk), what do they know about mental health?’
quickly followed by …
‘Hellblade, sounds like that’s going to be a really good portrayal of mental health’
But I like video games & it’s vaguely related to my job so I thought I’d take a look.
So … it turns out Hellblade follows a young woman who has to deal with the aftermath of the Viking Invasion of Britain in the 9th Century … I know feels a bit of a long shot at the moment but stick with it … the young women turns out to be a Celtic warrior called Senua & game doesn’t just follow her in the aftermath of an invasion but also as she triesto understand her mental health & the hallucinations she experiences.
Now back to the first thing that came into my head ‘What do they know about mental health?’ … well actually the game developers ‘Ninja Theory’ partnered themselves with Paul Fletcher (a Psychiatrist & Professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge) & the Wellcome Trust (a charitable foundation based around mental health research) to ensure that the game was both realistic & sensitive to the issues they address.
All of the news about this game points to it as an in depth exploration of psychosis & mental illness which would be a really interesting concept as when most people think of mental illness in video games they actually think of a load of blood crazed zombie types trying to eat your face, or a Hannibal Lecture-esque mad man who needs to be kept in a straight jacket at all times.
Ninja Theory seem to have gone to great lengths to ensure that this game is accurate to real life & portrays Senua in a relatable way, even down to the fight scenes which are specifically designed to work around the fact that Senua has mental health issues, & to portray the fact that those issues aren’t based in the present but have their origins in Senua’s earlier life.
I think the quote that best sums up what the developers are trying to achieve in this game is from Ian Dodgeon, Creative Partnerships Manager at the Wellcome Trust; “Rather than being a didactic game teaching us about psychosis, Hellblade allows us to explore it through the creation of a compelling & complex character, & the world that she inhabits”.
This new game isn’t supposed to be like a text book or a lecture & I severely doubt it will be added to any school curriculum but it is designed to give us a rare opportunity to explore psychosis, even if it’s in a setting we’re not going to have much experience of.
I will certainly be keeping an eye on this game in the next few years & hope that it does live up to the hype & avoids the cliches of mental health in video game culture.