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GUEST BLOG: Could Video Games Be The Answer?

We have a huge problem at the moment in this country yet the Government don’t seem to have found an effective way of tackling it. Last September the Department of Health announced spending of £1.5 million to tackle the issue of suicide in the UK. It’s a start but shouldn’t we look into different ways to engage with the most vulnerable?

CALM recently announced that suicide is now the biggest killer of men under 35 across the UK. The most affected are men aged 30-44 and there are 3 suicides of young men every day. It’s time we look at things differently in order to tackle these shocking figures.

Here is some irony for you – The National Rifle Association of America is currently demonising both video games and mental health for a number of recent high profile shootings. I suggest that, together, they could unlock something great. You see, the people that we most need to reach out to are the same demographic that play video games. In 2011 the average age of a gamer was 37 and 58% are male, exactly the audience we need to engage with.

The video game industry is huge and with the rise of independents and affordable access to consoles, it is set to grow further. Video games are also widening there popularity with the rise of the Wii console and smart phone technology. Now is the time to start investing in video games to so that we can highlight the importance of Mental Health.

But would it ever work?

The good news is that it has already started. Over the last few years we have seen a number of titles that have embraced emotional content. Thankfully it’s not just the critics who are raving, but the players too. Here are a few examples.

Heavy Rain

How Far Will You Go To Save Someone You Love? This is a question that is posed to the player throughout this psychological thriller. You are faced with a host of choices, each one with its own consequence. It is certainly not a game for the faint-heated but it is a game that has human emotion right at it’s core.

Heavy Rain isn’t just a masterpiece; it’s an ingenious step in the right direction…This may very well be the most “human” game ever made, and an absolute triumph for the industry. Take from that what you will – PSX Extreme

Dear Esther

Dear Esther was published a full year before Heavy Rain, but it didn’t come to prominence until valentines day 2012 when the game was released with a complete overhaul of it’s graphics. Here you will not find any traditional game-play, this is a game that is truly accessible to everyone of all ages. It tells the tale of a lonely man coming to terms with the loss of his dear wife Esther. To say any more would be to destroy one of the most original and moving games of all time.

The emotional content and visual style earned “Dear Esther” accolade after accolade. Here you are faced with raw emotion and a story that will not fail to move you. This game really opened the door for emotional gaming and it has moved me to tears.

Dear Esther changes a simple hike into an emotional journey. Not just a (short) game, but truly an experience – gamer.nl

Journey

Last, but by no-means least, is Journey. A game that took the industry by storm. Produced by independent game makers ‘Thatgamecompany’, Journey is a compelling game steeped in mystery. Presented as a sort of interactive parable, you journey with an anonymous companion compelled to a distant mountaintop on the horizon. You can choose to help, guide, follow or simply ignore the other player. The decisions you make on each journey create a deep emotional bond with the game.

But was there an audience for this style of game play? Journey became the fastest selling game on the Playstation network. It broke Playstation sales records and went on to earn award after award. Journey proves that we can embrace emotion in games and still sell.

Certainly a game that offers up aesthetic beauty, both in its visuals and score. But where it truly shines is in the experience of playing it. In Journey, the mere acts of jumping, running, and sliding around a painstakingly crafted world are enough to invoke strong emotional responses from the player – Giant Bomb

In conclusion, games are one of the most direct ways of speaking to the most vulnerable. They can open up the subject of Mental Health and get people thinking and engaging in a way that is exciting and positive. It is time to stop demonising the video game industry because it may be the key to saving many lives.

Check out Paul’s blog: ChangeFor.me.uk 

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