Creating individualized experiences to tackle fear and anxiety
Ninja Theory has announced a new experimental R&D project called The Insight Project that seeks to help treat mental illness and encourage mental well being.
The impetus for the Insight Project came from the development of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. During development Ninja Theory brought in Paul Fletcher, Psychiatrist, and Professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, to guide how the game portrayed mental illness and how it affected the game's protagonist Senua. After release, the game was held up for praise for those very elements, winning 5 BAFTAs, 3 The Game Awards, and a Royal College of Psychiatrists award. The research charity Wellcome stated that it was the best representation of psychosis in any media. Clearly, all the hard work and guidance from a professional paid off, so Ninja Theory and Fletcher have decided to hone in on the mental health potentials of video games. They now wish to go beyond just representing mental illness and want to combine technology, game design, and clinical neuroscience to create experiences that will be able to help relieve mental distress.
There are no immediate products or creations to show off yet, the Insight Project will be coming together over several years, but the team wanted to be open and transparent about the process as it develops. One of the team's goals is to allow people to utilize what they create to gain some control over their own negative mental distress:
We plan a programme of gaming, technological and scientific development that will lead to self-contained, individualised and absorbing game experiences within which people can become an expert at recognising, responding to and, ultimately, controlling their own fear, anxiety and other negative subjective experience. The work will be underpinned by rigorous scientific principles to ensure its effectiveness and validity and it will adhere to strict standards of ethics and data management.
Ninja Theory still wants to make sure that what comes out of the Insight Project is still ultimately enjoyable stating that their "approach will be widely and conveniently applicable, flexible to the needs of the individual and, critically, enjoyable and absorbing in ways that will ensure enthusiastic engagement,". While we will have to wait a while to see what this new project comes up with, the success of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is encouraging and will hopefully allow innovative, revolutionary creations to come from it.
What do you think of video games trying to help people tackle their mental well being? What kinds of mental distress would you like to see addressed by the Insight Project? Let us know in the comments below.