Making a Game: Other Games about Depression and Mental Health

Another Day



Fractured Minds

Winner of the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition, made by 18 year old, Emily Mitchell.

“Fractured Minds is an immersive puzzle game that uncovers the daily struggles of people living with anxiety or any mental health issue. It is designed to give the player a genuine insight into the experiences of those quietly living with mental illness – the feelings of isolation, of being trapped, of everyday situations being distorted beyond recognition.

“The game has multiple puzzles for the player to solve with an interwoven storyline. The player uses the WASD keys to move around and must work out how to move on to the next level – this usually entails solving mini puzzles or collecting certain objects to open the door. Each level symbolises a different emotion or experience associated with anxiety/mental illness.

“I realise the game is provocative and at times uncomfortable – but I felt that it was so important to be honest and true-to-life – confronting mental illness is extremely challenging and uncomfortable.”



Making a Video Game: MVP

Okay, I realize that I only have a little more than a month to finish the game… o.O

So it’s time to be realistic and de-scope.

The MVP according to my lecturer is:

  • 3 rooms (yes, I originally, ambitiously planned on 12), so there is a beginning, middle and end.
  • there should be an evolution of the puzzles
  • integrate sound and music ASAP

So for the rooms, it’s going to be Bedroom, which I’ve already done, Bathroom, Kitchen and Foyer (yes, I added one).

Between each room is a door that can be unlocked based on a happiness-sadness meter, based on kmarushige‘s suggestion on HitRecord.

As for your game, my gut says to have a “happiness/depression” meter as the scoreboard. As the player moves through a typical day, they are presented with choices that will either shift them towards happiness or depression. These choices could be actions, mental choices/interpretations or interactions, including being receptive to help from others.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 4.01.32 PM

And the evolution of puzzles and interactions will be from the mundane to the surreal. You start of with normal day to day interactions like waking up, putting a smile on your face, making food, then it shifts to the surreal.

The surreal, like when a shadow of yourself appears from the closet (I call her anti-character, like Anti-Helena from “Mirror Mask”), and she starts following you around and these whispers of “you’re worthless and no one likes you” plays, but you can fight her, you can win, but you can also lose.



Also note to self: I need to buy more IRL Post-Its.

The foyer represents the ultimate (yes, ultimate) door that is standing between you and the outside world.

And thanks to the lovely people at HitRecord, I have a lovely background music for the game.

Continue reading

Competitive Analysis: “Windosill” and “Feed the Head”

Best part of doing a Masters degree in video games? Research is playing games…

Image result for feed the head

What can you do with a head? Apparently a lot. You mess about with the head, removing its nose, its eyes, opening up the head… Quite surreal and a little Dali-like. Totally my thing.

Image result for windosill

Image result for windosill

Each room in Windosill is self-contained, but the objective is always the same, find the cube and insert it in the door. But how to find the cube that requires some messing about with the surreal environments and objects.

It’s relatively short, with only 11 rooms, but you can mess about in it for as long or as short as you want. According to their app description:

Designed to be experienced in a single sitting (anywhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours), Windosill is suitable for clever kids and imaginative adults alike.

I finished it in 2 sittings and it is a delight.

Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles

And going down the TV Tropes rabbit hole… Please forgive me if I use some of these…


Write about what you know… What about making video games?

“What can you learn about a person through a screen? What can you learn about a creator through their work?” – Boen Wang

As someone who had tried so many times to write, short stories, poems, novels, one of the first things that people tell me is “write about what you know”, the second thing is “show not tell”.

But what about making video games? Do you also write and make something based on your experience to provide that authenticity, that sense of something raw and emotional and real.

I decided to make a game about depression, because – (Before I continue, I am currently, at this moment, not in a bout)- it’s hard to explain. It’s hard to tell people that you’re not fine. And you don’t know what people might think, because they may not know how that feels like, that sense of that unexplainable reason for sadness and lack of motivation and…

It’s I suppose my way of telling people how I feel…? It’s not a cry for help, at least I don’t think it is. I do have mine mostly under control. It comes, but it also goes.

Going back to the second most important point, “show not tell”. In poetry (yah, I used to be part of this super artsy hipster literary publication back in uni), we were taught not to say how you feel, you must show it. I suppose that’s even more important in video games, which is such a visual experience.

How do I make players feel that feeling without shoving it down their throats? No, I don’t think I should be shoving this feeling down anyone’s throats. It’s the worse feeling you can wish on anyone. How do you detach the player in such a way, that they aren’t really the character, yet feel for the character? Rather you are taking care of the character? This is a conundrum. I’m not even sure if I’m explaining it correctly.

And how meta should the game be? Also how autobiographical?

Although, ever since I started this project on HitRecord and asked for contributions, it feels… well, definitely not good… but less lonely to know that you’re, rather I’m, not the only feeling this way.

I was at BAFTA Crew event and talking to two other game developers and we are talking about how everyone’s path is sort of different and we are all still trying to figure our life out. Whoever does have their lives figured out are either pretty lucky, or just really good at pretending they have their shit together. And one of the game devs, made the comment about how it’s nice to know that you are not alone (of course, clarifying that it’s of course, it’s not good that other people are lost too). You get it.

Recently I got a contribution from Thumbelily on HitRecord:

Depression is something nobody wants to feel, ever. Depression is also not a really good thing to describe, either.

It’s like asking how someone who was nearly killed by gunshot fire how it felt like. Nobody wants to experience that.

For me, personally, reading the titles of the contributions for this… is already sickening. It’s something no one wants to think about, it’s stressing out.

It’s, like, the worst thing you want to avoid in life.

And that makes me sort of question my decision to go down this route. Games likes “Depression Quest” and “Actual Sunlight” come with trigger warnings at the beginning.

How do I balance that, letting people feel, but not too much? How to I keep it light yet dark at the same time?

The next “puzzle” that I’m working on involves a shadow of your character that follows you around but destroys the things around you. When she is around there is this buzzing noise of people whispering words like “you’re worthless”, which was actually part of a music contribution from HitRecord. I’m afraid that that but might trigger a bit. But you can fight her and you can destroy her.

I think the vibe I want to create is a little like the Vocaloid songs and videos…

It’s cute and bright, but at the same time it’s sad.

I hope I am able to “show” what I’m trying to say well.