Learning about Psychology, Depression from a Compassionate View, and The Science of Well-being


Recently, I started learning about Psychology through some wonderful (and free) online courses. As someone who don’t have a background in Psychology, I think they were very useful and they helped me gain a deeper understanding of myself and my own struggles.

Links to the courses:


One of the most interesting things I learned from the Foundations of Psychology is how depressed people tend to credit positive things to others and negative things to themselves.

When I was studying and struggling in Computer Science, I honestly believed that the only reason I passed the course was because of God’s miracle. It never occurred to me how it could actually be the result of my studying or working hard, because those were some dark times. I enjoy programming now, but I used to hate it. I used to feel like such a failure and moron. Whenever things go wrong, it’s because I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough.

I was stuck in that type of thinking for a long while. I guess, I still think that way now. But I’m trying to change that.

I am named one of GameIndustry.biz 100 Future Talent. This isn’t a humble brag, I’m just stating a fact. After I found out I actually broke down and cried, because I didn’t think I deserved it. I went to the beach and I watched the sunset, and it was beautiful, but it didn’t stop the thoughts in my head telling me that “I’m not good enough”.

I have impostor syndrome and I think that’s because I doubt myself a lot. Also, as a female in the tech and game industry, sadly, people doubt you all the time. I find myself questioning a lot of times if I was just a diversity hire, and some of the other guys I work with also vocally wondered about the same thing about me. Did that sentence make sense?

The Psychology class helped me identify the stressors in my life, and it also introduced ways to cope with stress, and that’s what I’m trying to do now.

Depression: A Compassionate View taught me something very important and that is to be kind to yourself. I need to be kind and be forgiving to myself. Think of myself like I’m talking to a friend who needs help. It also introduced some ways to identify negative thoughts and a plan on how to reflect, rationalize and challenge them.

One of the challenges is to write a compassionate letter to yourself, first start by writing down something that you feel inadequate about, and then you write a letter from the compassionate “other” person, imagine you are writing this letter to your friend, and finally read the letter and feel the compassion and let it sooth and comfort you.

This reminds me of a scene from “The Help”, where the maid is telling the little girl that she is kind, she is smart and she is beautiful. I think we need to spend more time telling ourselves these things and let it sink in.

Finally, I just started the Science of Well-Being class, and for the self-assessment, we are instructed to take some quizzes to measure our happiness, as well as our character strengths. It was also recommended that we try to use our strengths through a series of activities.

I took the quiz and my top 5 character strengths are:

  1. Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence
  2. Gratitude
  3. Creativity
  4. Love of Learning
  5. Kindness

I’m actually quite surprised with the results. Creativity and Love of Learning is something I am aware of and sometimes take pride in. While I think my Christian upbringing really influenced my other strengths.

I recently gave a talk about my journey in the tech and games industry, and I realized later on, is that on the slides where I talk about my achievements, I always preface it with, “I’m lucky” or “I’m fortunate”. I think this goes back to what I mentioned before, I credit every good thing that happens to me to God and to the wonderful people around me, and I have immense gratitude for it, which is good. But it also takes away my efforts from the achievement, if that makes sense. I suppose I need to have a balance.

While Kindness really surprised me. I never really thought of myself as kind, I thought for the longest time that I’m actually quite selfish. I think I’ll try to practice more Kindness and see what happens. But also as I’ve mentioned before, I think I also need to be more kind to myself.


I still have a few weeks more for The Science of Well-Being, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you guys updated.


Harnessing the Power of Empathy Games for Mental Health Awareness

Dev, Games

Finding and creating a supportive mental health community while developing games

I have been a game developer for the past 8 years. But I worked in game studios and I programmed whatever my company told me to.

But I never made my own game on my own.

As part of my Masters by Practice for a degree in Video Game Enterprise and Production, I had the option to make my own game.

I can work with a team, but I chose not to, even though I never made a game all on my own. By my own, I mean, I do code, art, design and production. Why did I chose to do that? It’s not because I think I can do everything on my own. It’s because I don’t want to let anyone down.

You see, I have depression. I struggle to wake up every morning, my mind won’t rest at night. So my classmates think that I’m lazy, but it’s more complicated than that.

I met so many amazing game developers at conferences and they talk about how they just took the leap, quit their job and made their own game. I never took a leap before, because I was too afraid.

But now, the confines of school gave me the safety net to finally take a leap. Also a strict deadline and a Masters degree on the line gives me a very good reason to just do it.

One advice people give writers is to write about what they know. And I wondered if the same can be applied to making video games. Boen Wang says “What can you learn about a person through a screen? What can you learn about a creator through their work?”

So I decided to make a game about depression, even though it’s something that I don’t normally talk about. I normally don’t talk about it because it’s hard for me to tell people that I’m not okay. I wear a smile every single day, because I thought that is what is expected of me.

But it’s okay, not to be okay all the time.

I didn’t want to make a game that only features my own voice. So I made a project on HitRecord and asked for other people for their stories. And reading other people’s stories made me realize that I’m not alone. Also knowing that other people have gone through the same thing and have beaten it, gave me hope that I can too.

Working on the game and writing development blog posts, allowed me to be honest and be vulnerable, to show a side of me that I’ve never been able to before. It gave me the medium to finally open up the conversation about mental health with my friends and the people around me.

It took me more or less 4 months and I made a game, which I called “Depression Simulator”. It is a point-and-click game that simulates the everyday life of someone living with depression, where even the most mundane and menial tasks become a challenge.

And then I graduated with Distinction from my Masters degree.

But I didn’t want to stop there.

I realized that there are more stories to tell and more conversations about Mental Health that needs to take place.

That is why I approached my friends and together we are making a web platform called “MuniReality”, where people living with mental illness can share their stories and have them transformed into interactive games. The games will be be built around comments and contributions from the community.

But we can’t do it alone, we also need your help.


Watch my Developer Diary:




We just launched an Indiegogo Campaign!

Dev, Games

Please fund our campaign! https://igg.me/at/munireality/x/17690597


What is MuniReality?

MuniReality will be a space where people living with mental illness can freely share their stories without fear of judgement. In turn, these stories (which can be shared in the form of writings, drawings, videos, songs, or poetry…) will be transformed into games.

Disclaimer: Mockup of MuniReality Website
The games will be built around and modified based on comments and contributions from the community. People can contribute characters, suitable music, background noise, items, pictures, voices, and other parts to complete a game.

Why Mental Health Awareness?

According to the World Health Organization, around 450 million people currently suffer from mental illness, making it the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide. But even so, more than half remain untreated. Stigma and discrimination are still the main reasons why people choose to keep it to themselves, as well as people around them not believing it is a “real” illness.

But mental illness is real. Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, OCD, Schizophrenia…. These are all serious and painful conditions, and it is important to make more people aware of this.

By making games from personal stories, we hope to generate interest about mental health that would not otherwise be achieved by simply telling people to care about it. We believe that the games will be able to better communicate the issue to more people because it is visual, interactive, and the games will be shared by the people whose stories they contain.


Please fund our campaign! https://igg.me/at/munireality/x/17690597

Making a Game: Video Update 4

Classes, Dev, Games

In other news, I just handed in everything for my Masters degree and I turned 30.

I’m going to keep working on this game and I have this idea of developing a platform for people to share their stories and talk about their experiences with depression and then I’m going to spend some time making those stories into little puzzle vignettes.

One of the things that I struggle with is having to explain to people what it feels like and hoping that they’d gain a little understanding, but it’s difficult to describe, really. I hope with that added visual and audio element, as well as interaction, they can step into my shoes for a little while.

That’s it for now. I’m still editing the game to make it run on web, as well as start QA and major major bug fixing to have it available for people to actually play.

Making a Game: Making breakfast is harder than it looks

Classes, Dev, Games

Okay, personal issues aside, I have been making very slow progress with the Kitchen Level. Turns out (yah, like the title of this post suggests) it’s not as easy as I thought it would be (and I haven’t even gotten to coding the actual cooking bits yet!!).

I think because there are actually quite a few elements involved and puzzles inserted here and there to make your lives harder (as if life isn’t difficult enough).

Making a Game: More Bad Days…

Classes, Dev, Games

Just a quick update about what I have been up to lately.

I also cut up, or at least tried, to cut up some snowflakes for another puzzle.

But then last night I just suddenly felt… Watch the video and you’ll see.

The description on the video is:

This is unedited, which is why I sound like a mess. And even though I mentioned that I was going to include an updated gameplay video, I didn’t. I will upload a gameplay video separately.

I’m sorry, but I decided to upload this anyway, because it exposes a part of me that I rarely show anyone, even my closest friends. But I still needed to say those things, and since the internet is such a big place, the chances of another human being viewing this is actually quite low, it’s like sending out a message in a bottle into the sea. But if anyone hears me, thank you for listening.

Everybody have good days and bad days; the other night was a bad one. When people ask me, "How are you?", I've been programmed to say, "I'm fine." Even though I'm not. Because I'm afraid. I'm afraid to let people see the "imperfect" side of me. The side and the voices in my head that always tells me, "I'm not good enough". That is why I'm creating #munireality, a web platform where people suffering from mental illness can freely share their stories without fear of judgment. In turn these stories will be turned into games. Have the players walk a while in my shoes and maybe then, they wouldn't be so quick to judge me and others like me. Are you there, people of the internet? If you hear me, thank you for listening. #depression #mentalillness #mentalhealthawareness #itsokaynottobeokay

A post shared by Michelle Chen (@itsmichellechen) on

And then I had to wake up again this morning and pretend that everything is okay, because my flatmates and I had plans to go to a concert.

The concert was really good. I especially liked the last band, Victories at Sea.

We also went to the Jamaica Festival in Victoria Square for dinner. The jerk chicken tastes and smells amazing. And it’s interesting how smokey the square was from all that grilling.

And tomorrow, I’m going to continue my charade, because I made plans with my classmates to go to another food festival.

Making a Game: Good days and bad days…

Classes, Dev, Games

First my board…

Oh and I set up a GameJolt page: http://gamejolt.com/games/depressionsimulator/272098

Nothing playable yet. Although, because I did that, I made a header for the game, also it’s now called “Depression Simulator” semi-officially.


Okay about good and bad days…

The point of my game is that sometimes there are good days, and sometimes there are bad days. And they are unpredictable.

Last week was not a good week for me.

But today is the start of a new week, and tomorrow the start of a new month. And also the last month of my Masters program.

Also before I turn 30. Eep! It’s funny how the last day of my program corresponds with my birthday. It was also like that for my undergrad degree actually (that was not a fun day, rushing around getting our thesis one last check, submitting it and saying good bye to a year’s worth of hard work).

Anyway, I added a whole bunch of stuff to my TO DO board, with new ideas I got when I was sleeping. Oh yah, part of my thing, is I sleep a lot, but at least I still generate new game ideas when I do. I just can’t bring myself to get up and actually code them. Yah… that’s a problem.

Also I got a lot more contributions on HitRecord, which are really good and really inspiring and I want to include all of them.

But no, part of production is knowing when to say no to feature creep. Or at least enough to have something playable that can be released at the end of this Module and then keep working on it after.

Here’s to foolishly hoping the rest of the month will only bring me good days.

Making a Game: Choosing to go alone and wearing many hats…

Classes, Dev, Games

Why did I decide to make a game all on my own… As in own art, own code, own design, not my own sound and music though… Also I have less than 3 months of dev time (only 1 month left…).

I think because at the beginning I didn’t know what I want to do. I just know that I wanted to make a game. What game? No idea. And that’s dangerous territory. And I didn’t want to drag anyone else down with me. It’s not as if I don’t have any artist or code friends that I can bribe. I do, I just didn’t want to bribe them.

It has never been about how I can do everything myself. I mean, I can to some degree, but you know, my art will always be a little programmer art-ish and rough around the edges. My design will reference a lot of existing designs and now tropes. And actually production wise, managing myself is actually… Bad, really bad.

I have problems with motivation. I sleep a lot, and I don’t want to get out of bed ever. But I’m trying. People who don’t understand me and what goes on in my head, will think that I’m lazy. Okay, maybe I am. But it’s more complicated than that.

But choosing to go alone means that I have to wear many hats. Last week I had my programming hat on (which means that I find excuses to go out and not work on it). I am by practice a programmer, but I think of programming or coding for short, as a process, a means to and end (yes, in a Nietzsche manner, I think of the means as pretty bad).

This week I have my artist hat on and I actually don’t have a tablet, I have pencils and paper though. But I actually draw in Flash and I don’t even own a mouse, so it’s just the touch pad of my beat up Macbook Pro, and me, manipulating vector shapes until they resemble something. The whole, the game is only in gray scale helps too, ‘coz color… That’s another hurdle.

Anyway, I am not a fan of GDDs (Game Design Documents), because I don’t believe in design written on paper. You’ll never really know if a game is fun, without playing it. And there’s no way for you to play it unless you have a game. You get it. Rapid Prototyping for the win!

One of my only plus points is that I’m a relatively fast coder. At least once I have a clear idea what I need to create. So with this whole no GDD thing, it’s actually a lot of experimentation and a lot of trial and error. And that’s alright, because whatever code I scrap is well, my code, and I have no hard feelings.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, because I work alone, it is tough at times, but at least the only person that I’m letting down is myself.

Although for this project, I’m not entirely alone, I actually have a HitRecord project where I do ask for ideas from other people. So when I do get stuck, I just issue another challenge and the lovely people contributes and I am inspired again, and I keep moving.

Also since this game is about depression and having more voices make it better and in a way in makes me feel less alone. Because I know now that other people also go through the same thing and other people can beat it. So, so could I.

One month to go! Good luck to me~!

Random Note: “Haunt” by Echos describes how I feel everyday quite accurately.

Making a Game: Looking for Ingredients and Cooking Breakfast

Classes, Dev, Games

Part of the mundane every day life is cooking breakfast and well eating.

So in my game, in the kitchen level you can open all the drawers, cabinets and fridge and scavenge for all sorts of ingredients that you then can cook in a “Cooking Mama” style.

Today I have my art hat on… and I still draw my assets in Flash, even though it was recently announced that support for Flash will soon be gone forever… 😦

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 11.43.09 PM