Video games to tackle mental health stigma

By Zara Morgan
BBC Wales News

  • Published
Media caption,

Can video games have a positive impact on society?

Three video games featuring characters with mental health conditions have been created to fight the social stigma.

Scientists, game developers and mental health advocates came together in Cardiff to tackle "prejudiced" mental health portrayal in gaming, said researcher Antonio Pardinas.

Munzir Quraishy, who offered his own experience of OCD for one of the games, said it could help people empathise.

Mind Cymru said more representation would help patients deal with stigma.

The three games - Picturesque, The Interview and Get Help - took 48 hours to design at a Cardiff University gaming jam.

Munzir Quraishy, who has obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and an eating disorder, offered his experiences for the game Picturesque.

Mr Quraishy, who is studying medicine at Cardiff University, said the game shows OCD is not just about cleanliness, but is "the process of having an intrusive thought and trying to relieve it".

The character is tasked with photographing an extinct animal, but his OCD and intrusive thoughts make this difficult.

The 24-year-old from London said games help him to "get into the shoes" of different mental health conditions.

"Just because I have a mental health problem, doesn't mean I understand all mental health problems," he said.

"But this can help people empathise and understand some of what people are going through."

Image caption,
The three games took 48 hours to design during a gaming jam

Volunteers from the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) set up the gaming jam last year, but the games were officially launched to the public in January.

One of the organisers of the gaming jam, Paul Gauci, said the stigma attached to conditions like depression or OCD was "often seen in video games".

The team, known as Jammind, wanted to "frame mental health in a positive light while also being fun and educational," Mr Gauci said.

Simon Jones, of Mind Cymru, said: "While attitudes are changing, there is still a great deal of stigma for people to overcome before they feel comfortable talking about their experiences.

"The more we see mental health represented in the media, and in video games, the easier those conversations become."

The jam was hosted by the MRC Centre Neuropsychiatric and Genomics at Cardiff University, NCMH and funded by the Wellcome Trust.