Hi, I really enjoy your blog! I have a concept for a game that's a bit complex to explain, but the gist is the protag is able to enter a dimension that's influenced by the experiences of others. He's able to help them, not through 'fixing' their mental illnesses by defeating enemies or anything, but uncovering hidden or repressed issues. I'm sorry if this is a vague desc but I wanted to ask what you think and general tips to avoid unfortunate implications? thank you sorry if this is a weird ask
Oooh, that sounds like Psychonauts, which is like one of my favorite video games of all time (see here).
Alright, so here’s my suggestions:
- Consult with people who have the mental illness in question. Listen to and implement their input. This is critical. If you only use one of my tips, make it this one.
- Have the mentally ill NPCs explicitly consent to having the protagonist enter these dimensions and uncover the hidden / repressed issues.
- Note - This is one of the few things I don’t like about Psychonauts - for many characters, the consent isn’t there, even though it ultimately helps them.
- Have the NPCs make an appearance in the other dimension and even be an active part of uncovering their own issues.
- Go to TVtropes. Look through the tropes on mental illness (here). If you find tropes that exactly match what you’re planning on doing, be very, very careful. Tropes are tools, but be careful to avoid overdone or offensive stereotypes.
- Think about incorporating some of the lesser-known mental illnesses, not just the well-known ones.
- Even if you do only use well-known mental illnesses, shake things up a bit. Research the many different ways mental illness can be expressed. For instance, OCD isn’t always being a germophobe who excessively cleans (see here for some examples).
- Incorporate the different mental illnesses into the game mechanics of the specific dimension. For instance, you could have the PC move more slowly in the depressed world, or have an escort mission in a world based on dependent personality disorder.
- This one’s probably obvious, but incorporate the mental illness into the level design. In consultation with people with mental illness (mentioned in my first tip), create an environment that reflects and stylizes their experiences.
Followers, do you have any other tips?