(Not) treating mental illness like a game

Moons of Madness introduces mental illness as a factor in the game through various game modes and mechanics. However, one of the most challenging aspects of doing this has always been to do a scary game that does not antagonize any mental illness sufferers.

Even though we do have a lot of discussions around the subject and we want to be very careful we almost already fell into the trap of doing the very mistake we were trying to avoid. In one of the events we had someone turn into a monster until we realized that is exactly what we do not want to do. In so many horror games mental patients are portrayed as the monsters, as something you have to be afraid of. We are constantly re-assessing events, characters and story elements to make sure we are staying true to this in all aspects of the game.

Additionally, mental institutions or those seeking help have also been stigmatized and that is also something we would like to be very careful about. How we portray any of this is incredibly sensitive and we are very aware of this fact.

We do not want the mental illness to be the driving force or source of scary aspects or violence in Moons of Madness. It’s saddening that mental illness sufferers for many are still perceived as scary or unapproachable.

With this in mind, we want to stress again, that we are actively working to use this topic in a new/hopefully relate-able way. We are not going for “insane inmate trope” or even “crazed killer” trope.

We also feel that it’s important to not only look into how it is to suffer from mental illness but also how it might be to indirectly be afflicted by it.

In that regard it is also helpful to actually consult with professionals on this subject. It helps us to portray situations more realistically while staying true to the kind of mental illness we are exploring.

Of course we could claim that the game is mostly about “fighting your inner demons” but stories are never as straight forward are they and ours certainly isn’t either.

7 Replies to "(Not) treating mental illness like a game"

  • comment-avatar
    Yog
    February 1, 2017 (6:49 pm)
    Reply

    I just found out about your game, and after reading this post, you have no idea how ecstatic I am! Mental illness is extremely important to me, and the fact that you’re going out of your way to make sure you portray it accurately is beautiful.

    I can’t wait for this to come out!

    • comment-avatar
      Orson
      February 2, 2017 (11:47 am)
      Reply

      Hi Yog and thanks a lot for the comment 🙂 Glad to hear you think we are on the right way!

  • comment-avatar
    Angel K
    February 7, 2017 (10:03 pm)
    Reply

    Well it is a bit of a tight rope act, I would agree on that. On the one hand mental illness provides some great game-play and storytelling possibilities by providing the element of unexpected events, decent into situations that adversely affect the character the player controls and so on. All these add to the tension and thrill aspect of a horror game. On the other hand, as you say it is always being done in an insensitive way, which on top of everything else ends up being predictable as well. It sounds like an awesome challenge to figure this out while keeping it realistic, socially sensitive and also innovative. Can’t wait to hear more about how you handle it.

    • comment-avatar
      Orson
      February 8, 2017 (10:00 am)
      Reply

      Absolutely, well said. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • comment-avatar
    Atticus
    April 21, 2017 (6:43 pm)
    Reply

    As someone who’s mentally ill i am utterly ecstatic to hear this! I am very excited to buy it when it comes out!

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    August 13, 2017 (11:01 pm)
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    […] a “scary game that does not antagonise any mental illness sufferers”, and the team have written a blog post about how they’ll do that (they’re particularly keen to avoid video game […]

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