Weekly INT Boost – How Games Handle Trauma, and How They Affect Our Mental Health

Looks like Bridget is about ready for the week to wrap up - good thing it's Friday.

Looks like Bridget is about ready for the week to wrap up – good thing it’s Friday.

Welcome to our roundup of the best mental health-related articles you may have missed this week. We have a few missives from the gaming world this week, as well as a look at writing therapy and some thoughts on the balance between fighting stigma and protecting your own privacy.


What It’s Like to Work On a Video Game Flop

“You won’t find many consumers elegising the death of Infinite Crisis – in some ways I think we take a sick pleasure in watching overzealous projects fall on their face – but that doesn’t mean that the men and women at Turbine weren’t aiming for the top. If you go to the game’s abandoned website you can see hopes of a global eSports scene and some long-term narrative exposition. What happens when all that optimism falls away?”

Putting work into a game that fails to even launch could be devastating — here, VICE talks to a veteran developer who knows what it takes to protect a team from the worst of it.


Rolling the Dice: Trauma as a Play Mechanic

“The negative mental effects of psychological trauma in D&D are termed ‘madness,’ and can be short-term, long-term, or indefinite. Each madness type has a table that breaks down the results from a d100 roll. The effects of short and long-term cover an amount of time based on a d10 roll. This way, the character and story development are neatly controlled and the effects are accessible, but also randomized enough to make a unique experience following trauma.”

FemHype explains how, just as video games often reduce mental health to a meter, tabletop games often reduce it to a number — and in either case, a hit of magic or a brief bit of downtime is usually enough to fix up any trauma.


A Sober Look at Videogames and Mental Health

“Despite what critics and pundits have said on either side of the debate, the simple truth is that videogames are neither inherently good nor bad; they are merely a tool, albeit an important one, capable of producing transformative, interactive experiences like nothing else. In that regard, it’s not surprising that they provoke such strong responses. People on all sides of the discussion seem to recognize videogames’ potential, one way or the other, but most are likely ignorant as to why that is. So let’s peel back a layer and examine what makes playing games so psychologically powerful.”

ZAM takes a deep look at the benefits and drawbacks of video games when it comes to our mental health.


U.S. Cracking Down on “Brain Training” Games

“[Lumos Labs], based in San Francisco, has drawn in 70 million people over the past decade to play games that challenge users to remember sequences of brightly colored animations, or to ignore visual distractions and click only on certain objects. The FTC charged that Lumosity oversold the benefits of the games. The company’s website, for instance, used to claim that the brain training could ‘ward off cognitive decline.’ One ad featured a man who suffered from a stroke ‘and now uses Lumosity to regain lost mental function.'”

Scientific American reports on how the FTC is coming down hard on games that make unsupported health claims. It’s a good reminder to remain skeptical when games claim they can make you smarter, rid you of your depression, or improve your focus.


You Can Write Your Way Out of an Emotional Funk. Here’s How.

“In each study, Pennebaker found that the people who wrote about emotionally charged episodes experienced marked improvement in their physical and mental well-being. They were happier, less depressed and less anxious. In the months after the writing sessions, they had lower blood pressure, improved immune function, and fewer visits to the doctor. They also reported better relationships, improved memory, and more success at work.”

There’s nothing novel about this excerpt published in New York Magazine from the new book Emotional Agility — Pennebaker’s experiments were conducted in the 1980s, and have been replicated repeatedly since then. It’s simply a great starting point for understanding writing therapy and its potential benefits.


The Delicate Balance of Disclosing Mental Illness on Social Media

“Most nights, after falling asleep with her dog in one hand and her phone in the other, she says she has nightmares about getting kicked out of graduate school. She worries that people will stop seeing her and start seeing the disease instead. She knows that the distinction between a “professional self” and “social self” is blurry, if such a distinction even exists anymore.”

We strive to destigmatize mental health issues, but choosing to talk about your own mental health is a decision you must make for yourself, and, as The Daily Dot points out, it isn’t always an easy one.


For the Old Neighborhoods, Both Physical and Digital

“Sometimes those digital streets felt more real than the ones I lived on. My family lived in a state of flux back then, perpetually moving from home to home almost every other year, as far as I could remember. Maybe it was my dad’s stubborn personality that kept him at odds with the landlords, or his continually changing career path. Whatever the story, at some point these digital places became more familiar to me than the homes we constantly were uprooted from. I could tell you stories about the people and locations in them, give you better directions within them than I could my own block. Those islands were an anchor in a situation that kept sweeping us away to unfamiliar places.”

This powerful essay on Paste evokes the nostalgia of game spaces that once meant a lot to us — and the pain of real spaces that hold complicated memories.


That’s not quite it for us this week. Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day, and we have a couple things lined up. But the weekend is here, and most of us at Take This are going to take a couple days to regroup and recharge after an amazing PAX West.

We’ll be back Monday, and until then — take care of yourselves, and each other.