Welcome to our roundup of the best mental health and gaming articles you may have missed. This week, we have stories about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Life Is Strange, FFXIV, and new research about how many of us are likely to deal with mental health issues in our lives.
[Developer Brendan] Greene didn’t find Dr DisRespect’s joke particularly funny, this time quoting the tweet instead of responding directly to it, so more people would see it. “Suggesting violence is the best way to solve a disagreement is just wrong, even if you are playing a character,” he said. The Twitter response to Greene’s comment was predictable, with some wondering why he wasn’t able to “take a joke,” saying it “shows [a] lack of understanding towards the community that makes your game a success.”
Spend long enough in the video game community and anyone might start to think that violent threats are a perfectly reasonable way to communicate, but the developer of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is pushing back against that harmful norm. Waypoint has the story.
“We found that if you follow people over time, and screen them regularly using simple, evidence-based tools, the percentage of people who develop a diagnosable mental illness at any point in their lives jumps to well over 80 percent. In our cohort only 17 percent of study members did not develop a disorder, at least briefly, by middle age. Because we can’t be certain these individuals remained disorder-free in the years between assessments, the true proportion that never experienced a mental illness may be even smaller.”
Scientific American explores an increasingly-supported theory that while we don’t all “have a little mental illness,” most of us might experience a diagnosable mental illness at some point — and that for most of us, it’s temporary.
“In short, as I said, you get the community you design for. If you permit ganking, you are seeding a toxic subculture in your game, without question; player vigilantes who emerge to combat that subculture are also a result of that choice. That is the social dynamic you’ve created with your design, locking your players into a given sociological reality…I’d argue similarly that all the bad feelings stemming from this housing crisis must be laid at the feet of Square Enix. They created the circumstances in which something like this was bound to happen, and the bitterness and unkind words being exchanged among their players right now is down entirely to an easily avoided design choice.”
An important reminder for developers from Katherine Cross at Gamasutra: game design can easily encourage toxic behavior. Enforcement and strong community norms can combat it, but it may also be possible to stop it before it starts.
Content warning: Spoilers for Life is Strange; discussion of trauma and abuse.
“Life is Strange is an episodic game about time travel that opens with a vision: A giant tornado moving from sea to land, toward the coastal town of Arcadia Bay. The tiny buildings are miniscule in the face of the impossibly large vortex. It’s so big that, when I played it, I assumed that the world was ending. I thought that the storm was a symptom of the annihilation of the entirety of human existence localized into this one particular manifestation. And, in some ways, I still think that’s right.”
Over at Waypoint, Cameron Kunzelman argues that Life Is Strange’s most controversial element may in fact be a radical utopian vision that recognizes that the game’s traumatized heroes deserve happiness at any cost.
Why Comparing Technology to Drugs Isn’t Simply a Question of Addiction
“But it is problematic to label a technology itself as addictive, since only some users are affected to that extent. If the defining characteristic of a psychoactive drug is the ability to alter mood, does this suggest a more useful way to compare drugs with technology?”
Gaming addiction and technology addiction are complicated topics of discussion in mental health circles. Greg Wadley offers another approach to the debate at PC & Tech Authority: both can be mood altering in ways both good and bad, and any cogent conversation on the subject needs to recognize that.
One last thing: we’re still looking for volunteers for PAX West, so if you know anyone who’s going and who might be interested, please send them our way. It’s a great chance to help people, spend time with some awesome folks, and make your PAX experience extra special.
And with that, we’re off. We’ll be back next week with more great stories. Until then, take care of yourselves — and each other.