Weekly INT Boost – Greetings From PAX West

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Welcome to our roundup of the best mental health and gaming articles you may have missed. This week, we have musings on Dream Daddy, Hellblade, and Sea Hero Quest, as well as Google’s new approach to depression and thoughts on the value of being visible as marginalized creators.


Three heartfelt lessons from Dream Daddy

“The game centers around the relationship between your character and his daughter Amanda. She’s doing her best to finish her last year in high-school and eagerly awaits the moment when she can go off to her dream college. As Amanda’s dad, you can be a constant source of support and fatherly advice (although she’ll often give you just as much advice). These lessons are heartfelt and can really apply to all of us. Here are a few ideas I took to heart from my play-throughs of Dream Daddy.”

Dream Daddy isn’t just a dating sim — it’s also a game about the importance of close relationships with family and friends. Writing for Geek & Sundry, Jessica Fisher finds 3 important lessons in that mix.


Google has created a tool that tests for clinical depression

“In an effort to encourage more patients to seek treatment sooner, Google announced Aug. 23 that it has teamed up with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an advocacy group, to create a simple tool for users to assess if they may be depressed. Now, when people in the US search for “clinical depression” on their phones, the typical “knowledge panel”—a container that displays company-vetted information on Google’s search results page—will come with an option to take a quiz that can assess the severity of symptoms.”

Google hasn’t invented a depression test – they’ve just made an existing test (the PHQ-9) more readily accessible. That may well give people the information they need, as Quartz explains.


Making a thing: being visible as a creator

“For creators, I noticed a trend—they’d be recounting their history of how they became a game designer, and there was a common thread. Many of them had a moment at some point where they realized: there are people who make these games. This is a job someone does. That kind of revelation seems simple, but it’s really important. When you’re a kid, teen, or whenever, there are lots of these moments. Everything we use and touch was, at some level, made by someone. When those things are games we love, that means there’s a person who we can model ourselves after. There’s a path to follow.”

Gnome Stew’s Tracy Barnett argues that creators should be as open as they can be about their creations and successes as well as their challenges if we’re going to inspire the next generation.


Two steps forward, three steps back: how Hellblade reinforces myths about mental illness

“Mental illness is a thorny topic often misrepresented by popular media, and Ninja Theory wants to make it clear that it’s done its homework; that Hellblade will be different. There are no psych wards housing dark secrets; no serial killers from the horror movies or police procedurals of your choice. You can tell they’re serious about this and obviously mean well, which is why it’s a shame that Hellblade reinforces the stigma it seeks to disassemble.”

We’ve seen a few articles praising Hellblade’s handling of mental health issues; here’s one with a different view from Steven Scaife at ZAM.


Dr Hugo Spiers on Sea Hero Quest: the game which uses play data for dementia research

“The team have already presented preliminary findings; perhaps most notable is that spatial navigation ability as captured by the game appears to deteriorate with age from the early 20s onwards. These findings were based on two month’s analysis of a set of levels that tested the player’s ability to know which direction they had travelled from. There are more findings to come as the team sets to work analysing data on how the players actually navigated around the wayfinding levels.”

Sea Hero Quest is a game that uses ResearchKit to track important early markers of dementia. The Royal College of Psychiatrists spoke to Dr. Hugo Spiers, who is leading the research. If you’re interested in their methods and results, this is a must-read.


And with that, we’re off. Most of team Take This is off at PAX West — and you can find us all over the show — but we’ll be back next week with more great stories. Till then, take care of yourselves, and each other!