Weekly INT Boost – Lights That Don’t Go Out

In this week’s roundup, we have a look at therapy games in Japan, personal stories of games and acceptance, and thoughts on how certain psychological principles could be better used in games.


Role-playing video game helps fight against depression for counselor-shy Japanese

“‘I was studying CBT at university and knew it was a highly reliable approach,’ Shimizu said. ‘But in Japan, many people with depression had heard of CBT but didn’t know where to go to receive a session. I thought the game was a perfect way to introduce CBT to people who were interested but were still scared of undergoing it face-to-face.'”

Ayako Shimizu talks to The Japan Times about her effort to bring SPARX to Japan, including details on how its been embraced in a country that can be skeptical about mental health care.


Cuphead is a nostalgia I can finally understand

“And so, over time, the sense of routine that children associate with stability became, for me, centered around the bright, cheery worlds of my favorite cartoon heroes. It was a double whammy of “safe”: they weren’t just the only things I was “allowed” to watch. They were also the only place to hide. My parents were neglectful, emotionally unavailable and abusive. Some of the only times I ever felt happy were when I was immersed in a fantasy.”

Writing for Paste, Holly Green shares the healing power of a game that inspires nostalgia for a few good moments from a sheltered childhood with abusive parents.


Life is Strange and humans are complex

“There were several moments during gameplay where I had to stop and sit in quiet awe at the compassion and empathy I was feeling for this character who I spent an entire series disliking. I could see the beating heart behind the leather and found pieces of myself reflected back. I cheered at her victories and cried at her losses. Chloe Price is the kind of girl who would intimidate most if they met her in person. We have all been that angry teenager.”

Gamechurch has a wonderful piece this week about the journey of Chloe Price in both Life is Strange and its prequel, and how that journey serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy.


Nineteen metaphors for your depression


“If you call depression a dragon (metaphor No. 1), a slaying is in order, but that’s far too vague to be useful, so instead you might decide to think of it as a poisonous fog (No. 2). Now you’re dealing with something that rolls into your life and corrodes everything meaningful in its path. Your job is clear: protect what you care most about, and let the rest evaporate into the mist. If you choose to think of depression as a kind of gravity (No. 3), then you’re tasked with building new muscles to push up against it or finding ways to leverage its downward force.”

Jacqueline Novak has a delightful talent for writing about depression. In this article for Lenny, she employs it to talk about what it’s like to spot the approach of depression before it has a chance to settle in.


Don’t do your best: Goal setting and Horizon:Zero Dawn

All of this reminds me, though, of some psychological research I’ve read about goal setting for unfamiliar tasks. Specifically, one study that suggests how Horizon: Zero Dawn’s hunting grounds frame their challenges in a way that increases player motivations to perform, but doesn’t go quite as far as it could. The central question is: when is it more motivating to set a specific, difficult goal and when is it more motivating to simply say ‘Do your best’?

And finally, for something a little different, here’s The Psychology of Video Games on how we learn new tasks, and how we can apply that to game design.


And with that, we’re off. Next week brings with it World Mental Health Day, and we hope you’ll join us for it. Until then, take care of yourselves — and each other.