Developer Nathalie Lawhead put a lot of herself into her 2017 digital zine Everything is Going to be OK. It’s an autobiographical exploration of pain and hope, told through a series of surreal, violent game experiences involving small bunnies and other cute, cartoonish figures. But for some players, that personal angle remains mystifying.
“The game has been a crash course for me in regards to how much more work there is still to be done in carving out a space for games like this,” she explained to itch.io this week. “Reactions like “lol, acid” and “what the f*ck weird game” tell me that we have to really work on a more nuanced way of discussing these games. They are legitimate art and we can talk about them without this dismissive language that’s based more in ridicule than critical discourse. These games matter too. The creators put a lot of effort in them. The popular view seems to be that they are a joke, or exist to be laughed at.”
Rather than accepting defeat in the face of people who dismiss her work, or worse, use the content of the game to target her with personally hurtful attacks, she plans to make her art even more explicit.
The game is very metaphoric. A lot of the content could fly over someone’s head. So I think if I add more literal personal stories then the piece would be a lot more pointed.I have to share some stories for how it was like for me, and my own personal conclusions, to make this better social commentary. It’s terrifying for me. This is stuff I can’t talk about to people close to me, and now I’m dissecting this in a game.
The update will be sharing my own conclusions from past experiences and what I did to feel “ok” again after them. I’m making a strong point not to blame people that consider suicide, or have to fight with that level of depression. I discuss how we justify how important the abuser is, how important their work is, how much value they bring to society, and based on that value, we judge their victims. I point out how this abuse is on all of us as a culture, because we enable the abusers.
I also discuss hope at the end, as a survivor. The personal strength of the survivor. Pride, and hope, are an overarching theme. After this update, I really can’t make things more clear. I hope that it will create some understanding.
Such honest vulnerability is a powerful statement in the face of the harassment that’s so rampant in the video game industry.