‘Moons of Madness’ Wants to Be Lovecraftian Horror Without the Stigma

A press image for Moons Of Madness, reassuringly titled ‘Bloodletting’

Lovecraftian horror tends to fall on the stigmatizing side of mental illness portrayals, which lots of grandiose ideas about what cosmic horror might to do someone’s mental state and how that might be represented.

It sounds like Moons of Madness is trying to do things a bit differently by teasing apart the Lovecraftian elements from an exploration of more realistic mental health issues. It’s about Shane Newehart, an astronaut on Mars who is coping with strange events, depression, unaddressed guilt, and a family history that involves mental illness.

In a preview on Gamespot, a member of the team explained that while the game will deal with both horror and mental illness, they hope to handle the human elements respectfully.

“Above all, we didn’t want to antagonize people who suffer from mental illnesses,” said producer Natascha Röösli. “We found that in a lot of horror games, that people who suffer from illnesses are portrayed in a negative light. We definitely want to show that in a different way. So it’s more there to tell the story of the main characters, and the experiences they’re going through. To see them being confronted by their past, in the face of this other force.”

You can read a more detailed take on the developers’ approach to stigma on their development blog, where they get into the challenges they’ve encountered in overcoming common tropes.

It is worth noting that while the title “Moons of Madness” might effectively get across sci-fi, Lovecraftian and mental health themes, the term “madness” itself is considered stigmatizing by some. In most contexts, terms like madness, insanity, craziness or lunacy come with some pretty negative connotations.

That said, Moons of Madness looks promising as a horror game with an eye toward treating mental health issues with more care than most. It’s due out in early 2018 on PC, Xbox One and PS4.