At the end of May, the 2020 Dr. Mark Award for Recognition of Excellence in the Portrayal of Mental Health, Healing, and Hope was awarded to Celeste (Matt Makes Games). This is the 2nd time the Dr. Mark Award has been awarded, the first being in 2017, which was awarded to Stardew Valley.
The Dr. Mark Award is awarded by Take This to the video game, studio, developer, or other product/entity/person best exhibiting excellence in advancing ideas related to mental health treatment and/or acceptance through video games. It recognizes a game that goes above and beyond in portraying the cornerstones of the Take This’ mission: mental health issues, healing, and hope.
The award is named in honor of our founding clinical director, Dr. Mark Kline, and his many contributions not only with Take This, but throughout his ongoing career as a caregiver, author, and speaker towards fostering greater understanding of mental health issues within the gaming community.
Celeste is a platforming video game by Canadian developers Matt Thorson and Noel Berry, with art by the Brazillian studio MiniBoss. The game was originally created as a prototype during a game jam and later expanded into a full release.
In the game, players control a girl named Madeline as she makes her way up a mountain while avoiding various deadly obstacles. During Madeline’s ascent up the mountain, she has to battle her alter ego, her anxiety, named Badeline. The game is visually beautiful and integrates mental health and wellness in the story and mechanics of the game. Perhaps one of the more moving moments of the game is the realization that Badeline isn’t a monster, but an important part of Madeline and necessary for her overcoming Celeste mountain. This sequence conveys that those darker parts of ourselves, the thoughts of feelings we often feel haunted by, can often serve a protective purpose in the beginning but over time can evolve into something harmful or distressing.
In the words of Dr. Mark Kline, speaking about Celeste:
“What seems like another battle game is really a dialogue about self-understanding—a struggle with a split-off part of oneself that must be grappled with, at great cost—that must be acknowledged and somehow re-integrated to achieve resolution. There is conflict, damage, and suffering in the process.
This theme speaks to what is basic for many of us. How do we collect important parts of ourselves into a coherent whole—or self—and what are the consequences of not doing so? A game that is fun and speaks to such an essential challenge is truly worthy of note.”