In 2021, Take This was invited by Games for Change to create a theme on resilience for its annual Student Challenge. We are proud to partner with this fantastic organization to advance the profile of games and their ability to address major issues in an approachable way. The student challenge both trains teachers to bring games into the classroom and provides students with access to design challenges that allow them to showcase their skills and creativity. Below are the award-winning games from this past year.
The grand prize winner for the national competition was Your Box, a game by Zuriel J., who is now a student at Johns Hopkins University. They designed the game while a student at West Campus High School last year. Your Box is a powerful examination of the five stages of grief in a simple 2D platformer, and demonstrates how compelling a simple game can be. As Zuriel told us, “I’m ecstatic that this game turned out aesthetically pleasing, even without fancy art or graphics. The minimalist style, inspired by Thomas was Alone, kept the production of the game straightforward and simple, without detracting from the immersiveness of the experience. I’m proud of being able to create an entire story with some boxes and shadows.”
Jazmin R. created Solitude while a student at Churchill High School and the Livonia Career Technical Center. It is a 2D puzzle platformer that includes stories about self care at each level. It won the grand prize from Detroit. Jazmin told us, “I’ve struggled with mental health for most of my life, and I feel like it isn’t talked about as much as it should be. Personally, I believe that we should tell people that you don’t have to be super depressed or anything to learn about self care or to get help. Everyone should learn about it and practice it.”
Mental health from (a kids perspective) was created by Naomi H. from Brenda Scott Academy and won the Detroit MIddle School Resilience category. Naomi said, “The moving letters are the part I’m most proud of because it gives realization to the person playing what it feels like not being mentally stable enough to do things.” The representation of mental states through games is something we talk about a lot at Take This, and are very happy to see in the Student Challenge.
Akash S. from Chino Hills High School made Resilient, which is “the dream of a struggling student who doesn’t have the courage to ask for help with school. By battling the student’s darkest feelings in the form of monsters and traversing his mind, the player learns how to stay resilient in times of high stress and helps the student gain his courage.” We were very proud to see Akash internalize an commonly-dismissed element of resilience: reliance on others. He noted, “I learned that resiliency isn’t just defined by the effort that someone puts in to stay strong in tough times. A lot of the time, reaching out to someone else and having someone to depend on is what allows a person to make it through tough situations, and that is also a part of resiliency.” Resilient won the high school resilience category in Los Angeles.
Stephanie W. made You’ve Got Mail, “a game about mental resilience during hard times. Even though people often connect virtually, research has found that writing physical letters decreases stress and improves your mood. In the game, you play as a postman who delivers letters that people have written during the pandemic. Throughout the levels, there are different tips and facts on how to stay mentally healthy. It also pays tribute to essential workers who’ve worked nonstop for us.” Stephanie’s game won the “Made with Unity” award in New York City, where she is a student at The 30th Ave School.
“The game I created, Learning About Mental Anxiety, is a game designed to spread awareness regarding some of the aspects of mental anxiety and stress. The game includes 3 different levels, each teaching a certain lesson in regards to anxiety and stress. Each of these levels does something entirely different, and when combined, the 3 of them come together to provide a powerful lesson to people.” Ronan T. won in the resilience category for high school in Atlanta for this game. Like other designers, Ronan used gameplay features to evoke aspects of anxiety for the player, to great effect.