Video games subjects are always going to be up for serious debate. Some people want fluffy, mindless games that allow them to zone out for a few hours. Some want really engrossing stories that will sweep them away to a brand new universe that they can deep dive into. Still others want something to make them scream, laugh, cry, and feel other emotional reactions. It's this latter group that we're saluting in today's topic: video games that tackle serious subjects. Life is anything but sunshine and rainbows, so it makes sense that video games are not all sparkles and action lines either. Some games take on very real subjects that many of us fear.
We're talking about the darker recesses of our minds. The little niggling voice that tells us we're going to fail or that we're worthless. Those shadows that creep along the walls, leading us to think that there's nothing to fear but fear itself, and what do you do when fear itself is terrifying? Video games that take on massively complex and deep subjects like mental health have been around for some time, and they're now beginning to become more main stream. Take a look at Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Here's a title that takes on the real life horrors of psychosis. It is like Legion, another form of media that tries to get a handle on schizophrenia.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression have become more and more accepted over the years. We've started to move on from the “get over it” mindset that plagued generations before us. Now we recognize that those with the conditions really can't help themselves. It's not a case of the Mondays, or just feeling sad when it comes to depression. It's the inability to get yourself out of bed because you feel like no one loves you, and that you have nothing to contribute to the world. Anxiety is fighting against your inner demons when you're at a party. No, they're not looking at you because they think you're hideous; they're actually interested and just trying to decide how to strike up a conversation.
These types of mental illnesses are difficult to overcome; they still carry a bit of a social stigma. Asking for help is sometimes still seen as a weakness or, at the very least, embarrassing. If things like video games use these real life problems more frequently, it will help normalize things. Just like we recognize that anyone with strep throat should see a doctor and take some medication, we should begin to see that anyone who is depressed should see a therapist and talk through things. Games like Hellblade and shows like Legion help those suffering to see that they aren't alone.
They also help people to escape from their real life problems. It might seem strange to say that we should trade our problems for those of a fictional character, but we've been doing it for centuries. We read murder mysteries because they are so much more perilous than our own real life issues. We play games like Hellblade and realize that our own mild to moderate anxiety or depression is nothing compared to psychosis. By living in other people's shoes, we can experience things that we wouldn't otherwise. Senua's battle in Hellblade gives people courage that they can fight their own demons.
Difficult and complicated subjects absolutely have a place in video games. I hope that more titles like Hellblade continue to be made in the future to bring mental health issues even further into the forefront of people's minds. How about you?