mental health


Asylum Hopping

Posted by Cha

I'm slightly ashamed to admit to how much I enjoy games featuring mental asylums (and similar locations). I suppose it goes with the territory when you appreciate dark themes, uncertain layers of reality, and an ominous atmosphere.

Pervasive ideas about mentally ill meaning creepy, dangerous, subhuman and so on... those aren't so cool. I know I'm treading through problematic territory on this one. I suppose I find creepiness here which has more to do with how patients are treated than the patients themselves.

Barbaric treatments for mental conditions are some of my top nightmarish-fears, with the additional frightening element that 'barbaric' doesn't always mean 'in the past'. Not having asylums anymore doesn't mean everything's rosy. So, I disturb myself by playing around in virtual asylums, then worry about the treatment of (and respect for) people with mental illnesses in the real word.


Heavy Moments

Posted by Cha

Heavy Rain is like a painting best viewed from a distance. I could run with the emotions of the moment, as though it all made perfect sense. Once you analyse the details it's clearly full of holes and falls apart.

I will certainly stand up for Heavy Rain's potential and vision. But there is something more than just that. I'm an easy target emotionally, but it wasn't just sensitive people like me who were affected. I watched friends trying desperately to overcome a stressful situation. They were caught up in the moment just as strongly as I was. There's a power to that, however easy it may be to pick on the game's flaws.

There are many flaws I can't defend, and wouldn't try. But something I believe helped my Heavy Rain experience immensely was not interpreting everything literally. It's (mostly) a real world setting, yes, but I find it's more concerned with painting an emotional picture than a logical one.


A Puzzle of Thoughts

Posted by Cha

I was recently thinking about Phantasmagoria: a puzzle of flesh. Which I played in High School, so it's stretching the memory a bit. It isn't a game I'd ever recommend, by the way, but there were some aspects of it I found interesting. It is a far more mental story than the first Phantasmagoria game. And it was brave enough to explore abuse, mental illness and its treatment, bisexuality, and S&M. I had some admiration for a game attempting so many difficult themes, though ultimately it really disappoints.

If you don't want spoilers for a old, not terribly good adventure game then stop reading now.

At the time, I didn't understand the ending. After exploring a relatively serious real-world setting, we suddenly find ourselves in a brightly-coloured, alien landscape. I assumed this was part of the main character's hallucinations, which had been getting worse throughout the game. But it was still very jarring.