3 video games that tackle mental health and illnesses

Mental health and illnesses are topics that are becoming increasingly common in video games. Here are three games that explore the rippling effects of trauma, depression and more.

Psychonauts is about fighting for mental health — literally

Psychonauts is a great children’s cartoon that happens to be a video game. It’s also first on our list because it’s quite literally about fighting mental illness.

You play as Raz, a runaway boy who sneaks into the Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp to become a psychonaut. Psychonauts are government agents with psychic powers who can also enter into people’s minds to battle their inner psyches.

It’s zany, funny and deeply thoughtful. Raz enters the minds of others to battle their fears, insecurities and trauma. But through the course of his journey, he also learns to come to terms with his own baggage.

That Dragon, Cancer is a true story about what cancer does to a family

That Dragon, Cancer is an autobiographical game about Ryan and Amy Green, who lost their five-year-old son Joel to cancer.

The game is just as gut-wrenching as it sounds. It was made with recordings from the Greens and others who have also struggled through cancer, either as survivors of the disease or loved ones of patients.

All of it comes together to form a raw, honest experience of the toll that cancer takes on a family’s collective mental health. The Greens went through a rollercoaster of emotions — from feeling relief when Joel’s treatments were going well, to feeling sorrow when his cancer returned.

Disco Elysium is about shaping substance abuse, revolution and the anxiety of existing

Disco Elysium is a murder mystery set in the once glorious city of Revachol, which went through a failed communist revolution half a century ago. As an amnesiac, alcoholic detective, it’s up to you to solve this crime in a city that doesn’t really like cops (Revanchol is currently conquered and occupied by several countries) among other small adventures.

The biggest obstacle you’ll face in the game is yourself. In fact, most of the dialogue in the game is a prolonged battle between the detective and his own thoughts.

However you decide to solve the case and the mystery of your own life is up to you. You can heed the words of your partner Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi and sober up. But you can also plunge yourself back into alcohol and drugs in order to battle your demons.

Remember, games are never a replacement for professional treatment and real friends

Games can be informative, inspirational and even therapeutic. But remember, they are never a replacement for getting professional help.
If you are struggling with any mental health issues, please reach out to a therapist or psychiatrist.

Identify the friends and family you can trust and lean on them for support. They want to help you, perhaps more than you know.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or mental health concerns, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741. Visit the NAMI website to learn more about signs and symptoms of various mental health conditions.

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