Teamwork Makes the Deep Subconscious Dream Work
Double Fine’s cult classic game Psychonauts has a really unique story and concept. Later this year, they are planning to launch the follow-up Psychonauts 2. In a game where you have the power to enter a person’s mind, alter their thoughts, and see manifestations of their inner thoughts, there is a certain care the developers must take. Mental health is at the very core of this game and can be a very sensitive topic, so they took steps to make sure their project was respectful and thoughtful.
There are a ton of games that have negative depictions of mental health. You can probably think of some games where you trapped in an asylum with patients who are trying to cut you up or games that have villains who have turned to evil because of past traumas. Stereotypes and tropes like these are for the most part very uncommon in reality and paint a harmful picture of neurodivergent people. Double Fine worked with Microsoft’s internal mental health team and recently brought on Dr. Raffael Boccamazzo to assess their approach to mental health. Dr. Boccamazzo is a clinical director at the charity Take This and a doctor of clinical psychology.
While Psychonauts 2 was deep into development when Dr. Boccamazzo came on, not all his critiques of the game could be changed, but the development team will be able to take his advice forward to future projects. In an interview with Game Informer, he gave praise to specific gameplay elements and choices that Double Fine had made in regard to mental health depictions, such as enemies and stories. Psychonauts 2 is slated for a 2021 release on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
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