Horror Game Jam Takes Games Away from Mental Health Stereotypes

| 2 Sep 2013 12:08

One game jam seeks to prove horror doesn't need to rely on stigmatization of mental illness.

Abandoned mental hospitals are popular settings for horror games, movies, and books. Take another moment to think about the well-known horror stories, especially in games and how many of them involve mental illness. Because mental illness is something many people still do not understand, and therefore also fear to some degree, they're an easy target for scary games. One game jam seeks to challenge those stereotypes of horror. The Asylum Game Jam is a 48-hour challenge that calls participants to create a game without using "asylums, psychiatric institutes, medical professionals, or violent/antipathic/'insane' patients as settings or triggers."

The website for the game jam states the purpose of the game jam is to prove horror games do not need to demonize medical institutes to create an engaging horror experience. "Many horror games use the negative portrayal of those who suffer from mental illness as extremely violent or sadistic, usually as the villain or antagonist, as an easy crutch to rest their story, characters, and motivations on," the site states. "This jam is to show that you can still create a great horror experience without using inaccurate stereotypes of those who suffer from mental illness, or the institutions that support them in diagnosis and recovery."

Asylum Game Jam points out Slender: The Eight Pages as an example of a horrifying game that did not use mental health as a crutch. Other games listed use slower build-ups of horror than usually seen in media, especially in western media, and tension and suspense are equally important to the story.

Game jams frequently use restrictions to keep developers from thinking too broadly and to promote innovation. Asylum Game Jam is even more about promoting awareness that the stigmatization of mental illness and that our media uses public fear of mental illness to sell entertainment in a way that damages perception.

The game jam takes place Oct. 11 to 13. To sign up, watch the Asylum Game Jam website to keep up with updates and links for signing up as the event draws closer.

Source: Asylum Game Jam

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