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Oct 11, 2019

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Mind Games: Mental Health and Virtual Reality

No guns or race cars or strategy in this video game.

Molly Wood Dec 2, 2013
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Kara Stone is an artist living in Canada. She recently built her first video game. But instead of a battlefield or a fantasy world, the game’s landscape is built around the experience of mental illness. 

Like many people in North America, Stone suffers from depression and anxiety. Her game, “Medication Meditation,” was inspired by her struggles with depression. She describes it as “a series of five little exercise based around daily living with mental illness.”

“All of these exercises come from my own experiences with trying to deal with living with mental illness — or emotional disregulation,” Stone says. “All of these lifestyle changes that I’ve had to make have filtered into this game.”

The first exercise is called “Talk,” where the gamer simulates the experience of a visit to a therapist’s office. But, as anyone who has seen a therapist will find, there are a few quirky differences between the game and the real thing.

“The therapist is a disembodied ear, and you are a disembodied mouth,” Stone says. “She takes you through a set of questions. The first one is ‘How are you feeling?’ And, you get to type in however you are feeling at the moment. It’s nothing like a real therapist, obviously. It is an attempt to look at it in a funny way.”

Stone believes that mental health issues could be a growing area for video games can be used. But, she says, “Medication Meditation” isn’t supposed to be one of those games.

“There’s a lot of room for experimentation within video games to kind of grow and serve different purposes. I don’t think my game… No, it’s not a self-help game. It’s not really trying to help people. It’s more just about a different way of using video games.”

There is no way to win “Medication Meditation,but not because Stone wanted to frustrate the gamer. She’s more interested in commenting on a widely-held societal belief about overcoming mental illness that isn’t always true.

“There’s a lot of rhetoric in dealing with mental illness that is like, ‘let’s overcome this, let’s beat this,’ but for me, dealing with my own mental illness, I can’t really view it as, ‘Oh, I’m going to beat this. I’m going to win. I’m going to kick this mental illness to the curb.’ I just have to concentrate on the daily things, and making those ordinary experiences a little bit better.”

You can download “Medication Meditation” at Kara Stone’s website.

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