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"We're not the first people to do it and I hope we won't be the last because I think people should be making games about these topics."
- Artifact 5's Samantha Cook on wanting to see more games tackle the subject of mental health.
In a Noclip Sessions interview published today, producer at Artifact 5 Samantha Cook discusses the challenges of depicting mental health in a surreal way for its upcoming title Anamorphine.
Anamorphine is described as a surrealistic adventure game which aims to depict depression and trauma through a different lens where the normal conventions of a walking simulator don't apply. "We're not using text or voice-over," Cook explains. "We want to try and explore all of this through imagery, through music, through art."
At its core Anamorphine is a story about mental health, following the player character Tyler as he navigates how to support his wife Elena as she struggles with depression. Cook acknowledges how mental health isn't easy to talk about in everyday life and that challenge also translates into design. "You have to think about how to show that in ways that are both true to life but still engaging in a story telling perspective."
"We like to call it rendering emotions," she says in reference to their approach to design. "We want to take the world and if you, the character, feel like your world is falling apart, the world will literally fall apart around you. Its a way of making the metaphorical literal."
Games have been used as a tool to combat the lows of depression, and Cook encourages that they continue to be used for self care. "I don't even know that it's escapism. Escapism has a negative connotation like it implies we're doing something we shouldn't be. I don't think that's fair."
When asked what she hopes people will get out of playing Anamorphine, Cook thinks for a moment. "I hope they'll come out of it with a sense of how difficult it is to be confronted with mental health issues on a daily basis," she says. "Its okay to talk about depression. It's okay to talk about trauma. We need to do that more."