The International Game Summit on Mental Health will take place October 9-10 in Toronto, Canada, and will be the first such event on mental health for gaming industry professionals.
It is based on the notion that professionals in the gaming industry are like everyone else. And in a given year, one in five people in Canada and the United States will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. But the games require a mental health conference of their own because the industry presents unique environmental challenges and opportunities. The event is held on World Mental Health Day (October 10), recognizing that raising awareness and recognition of mental health challenges is a good thing.
The idea began with Mark Chandler, a veteran of the gaming industry who has worked in studios like Epic Games and previously organized the GamesCon event in Toronto. In an interview with GamesBeat, Chandler said he “fell through my own hole” in regards to mental health. He said he was saved by his mother, received adequate medical help and then, about two years ago, began to speak publicly about it on Facebook and elsewhere as part of a healing process.
“It was through that exchange in the industry that people started communicating with me or contacting me and telling their stories, and that’s how it happened,” said Chandler.
Chandler also started playing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifce, an award-winning Ninja Theory game that debuted in August 2017. It took Ninja Theory four years to make the game, and the studio infused the hack-‘n’-slash fantasy game with a Realistic representation of a character who suffers from psychosis, or who sees things in the world that are not real. Senua can’t tell if the demons she sees with her eyes or the voices in her head are real or not. Ninja Theory received a grant from the health care firm Wellcome Trust, and consulted with Paul Fletcher, a professor at the University of Cambridge who was a leading expert in psychosis. He became a study advisor when he made the game.
Chander contacted Fletcher, who agreed to be on the advisory board for a conference on mental health and games. Others who joined included Eve Crevoshay, executive director of the nonprofit mental health gaming organization Take This; Kate Edwards, executive director of Global Game Jam; and Mike Wilson, founding partner of Devolver Digital.
Chandler said the event will start small and try to develop a strong meeting over time. The first event will focus on mental health in games, mental health in the workforce and mental health in interaction and online community. The event has initial funds from anonymous donors, and will be held at the Design Exchange in Toronto. Attendees will pay $ 100 Canadians.
Speakers will be announced later, but topics will include how to protect and support employees, how to talk openly about mental health struggles and tips for survival. Crevoshay said the event’s mission aligns well with Take This’s own mission.
Chandler said he had candid conversations with Wilson about mental health. On Facebook and in interviews, Wilson supports the issues coming to light.
“We had several developers hospitalized for a couple of years while doing their games, or just after, because of stress,” Wilson said in our interview in June. “I would be an idiot if I didn’t say something about it. Again, most of the people who benefit from that, I don’t feel we ever hear from them. It’s just this wave out there that is happening. Someone saw something they needed. see that day. With all the crap that comes to us every day, all the reasons to be depressed, I think it’s important to talk about it. ”
Chandler said: “We simply gravitate naturally towards each other. And I already came up with this idea to make this event. And he was completely behind that. And he has always been there for me forever. ”
The conversations led to more, and that led to the event taking shape.
“I knew this was really in line with what concerns us in Take This,” Crevoshay said. “We are talking about exactly the same things. It was really exciting for me to hear someone who is so passionate and connected and so aware of their own experience. And so, it seemed like a really fantastic opportunity to join forces. ”
Take This has been able to contribute its organizational capacity and its own network of people. Recently he released a white paper on the state of mental health in games.
“Our goal is to leave the conference with some very specific action points and how to investigate the points of change in the industry,” Crevoshay said.
Chandler hopes to bring together a diverse set of people and bring them all together and develop a type of plan for companies and industry professionals to deal with mental health in the workplace, as well as how to deal with mental health. players. .
“It’s really important to gather people in the same place and brainstorm,” said Chandler. “We are going to have people from the gaming industry sitting on the same couch as someone from the mental health profession, and they can have a conversation.”
Chandler has started podcasting with people like Wilson in the industry, where they talk about personal challenges and ways to help. Chander is also looking for more sponsors to help with the event.
“It’s such a compelling topic. It’s very important. It’s very poorly addressed, “said Chandler. People are asking for spaces to talk about mental health in a normalized, productive and solution-oriented way. “