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Hellblade Deals With Mental Illness

As video games have begun to be adopted by a broader audience, they have also begin to deal with broader themes. Today Ninja Theory, the studio behind Devil May Cry, unveiled the trailer for their newest title Hellblade. A game with a protagonist who battles against an entirely different sort of monster.

Hellblade follows a Celtic Warrior by the name of Senua who suffers from mental illness. According to Dominic Mathews of Ninja Theory, who posted the trailer to the PlayStation Blog

Senua experiences psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions, as well as suffering from anxiety and depression. As a player you will witness Senua’s living nightmare through her own eyes.

While this is not the first time that a game has dealt with mental illness as subject matter, it may qualift as the biggest budget title to do so. The game will deal with the main character’s decent into Hell, although based on the description it appears that the entire game will take place as some sort of delusion. It’s an intriguing concept to be sure.

There is a tightrope to be walked however. While drawing attention to this difficult topic is a valiant goal, it could just as easily be viewed as exploitation if not done well. In an attempt to alleviate that concern  Ninja Theory is working hard to make the game’s depiction of mental illness accurate. They are working with  Professor Paul Fletcher, a professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge as well as consulting with people who suffer directly from mental illness.

The best games make you feel like you are standing in place of the character you control. If Ninja Theory is able to truly recreate the experience of living with mental illness in any meaningful way the game could truly help those who suffer be better understood. Watch the full trailer below:

The best art causes the viewer to reflect on the human condition. If we’re truly interested in having video games be viewed as art than this is exactly what we need to see more of. The game is set for a 2016 release so expect to see a lot more of this game as its development continues.

Expect to hear more about Hellblade during the PlayStation media event during E3 next week. It looks like the game will be console exclusive to the PS4, though it will be released for PC as well.

Stephen "Dirk" Libbey

Stephen is a veteran of the consumer electronics industry where his passion for technology was born. Most of the people he knows in that industry call him Dirk, but that’s not important. He is an avid gamer, occasional podcaster, coffee snob, and watches much more TV than is probably healthy. Today he is a freelance writer specializing in his various geek obsessions.

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