Haven’t we moved on from this outdated view of mental illness? The amnesic Finding Nemo character, the ankle smashing psychotic of Misery, the bunny boiling of Glen Close in Fatal Attraction, to name but a few.
Flicking through this week’s edition of the New Scientist magazine, I came across an article about a gaming software company who actively chose to exploit psychosis for their main character. Ninja Theory, sought advice from a noted behavioural and clinical psychiatrist at the Neuroscience Institute, Cambridge, to assist them in their latest
creation. Their aim was to create a fully immersive experience of a Pict outcast, who has to enter the underworld to save the spirit of her dead lover, whilst being a sufferer of deep psychosis. Binaural soundtracks, mimicking the voices in her head, blend seamlessly with the melting walls of her reality as she enters Hel (one L, don’t ask me why).
While I applaud the creative endeavours and attention to detail in their pursuit of an original gaming experience, I have to wonder at the recent trend in using mental health issues, notably in women, for entertainment. Gone Girl, the psychotic murderer in book and movie form, netting millions for the creators and author. Girl on the Train – ‘oh, it’s okay. She’s an unreliable witness since she’s lost her marbles from too much booze.’ I could go on.
Since when has it become acceptable to flaunt mental conditions as an excuse for murder and mayhem? At what point does ‘promoting awareness’, become pure exploitation and utterly insensitive?
I realise that some of the books and films that explore the complexities of mental disorders have been addressed with a degree of tact and sensitivity, from Hitchcock’s classic Spellbound, to The Kings Speech of more recent times, but there remains a bad taste in my mouth over the thought of a virtual reality game, devoted to imitating psychosis.
While those gamers may enjoy the experience of a psychotic, hell-bound hallucinatory world, shouldn’t more be done to highlight the torment and suffering many face from such conditions? The least that Ninja Theory could do, is donate a percentage of their profits to research studies into effective cures. Somehow, I seriously doubt donations to charity are part of their Playstation business plan.
Sam Nash is the author of the sci-fi conspiracy thriller, The Aurora Mandate. Release date TBA. You can find her at https://www.samnash.org or on Twitter @samnashauthor or Facebook.com/samnash.author.