Ninja Theory says games companies need to tackle difficult topics if the industry wants to be held in the same regard as other forms of entertainment.
The UK developer is currently working on Hellblade, the story of a warrior traumatised by Viking attacks on her homeland. The game will explore the effects of mental illness throughout her journey as she explores a landscape formed by her own troubled mind.
It’s an unusually serious topic for video games, but it is one of many that are vital for the industry to cover, says the studio’s creative boss Tameem Antoniades.
“You can’t say movies and books have a free pass to tackle difficult issues but games don’t,” he told MCV @ Gamescom.
“If you’re serious about games being a medium, there is no defendable argument that we shouldn’t be doing this. That doesn’t mean all games should, but we as an industry need to have the diversity to tackle any subject.”
Hellblade is being developed with support from The Wellcome Trust, and in collaboration with a leading psychiatrist and real patients to ensure the issue is sensitively handled.
“We’re not out to hurt people,” said Antoniades. “I don’t think this is a subject that has been treated right in films and games.
“A lot of mental illness’ stigma comes from the portrayal of things like schizophrenia, which has been extremely negative in some games.
“I’m comfortable that Hellblade won’t be as damaging as those things.”