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Hellblade Dev Ninja Theory Explores Mental Health Through Video Games In New Project

Ninja Theory, the studio that created Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, has launched the Insight Project, an exploratory effort that aims to delve into mental health solutions through a combination of game design, technology, clinical neuroscience, and psychiatry.

"The Insight Project is a rare example of artists, scientists and mental health professionals coming together," Ninja Theory co-founder and creative director Tameem Antoniades asserts, "to tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our time: mental suffering."

The project will unfold over several years and focus on discovering new ways to use video games to promote mental well-being and reduce mental suffering. Ninja Theory believes that the absorbing narratives and immersive settings of video games, combined with the tracking and tactile capabilities of wearable technology, make ideal tools for measuring and altering the factors that lead to mental suffering and ill-health. 

"We plan a programme of gaming, technological and scientific development that will lead to self-contained, individualised and absorbing game experiences, within which people can become expert at recognising, responding to and ultimately controlling their own unique patterns of physical and physiological signalling that are the driving force behind fear, anxiety and other negative subjective experience," explains the official website. "The work will be underpinned by scientific principles to ensure its validity and it will adhere to strict standards of ethics and data management."

The Insight Project echoes the values Ninja Theory established in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, a game whose protagonist experiences severe psychosis. To tackle the sensitive subject matter in an accurate and respectful manner, the studio consulted with Paul Fletcher, a Cambridge University professor of health neuroscience. The Insight Project will continue Ninja Theory's relationship with Fletcher who will work in tandem with the developer to explore new mental health treatments.

"We're asking a question," states Fletcher, "could we combine the best of game design and technology with cutting edge clinical neuroscience and psychiatry to help with mental suffering and promote mental wellbeing?" A worthwhile pursuit, especially as more clinics dedicated to video game addiction pop up. As head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty says, "the Insight Project is a great example of the power of games to be a force for good."