With mental health becoming an invisible pandemic – especially considering the restrictions of the highly visible Covid 19 – it is important for the media and entertainment to take it seriously and find ways we can experience it. , discuss and, hopefully, work to help those of us who are suffering. Traditionally, mental illness was just a free background for a villain, an excuse for a strangely thrilling level, or, most annoyingly, part of a crazy setting in video games. This trend has fortunately improved in recent years with games as varied as Gray, Hellblade: Senuas Sacrifice and Fractured Minds, all offering individual and innovative shots on the theme. Looking to join the list of recommended mental health games, Super Sexy Software (unfortunate name for developers of a deep and immersive review of mental illness) brings us The Shattering, a first-person psychological thriller based on history.
The description of the game might be more precise than that of a walking simulator, but do not be discouraged if you have previously renounced such experiences without conflict. Like the highlights of the genre Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch, The Shattering makes the virtue of the centrality of the tale (mainly) without danger. Framed like the psychological advice of the protagonist, John Evans, the game takes you through an effective and affecting structure in five acts in which you unpack the layers of an unidentified trauma to go to the heart of John's mental state.
While it could easily be viewed as a simplistic idea of mental illness as a challenge rather than a living and managing condition, it is obviously part of the story and progress of a video game. The speech therapy process is skillfully absorbed in the usual escalation that defines the structure of a game, each act feeling distinct and individual.
Shattering's most obvious original contribution to the conversation about mental illness is to move away from the conventional representation of mental health problems as defined by obscurity. Rather than the dark and poorly lit corridors of many movies and games, here we have a mostly white color palette; and one in which the use of color controls really stands out. It's a fantastic aesthetic that also goes to the heart of the way depression is thought of.
Popular metaphors such as the “black dog” suggest either to focus on the dark, or on a specific antagonistic entity, while it is often the case that mental illness is more like an inability to face an overly bright world. , too noisy, and just too present. Aside from a necessary moment in which a version of the Dark Monster is used, The Shattering presents the cold, clinical world of the emergency room, or the psychologist's office.
The story is delivered through a mixture of dialogues and in-game messages, such as computer screens and typewriters. This normally helps to ensure immersion is maintained, and there have been several times when the game has become almost too much. It starts with important warnings that the game is clearly about mental illness and should not be taken as medical advice or a suggested remedy. While this is a common medical legal warning, here it seems especially necessary that the feeling of being, rather than playing like, John Evans be strong during some of the most effective moments in the game, that it either peak moments with a high score or calm episodes of relatively mundane activity.
I'm deliberately vague with the descriptions, because the content really benefits from being lived as cold as possible. The exception would be, hopefully, not to spoil the fact that the game includes a discussion about suicide and that some should therefore be aware of any possible trigger (used in its proper sense, not the diverted social media ).
Some smaller European games suffer from non-native English speakers with a guind or unconvincing game, but fortunately The Shattering is not one of them. The voice play is excellent everywhere and feels perfectly placed for the different memories and imaginative situations that make up the five acts. These range from the aforementioned psychologist sessions to childhood memories and each one feels good. Although you were only playing John, the effect was very reminiscent of what remains of Edith Finch, but without the variety of aesthetics and mechanics of this title. The Shattering deliberately focuses on first-person narrative and environmental puzzles to really bring home the feeling of being caught in John's brain.