Mental Health: the Game Gris

Spoiler Alert: for the game Gris

Welcoming in the New Year has always been a contemplative time for me. Time to take stock of everything I’ve read, watched, done, played & heard in 2018. So I’m going to be speaking about Mental Health, in various forms of media from games to comic books.

2018 has seen the release of some brilliant games, from Spider-Man to Red Dead Redemption 2. Personally, Red Dead Redemption 2 has transformed my perspective on the importance of gaming, it’s the experiential element that is important for me. The realism of the living world is on another level. The world doesn’t revolve around you, the game could care less about you as a gamer. You’re only part of the world. Away from the incredible story and characters, the world allows a sense of unparalleled freedom. Riding around on your faithful horse, I spend my time cataloguing new animals, foraging for herbs and bringing back food for the camp. The simple things I call the ‘Silence Of Life’ draw me back into my second life as Arthur Morgan.

Image of a girl from the game Gris

The game that I really want to talk about is Gris. It’s one of those games that arrive at the right time of your life like the planets have perfectly aligned. I lost a close friend in December, so Gris was a tangible way to navigate through the emotional barriers inherent in the grieving process.

Gameplay Image of a Girl floating between 2 hands from the game Gris

The core of Gris is about unravelling the mysterious story of a girl. It’s a simple narrative with world-building symbolic of complex emotional concepts. The introduction of new abilities powering you up, teaching you that you own the confidence to take back control of your broken world. Gris is a chance for reflection to ultimately develop strategies to move towards acceptance and peace.

 Black and White contrast in the game Gris

Colour is symbolic of new growth, openness to new perspectives. You’re not simply moving through a beautifully designed environment, you’re moving through your own mental landscape. Every gameplay and the narrative element has symbolic value. Why would a journey through your mental landscape not be full of symbolic elements? Our unconscious mind is a mysterious place, with hidden secrets of meaningful value.

Image of the bird boss with beak open from the game Gris

The game uses different environments and sequences as tangible progression. The ‘Bird’ represents anger, the scream that pushes you back, letting you wallow in despair and reject help. The ‘Robot’ that joins you on your journey is your slow acceptance of help, his goodbye sequence teaches you that relationships are transient and maybe life can continue.

Girl walking up a hill with a Robot friend from the game Gris

The ‘Water’ level signifies your tears, diving deep into your sadness ready to unravel your mental pain. The ‘eel’ chases you out of the water demonstrating your ability to escape the total darkness. Releasing your guilt which blocked you for seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, the ‘Flower’ section, you discover that your voice activates the beauty of nature, that you control the happiness in your life. This liberation of your mental landscape gives you the freedom to focus on the beautiful happy memories of your loved one.      

Ending image from the game Gris

Gris has a perfect ending, we arrive at a beautiful place where our separate mental jigsaw pieces slowly fit together. Illustrating that even through the toughest of times you are able to unite with your sense of self even after grief.

Games like Gris elevate the gaming medium into an art form able to express mature emotional themes.

Lenny Summers quote from Red Dead Redemption 2 "Living free out here, like this... I wouldn't have it any other way."

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