Representation of Mental Illness in Video Games

Portrayals of mental illness appear frequently in video games and have the potential to shape cultural attitudes toward psychopathology for better or for worse. Yet research on such portrayals is practically nonexistent. The limited available research focuses almost exclusively on how specific characters fit into film and television mental illness tropes. Representations of mental illness in games are broader than this; for instance, they may include settings (e.g., insane asylums) and specific terminology (e.g., clinical diagnoses). Until now, there has been no framework to help identify and categorize the many game-based representations of psychopathology. This paper puts forth a new framework that does just that in an attempt to address the limitations of previous research and to offer guidance for future game researchers and developers on how to think critically about the representation of mental illness in games.

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