Ninja Theory's Hellblade aims to accurately represent mental health issues
Hellblade is an independently published action-adventure game by Ninja Theory.
The developer has explicitly stated that through this game they hope to discuss the very stigmatized topic of mental illness.
Through the eyes of protagonist, Senua, the player experiences the inner struggle of someone dealing with psychosis.
Senua is a Celtic warrior who is left tortured after a Viking invasion. Though the hell she experiences in the physical world is nothing compared to the hell that manifests in her own mind.
As a result of independent development, Ninja Theory has stated that they have the freedom to explore such a topic and have gone to great lengths to ensure that the finished product is not only sensitive, but accurate as well.
With that in mind, Ninja Theory has been working closely with Paul Fletcher, a professor of health and neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. In a development diary, Fletcher discussed the importance of such a game because a person “under such conditions can become very ostracized, and a consequence of this is that they can become very stigmatized.”
He also said that working with Ninja Theory has been very gratifying, as developers are tackling these sensitive issues seriously in order to bring an accurate representation of symptoms to the game.
Further research for the project has been made possible through the support of Wellcome Trust, which is a biomedical charity based organization that aims to understand and make improvements to health science.
Wellcome Trust Creative Partnerships Manager, Iain Dodgeon noted that “there are a lot of preconceived ideas about mental health, particularly with schizophrenia and psychosis,” and he hopes that their support allows Ninja Theory to create a game that gives a “fresh perspective on the condition and allows audiences to engage with it in a way that just wouldn't be possible in any other medium."
More on how Senua's struggle is incorporated into Hellblade is discussed on Ninja Theory's official Youtube channel as well as other key elements to gameplay and design. Hellblade will be released on PC as well as PlayStation 4. E3 should hold more news on the game's development.