After taking down my open letter to the gaming company that is developing a game about mental illness, I felt defeated.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. The thought of making a “game” out of something that has killed so many people, and has nearly killed me continued to make me angry.
I wrote to the company directly. For me, the letter I wrote was very angry. Of course I didn’t use any swear words or call anyone names, but it was clear by my tone and the things that I said, that I was angry about the very concept of a video game dealing with mental illness. One of the things I said in the letter was that even though the company seemed to have good intentions in making the game, all they had to do was look at the comment section on their website to realize that gamers do not have the same intentions or motivation (raising awareness, eliminating stigma, etc.) So I said, because the people playing their games are not interested in eliminating stigma what good is it going to do? (These are not my exact words.)
I got a very nice letter back from the company today. If the letter writer is sincere, there are very nice people working at that company. In the letter they said they were sorry that I felt the way that I did. They admitted that the comment section of their website was what I said it was – less than supportive of eliminating stigma. And they agreed that they might fail in their attempts of raising awareness (because I told them they would fail).
Um, they agreed that they might fail.
Let me type that one again, because I can’t believe it.
They agreed that they might fail.
The writer of the letter said that my feedback was feedback they found difficult to hear. But they heard it, and they said I am welcome to comment further.
Since I went public with my diagnosis of schizophrenia, I have made the commitment to be an advocate and use my voice and writing to further the understanding of people living with severe mental illnesses, especially schizophrenia.
I intend to respond to the letter I received. I intend to think this letter out very well and not respond from the gut and in anger. Although the letter they sent was very thoughtful, sensitive and kind, I am still opposed to making a game out of mental illness. I think it sets us so far back in terms of stigma, stereotypes and characterizations. After playing the game people might feel like they “know” what those of us who are mentally ill are going through. Can they really make the game terrifying enough for someone to want to shut it off? See, there are real problems with this concept.
Also, no matter how good their intentions are, they can’t make the people “playing” at being mentally ill care about people with a mental illness. They just can’t. They can’t force people to be more educated, empathetic, and understanding. In my opinion the people that play the game will view it as any other entertainment. Is it fun? If it isn’t fun, they aren’t going to play. Period.
I used my voice, and my voice was heard, and that is something; I am a person from an extremely marginalized group, and speaking up is difficult, but being heard is extraordinary.
No matter what the results, that’s one for our team.