Nearly a quarter of video games depict characters with psychological disorders or symptoms of a mental illness, but research into these portrayals and their potential impact is practically non-existent. This is simultaneously troubling and an opportunity as video games are the dominant cultural form of the 21st century. Like traditional forms of expression or storytelling, video games convey the values and beliefs of the people and societies that create them while simultaneously being a catalyst for societal change. By examining how contemporary video games depict mental illness, we develop an understanding of what stigmas and stereotypes persist in the digital space and, more importantly, how to work with clients to manage these depictions.
Kelli Dunlap, M.A., PsyD is a psychologist and game designer who leverages her unique expertise to advocate for and advance the intersection of games and mental health. She has been recognized internationally for her work in the games and psychology space and is an outspoken advocate for mental health in and through games. She has presented at national and international events including the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, UNESCO MGIEP in Visakhapatnam, India, and the APA’s Technology Mind and Society conference. She is an award-winning game designer who has collaborated on games projects with the National Institute of Mental Health and the Knight Foundation and as well as developed her own digital game addressing mental health issues. Dr. Dunlap earned her masters in game design from American University and her doctorate in clinical psychology from the American School of Professional Psychology. She is an adjunct professor of game design at the Amerian University Game Lab and a program manager for Take This, a mental health and games non-profit. Outside of work, Dr. Dunlap is a Velocity Mentor for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Foundation, chair of the IGDA mental health special interest group, and published author of multiple book chapters and peer-reviewed papers.
Mental Health Representation in Games Video
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