Games are, generally, not very good at depicting mental illness. Games are atrocious at tackling a lot of topics, to be fair, but this one is surprisingly prevalent: sanity meters, psycho villains, dozens of games set in insane asylums. This is probably why so many people leapt at the chance to praise Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice for its considered portrayal of a tricky subject.
Not just critics and fans either. The developers themselves seem to regard Hellblade as something of a landmark achievement for combating the stigma surrounding mental health, marketing it mainly based on the subject matter – so much so that it seemed inevitable people would have to give it points for the effort. And I mean people really praised it. The BAFTA game awards put together a whole new category for it, “Game Beyond Entertainment”, a title which just reeks of pretentiousness.
Slow down. Yes it’s damn refreshing to see a sensitive subject handed with care, but there was such a rush to congratulate the game for being fair and accurate, I’m not sure many took the time to see what it actually had to say about mental health. Hellblade’s depiction of mental illness feels genuine and resonates with me for sure. It’s a compelling and – for someone who suffers from hallucinations and depression – empowering game, but Senua’s battle through a haunting norse fantasy world is difficult to hold up as an insight into what it’s like to live with these issues.
Read more: eurogamer.net