Feeling the narrative control(ler): Casual art games as trauma therapy





aesthetics, videogames, trauma therapy, casual games, art games, Spiritfarer, Mutazione


Through a combination of aesthetics and game mechanics, casual art games offer unique engagements with trauma, allowing players to practice grief or empathise with the traumatic experiences of others. Both “Spiritfarer” (Thunder Lotus Games 2020) and „Mutazione” (Die Gute Fabrik 2019) utilise similar aesthetics (2D art, pastel colours and calming music) alongside agency-driven gameplay mechanics (choosing when to let spirits go or how to react to a character’s trauma) that create a safe space. This is possible because neither game is competitive, nor does it allow the player to lose. Instead, agency is given to the player through narrative choice and exploration of the beautiful storyworld. We argue that games like “Spiritfarer” and “Mutazione” can be used as models for the further development of casual art games that can be used as art therapy through their emotional connections embedded in both the aesthetics and gameplay.

Author Biographies

Hailey J. Austin, Abertay University

Hailey J. Austin – is a research and development fellow for transnational creative industries at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland. After completing her PhD in comics studies at the University of Dundee, she has pursued a career in researching comics, games, and transmedia. Her academic work has been published several times, including an article about intergenerational trauma in Art Spiegelman’s Maus and a book chapter on transmedial iterations of The Walking Dead. Her chapter on female masculinity in superheroines features in The Routledge Companion to Masculinity in American Literature and Culture, edited by Lydia R. Cooper. She is also an accomplished comics creator and editor.

Lydia R. Cooper, Creighton University

Lydia R. Cooper – is associate professor of contemporary American and Native American literature at Creighton University. She is the editor of The Routledge Companion to Masculinity in American Literature and Culture and author of Cormac McCarthy: A Complexity Theory of Literature (Manchester University Press, 2021), Masculinities in Literature of the American West (Palgrave, 2016), and No More Heroes: Narrative Perspective and Morality in the Novels (LSU Press, 2011). Her work on contemporary American and Native American writers has appeared in journals such as GLQ, Contemporary Literature, Modern Fiction Studies, Studies in the Novel, Studies in American Indian Literature, Western American Literature, and Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment.


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How to Cite

Austin, H. J., & Cooper, L. R. (2022). Feeling the narrative control(ler): Casual art games as trauma therapy. Replay. The Polish Journal of Game Studies, 8(1), 129–143. https://doi.org/10.18778/2391-8551.08.07