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

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2391-8551.08.07

Keywords:

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

Abstract

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.

References

Adams, E.W. (2014). Will Computer Games Ever Be a Legitimate Art Form? In A.Clarke, G. Mitchell (eds.), Videogames and Art (pp. 419–429). Bristol–Chicago: Intellect Books.
Google Scholar

Anable, A. (2013). Casual Games, Time Management, and the Work of Affect. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, 2.
Google Scholar

Bavelier, D., & Green, C.S. (2016). The Brain-Boosting Power of Video Games. Scientific American, 315(1), 26–31.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican0716-26

Clover, C.J. (1987). Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film. Representations, 20, 187–228.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2928507

Díaz, C.M.C., & Tungtjitcharoen, W. (2015). Art Video Games: Ritual Communication of Feelings in the Digital Era. Games and Culture, 10(1), 3–34.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412014557543

Escapist (July 19, 2021). The Making of Spiritfarer | Escapist Documentary. Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxx8sEGjntI
Google Scholar

Etter, D., Kamen, C., Etter, K., & Gore, F.C. (2017). Modern Warfare: Video Game Playing and Posttraumatic Symptoms in Veterans. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30(2), 182–185.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22172

Groensteen, T. (2007). The System of Comics (B. Beaty, N. Nguyen, trans.). University of Mississippi Press.
Google Scholar

Kniffin, T.C., Carlson, C.R., Ellzey, Al., Eisenlohr-Moul, T., Beck, K.B., McDonald, R., & Jouriles, E.N. (2014). Using Virtual Reality to Explore Self-Regulation in High Risk Settings. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 15(4), 310–321.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838014521501

Kramer, J., Gerity, L.A. (2000). Art as Therapy: Collected Papers. Art Therapies Series. Jessica Kingsley.
Google Scholar

Montford, N. (2006). Interactive Fiction. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/05019-7

Moring, S. (2021). Artgames v. Game Art – Diskurse und Strategien der Computerspielkunst zwischen spielbarer Rhetorik und unspielbarer Ästhetik. Informatik Spektrum, 44(1), 30–37.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00287-021-01340-4

Nicklin, H. (November 10, 2020). Multiple Middles & Mutazione. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUlwwBNESpU
Google Scholar

Porges, S.W. (2017). The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory. W.W. Norton & Co.
Google Scholar

Rauscher, A., Stein, D., & Thon, J. (2021). Introduction: Comics and videogames. In A. Rauscher, D. Stein, & J. Thon (eds.), Comics and Videogames: From Hybrid Medialities to Transmedia Expansions (pp. 1–14). London–New York: Routledge.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003035466-1

Rolling, J.H. (2017). Art as Therapy. Art Education, 70(5), 4–5.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00043125.2017.1335521

Shapiro, F. (2012) Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy. New York: Harmony/Rodale.
Google Scholar

Smethurst, T. (2015). Playing Dead in Videogames: Trauma in Limbo. Journal of Popular Culture, 48(5), 817–835.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12330

Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score. Penguin.
Google Scholar

Van Gelderen, M.J., Nijdam, M.J., de Vries, F., Meijer, O.C., & Vermetten, E. (2020). Exposure-Related Cortisol Predicts Outcome of Psychotherapy in Veterans with Treatment Resistent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 130, 387–393.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.08.011

Whaley, B. (2019). Virtual Earthquakes and Real-World Survival in Japan’s Disaster Report Video Game. Journal of Asian Studies, 78(1), 95–114.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021911818002620

Williams, L. (1991). Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess. Film Quarterly, 44(4), 2–13.
Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1212758

Die Gute Fabrik (2019). Mutazione [multi-platform]. Akupara Games.
Google Scholar

Thunder Lotus Games (2020). Spiritfarer [multi-platform]. Thunder Lotus Games.
Google Scholar

Downloads

Published

2022-11-21

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), 119–133. https://doi.org/10.18778/2391-8551.08.07

Issue

Section

Articles