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Gaming's favorite villain is mental illness, and this needs to stop

The discussion surrounding mental health can be invisible. It’s one of the least-understood public health concerns, despite how common mental health problems can be in the population. This lack of open conversation creates an atmosphere in which mental health issues and the people who live with them are stigmatized and made to feel like outsiders, unable to address their concerns with family, friends and coworkers for fear of being ostracized or misunderstood.

Representation is the key to kickstarting discussion, and video games have taken a woefully one-dimensional approach in the mental health conversation. While there’s no shortage of mental health-related content in today’s games, it falls into one of two specific camps, neither of which confront the complex and nuanced issues with the empathy and consideration they deserve.

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crusf1121d ago (Edited 1121d ago )

Games aren't the only medium that uses mental illness as a blue print for a villian. Villains in movies and books have depicted villains as egotistical psychopaths who crave power or destruction. This has been seen many times in the past since the early days of cinema and literature.

traumadisaster1121d ago

Not only is media full of MH characters both good and bad, history is too. Incidentally I was playing empire total war and ac3 which both reference the Hellfire clubs and some of that debauchery is certifiable.

GribbleGrunger1121d ago

In real life, mental illness is OFTEN the blue-print for a villain. Unless the writer of this article is suggesting most mass murderers or sadists are sane, in which case ... *peaks through curtains*

Blacklash931121d ago (Edited 1121d ago )

Are people seriously going to think that murderers and sadists are common, and we should be cautious of mentally ill people because of that? Because of videogames? OCD, Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, etc. aren't even remotely the same thing as a violent psychopath. Many of the people struggling with those illness are perfectly sociable, too. I'd like to think that's common knowledge.

If someone is diagnosed with a mental illness and is allowed to be among the public, they are safe to be around and no one needs to be afraid or aversive of anything. People don't need videogames to tell them this.

Prime1571121d ago

I think he's talking more about the total stigma of people diagnosed. We think that these tropes exist upon everyone suffering from these disorders, when, in reality, it's a much smaller percentage.

So we hide or vilify instead of trying to understand and help.

Subaruwrx1121d ago (Edited 1121d ago )

You sir are ignorant. The vast majority of people with mental illness are not murderers or sadists.
Edit@GribbleGrunger - Sorry, this is a subject that effects me personally and profoundly. Your use of the word 'OFTEN,' ticked me off. As I'm sure you know, the term 'Mental Illness' covers many different disorders, the majority of which do not result in violent behavior towards others. I don't have a problem with works of fiction portraying villains as mentally ill but; I do have a problem with people who believe that fiction extends to mental illness in general as it exists in the real world.

GribbleGrunger1121d ago

@Subaruwrx: Did I say the majority of people with mental illness are murderers or sadists? I'm merely pointing out that HISTORICALLY, most murderers or sadists have a mental illness of some kind. I know that most mentally ill people aren't murderers or sadists because I work with them.

Paprika1121d ago

I think gribblegrunger made it clear people with mental illnesses are sociable people, certainly not bad people! But, murderers or generally nasty people all likely have something not quite right mentally. Nobody is truly evil, your brain will function in ways others perceive as evil when said person doesn't, that is an illness.

GribbleGrunger1121d ago (Edited 1121d ago )

@Subaruwrx: Although the comment I made could definitely be described as flippant, and we could argue whether it should have been approached with more subtlety, the underlying truth is as I've stated.

The majority of people with mental illness are absolutely lovely people and I thoroughly enjoy their company. Having had depression since I was 16, I empathise with those that feel disenfranchised for one reason or another.

I won't patronise you by saying 'I'm sorry to hear you have a mental problem of your own' (or perhaps a close friend/relative), but what I will say is I'm sorry if my approach upset you. I'm sure you'd have to agree 'objectively' that anyone who is willing to kill and torture innocent people, must have some mental 'issues'. Don't confuse that with a generalisation.

'All mentally ill people are potential mass murderers' = False

'Most mass murderers are likely to have a mental illness' = True

These are two completely different propositions, but again, I'm sorry if my first rather curt post failed to convey that.

SINISTERGENESIS1121d ago

But really let's be honest... The mentally ill aspect is down right great!!! The mentally disturbed persona instantly clicks with everyone and then everyone already knows that when someone is disturbed enough that there's literally no limit to how far they will go and which way they will go. Many cases of mental illness around are usually involved with deep,rooted,and complex back stories that make said character far,far more engrossing than even the hero because it causes everyone to ask the same question time and time again... Why are they so F'd up?!

For example; my all time favorite villain the Joker ( & yes before Heath Ledger) is one of the most convoluted, mysterious , sickening, twisted, and crazy characters in the world.... And guess what? That's one of the main reasons people like myself love him!

So in short, it can't stop, won't stop, Roca... Errrr ummm ... Sorry that song just popped in my head.

GribbleGrunger1121d ago (Edited 1121d ago )

I think the main problem with this article is the use of the words 'mental illness.' It suggests ANY mental illness in order to sound more provocative. But this is Polygon, which is why I'm not going to read any further than what is printed here.

+ Show (5) more repliesLast reply 1121d ago
AntsPai1121d ago

Polygon... Please keep sjw issues out of fiction video games.

SpiralTear1121d ago

This isn't even social justice. This claim that a villain is mentally ill is completely unsupported once you dive into the actual biological features of undergoing that kind of condition. It's actually more like judging a character by their outside behavior, aka stereotyping. Also:

"There is no obvious physical indication that someone is struggling with a mental health concern."

Exactly. So how do we know these characters are even mentally ill at all? A comment on this article made a good point, saying that struggling with hallucinations and dementia isn't necessarily "mentally ill", but just a biological reaction to experiencing large amounts of stress. Game designers aren't singling out the mentally ill at all.

JohnathanACE1121d ago

I thought Vaas acted crazy because he was a drug addict not just because he was mentally ill.

Summons751121d ago

Enough drugs could make you mental alone, place that with being trapped on a tropical island and things get worse. Hell even the non addicted go a bit insane when they are trapped, look at Castaway...he goes insane and makes friends with a basketball.

spicelicka1121d ago

Volleyball!! and his name was Wilson! Wilsooooooonnn..

Vantage1121d ago

"As long as we keep employing the same harmful tropes, and refuse to exercise our empathy and actually reach out to those affected with mental illness and instead mystify, or worse, demonize them, so many of us will continue to remain invisible."

look at this pretentious Liberal try to sell us his moral superiority. Trying to fit in with the social justice warriors and PC crusaders, Lindsey?

Look at that profile picture, I mean really.

Spotie1121d ago

Don't go blaming it on liberals.

Blame it on polygon and their need for hits under the guise of being intelligent or sensitive.

They're just being sensational.

DanielGearSolid1121d ago

Everytime I'm thinking "what a dumb headline"

I look down and see polygon.com

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