I’ve been lucky enough to get to meet a lot of game developers from very different walks of life. From people at big names like Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, Devolver, Riot, and Bethesda, to little indies likes Tom Happ and Joakim Sandberg, I respect them all, and hope they all get what they want out of this unpredictable, often terrifying industry.
That said, there are some games I feel more hopeful for than others; the games that I think might be “good” for people in the ways that matter. Not just an OK way to spend a few hours, or worse, a way to be preyed upon by predatory game design strategies. I mean games that actually make your life better. Those are the games I throw my heart towards all the way.
Spirit Swap (now on Kickstarter) may be one of those games.
Having worked for years as a counselor for people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other aspects of trauma, I’ve seen a lot of different things affect a lot of different brains in a lot of different ways. One thing I can say for sure is, what you do with your brain makes a huge difference in what your brain does to you. I’ve also studied the research on how puzzle games like Tetris might help prevent PTSD, how good rhythm games can get your brain into a “flow state,” and how that state is essentially the opposite of the loop that many people with brain injury and PTSD are led to experience. I’m also into the theories about how creating something (art, dance, even a video game blog) is the best path out of feeling trapped and victimized. Art Therapy was founded on this theory.
But what about Game Therapy? That’s where Soft Not Weak’s Spirit Swap comes in.
The game isn’t done yet, so who knows how therapeutic it will actually be, but the demo — and everything else on its Kickstarter page — makes me extremely optimistic. It stars a cast of minorities that, for lack of a better term, appear happy as fuck. That alone is enough to make people who feel stepped on, the underdogs of the world, feel a little bit lighter. Marry those characters to the rhythm and puzzle genres at the same time and you have a triad of mindfulness, creativity, and joy that could only be good for you.
I recently got to talk to Soft Not Weak founder Alex A.K. about Spirit Swap and its potential therapeutic effects, and they had a lot to say.