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According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 52% of Canadians have played video games over their past four weeks.

While we often think of video games as a modern form of entertainment, some newer games explore deeper societal issues and themes. Through the medium of video games, developers can express themselves creatively while simultaneously educating their audience.

Dr. Suzanne Archie has worked closely with a Hamilton multi-media design studio in their development of Debris – a video game that embeds signs and symptoms of psychosis within the gameplay. Debris is a single-player/co-op adventure game about a surreal undersea environment with unique bioluminescent creatures and lighting, developed by Moonray Studios.

“Society’s difficulties understanding the inner personal experiences associated with psychosis contribute to stigma,” says Dr. Archie, mental health researcher and clinical director of the Cleghorn Early Intervention in Psychosis Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “Debris is expected to appeal to a broad audience of players and raise awareness of psychosis - through ‘playing’ rather than ‘telling’.”

Dr. Archie chaired an advisory committee to Moonray Studios that included members from McMaster University (Dr. Manuela Ferrari), Hamilton Good Shepherd Youth Centre (Loretta Hill-Finamore & Jessica Ward) and the Hamilton Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (Jill Dennison). They provided Moonray Studios with knowledge and expertise about psychosis and related mental health issues affecting youth. This academia-industry partnership was supported by Mitacs.

Dr. Archie’s research focuses on early intervention for patients with psychosis, especially youth and adolescents. She’s also involved in other knowledge translation initiatives that use gaming technology to reach young adults. She has produced three video games about marijuana and psychosis funded by Carstar, CIHR, AMS Pheonix, and Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Debris, from Moonray Studios, will be released on October 23rd via Steam.

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