The Problem
According to the latest reports, the number of students who disclosed a mental health condition to their university has increased dramatically in the past 10 years (Thorley, C. 2017). One inthree first-year university-level students reportedsymptoms of mental health disorders; major depression was the most common disorder, followed by anxiety (World Health Organisation Initiative, 2018). With that in mind, it is imperative that universities ensure they are actively trying to promote and improve health and well-being on campus by ensuring students have access to support when necessary.

The Solution
The 'A' Word was a MA university project investigating how 2D mobile games can act as a platform for discussion about the prevalence of mental health in our society and the importance of breaking down the stigmas surrounding it. The main objective was to encourage university students to be aware of how mental illness can affect an individual and where they can seek professional help on campus. Additionally, I believe game design is often under valued and overlooked when exploring social issues therefore, I would argue that designers should consider more experimental platforms when raising awareness about difficult topics.
I decided to explore social anxiety disorder and my research identified five keys themes; avoidance, loneliness, frustration, false information and isolation. The narrative of the game depicts a ‘typical student’ scenario whereby the ‘player’ receives a text message from a friend explaining that their plans have changed. Due to the ‘players’ anxiety, the message leaves them in a predicament about how to approach the situation. As the user continues to play the game the five key themes identified from secondary research are replicated through the game play.

 Mobile game, research document, app/website, posters and branding.

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