Hellblade studio Ninja Theory's new project explores mental health through video games

(Image credit: Ninja Theory)

The studio behind Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice has launched the Insight Project, an "experimental and exploratory project" that aims to explore mental health concerns through the use of game design, technology, and clinical neuroscience. Ninja Theory officially announced the launch of the project with a video explaining how and why the project aims to "deliver a mainstream solution to help treat mental suffering and encourage mental wellbeing."

Hellblade puts players in the shoes of Senua who experiences psychosis. In order to accurately and respectfully portray Senua's mental state, Ninja Theory consulted Paul Fletcher, a Cambridge University professor of health neuroscience. Fletcher is developing the project alongside Ninja Theory.

"The Insight Project is a rare example of artists, scientists and mental health professionals coming together," Ninja Theory's co-founder and creative director Tameem Antoniades explains, "to tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our time: mental suffering."

Fletcher explains that the project is asking a question, "could we combine the best of game design and technology with cutting edge clinical neuroscience and psychiatry to help with mental suffering and promote mental wellbeing?"

The project will take shape over several years, but as the website states, it has been announced early "to encourage an open and transparent approach to its development."

Due to the immersive nature of games and the ever advancing way in which game developers can use technology to create realistic experiences, the Insight Project believes video games have huge potential to help people in ways that have yet to be explored. 

"They [games] provide compelling and absorbing narratives within immersive settings that can be tailored to respond flexibly and sensitively to the individual abilities and demands of those who play them," the Insight Project website states.

Ninja Theory was acquired by Microsoft back in 2018, and head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty says, "the insight project is a great example of the power of games to be a force for good." 

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Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.