“In the coming adventure video game Sea of Solitude, the main character a young woman named Kay — navigates a partly submerged city as she faces a multitude of red-eyed scaly creatures. None are as terrifying as her own personal demons.” L. Parker, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“As the game progresses, Kay realizes the creatures she is encountering are humans who turned into monsters when they became too lonely. To save herself, she fights to overcome her own loneliness. Kay was modeled after the game’s creative director, Cornelia Geppert of Jo-Mei Games, an independent game studio, who struggled after a 2013 breakup. ‘I felt like I was trapped in a cage,’ Ms. Geppert, 37, said of her experience. Sea of Solitude, which Electronic Arts will publish this year, is among a growing number of video games that are tackling mental health issues.
Last year, a game called Celeste explored depression and anxiety through a protagonist who had to avoid physical and emotional obstacles.
In 2017’s fantasy action-adventure video game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a young Celtic warrior deals with psychosis. Other games in recent years, including Night in the Woods and Pry, have delved into self-identity, anger issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. All followed the 2013 interactive fiction game Depression Quest, which asked players to step into the shoes of a character living with depression…’Mental health is becoming a more central narrative in our culture, with greater efforts to normalize mental health challenges,’ said Eve Crevoshay, executive director of Take This, a nonprofit that educates video game developers on best practices around portraying mental health.
To date, most of the games tackling mental health have come from independent makers, which are typically more willing and able to take risks by exploring unusual subject matter. Sea of Solitude points to a shift: a gamble by Electronic Arts, one of the industry’s largest publishers and better known for its Madden football and Battlefield war games, to invest in the topic… After the 2016 simulation role-playing game Stardew Valley — which does not punish players for not completing tasks and creates a slow-paced atmosphere where the objective is to take care of a run-down farm — was released, Eric Barone, the game’s creator, received hundreds of messages, he said.
‘One story that comes to mind is a person whose little brother had autism, and as a result had great difficulty in relating with him,’ said Mr. Barone, 31. But playing Stardew Valley caused him to open up and allowed the two brothers to bond in a way that was never possible before.’ Some makers are now developing games to explicitly promote better mental health.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities: KWL Chart
The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a
topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.
II. While Reading Activities: Word Inference
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- In the game the humans you encounter are really monsters.
- A growing number of video games that are tackling mental health issues.
- The player navigates into a partly submerged city.
- Many people suffer from anxiety.
- The protagonist in the game had to avoid emotional obstacles.
- Other games have explored anger issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Some games delve into self-identity.
- All games followed the interactive fiction game Depression Quest.
- Players step into the shoes of a character living with depression.
- The games are trying to normalize mental health challenges.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- Mental health is becoming an more central narrative.
- Asking someone to play with you sets a very different vibe.
- The nonprofit is experimenting with a few different game styles.
- Game developers know these are not easy changes to make.
- They hope to test the new game on next year.
- Her own personal demons were terrifying.
- Kay were modeled after the game’s creative director.
- In this game a young Celtic warrior deals with psychosis.
- One in five American adults lives with a mental illness.
Reading Comprehension: True /False/NA-Statements
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- In the video game Sea of Solitude, the main character is a woman named Minerva.
- As the game progresses Kay realizes the creatures she encounters are really aliens.
- Kay was modeled after the game’s creative director.
- Cornelia Geppert is the creative director of the game Game of Thrones.
- Ms. Geppert plays the game often.
- A game called Celeste explores the stars and planets.
- Currently, most of the games tackling mental health have come from independent makers.
- Some people feel that the interactive nature of games made them less effective than film or television.
- The game Stardew Valley does punishes players for not completing tasks.
- Some makers are now developing games to explicitly promote better mental health.
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Do you think video games will actually help people with mental or emotional problems? Explain why or why not.
- Have you or a friend played one of the video games mentioned in the article? If yes, describe the experience. If no, would you like to play one of the games?
- The article states, “Some in the industry said the interactive nature of games made them more effective than film or television at dealing with mental health. Embodying a video game character who suffers from depression might leave a deeper impression of the challenges of the illness than simply watching a film about the same character, for example.” Do you agree with this idea? Explain why or why not.
- Do you see connections between the increase in video games that help people with depression or anxiety and incidents happening in the news?
COMMON SENSE EDUCATION: Creating online Video Games!
Directions: Have groups visit the Common Sense Education site to learn how to create their own video games. Groups can share their finished products with the class.
“On this list, we’ve curated great options for entry-level designers that ease kids into building stuff. We’ve also made sure to include tools that help students create games that feel authentic and that help students obtain skills they can use when they level up to more pro-grade software.” https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/game-making-tools-for-schools
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. also ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class.