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       Mind games: Totem's top 10 serious games for mental health and well-being    In  2000 , the Mental Health Foundation started ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.  The first issue focused on was ‘Stigma’. Since then there’s been Exercise, Sleep, Anxiety and many more. This year the focus is on  Mindfulness ; a mind – body approach to wellbeing.  Did you know one in four of us will suffer from a mental illness every year, yet despite its prevalence in society there's still a stigma attached to it. The games featured aim to help understand mental illness better. There are also games featured for individual wellbeing and how to look after it.        






          Depression Quest     This isn't a representation of all people who suffer from depression. Devised to grow awareness of depression and empathy for sufferers.  Depression Quest  has a received a mixed reception. The game is played as a story; the player reads text then chooses a given action. Future choices become blocked off depending on previous choices made.      






     Photographs feature at the top of the text. As the depression worsens static creeps into the photos. This grabbed my attention. A recent study observed that sufferers from depression experience  fuzzy thinking . The static seems to reflect that. I’ve heard there are four endings, I'm confident I can predict at least one of them. One play through proved emotionally taxing enough for me though.  Worth noting: there’s a warning to those who suffer from depression or anxiety NOT to play the game. Serious stuff!       Elude    Similar in focus to ‘Depression Quest’ with gameplay closer to Doodle Jump.  Elude  aims to show users the highs and lows a sufferer of depression experiences. The protagonist is a teenage/young adult male, statistically the highest risk demographics for suicide. The goal is to climb the trees and soar into the sky. Falling can result in a hole too big to climb out of. A simple metaphor for a complicated illness.  There is a summary of your journey that's a befitting addition to the game. How many times did you experience ‘happiness’?     






          Nevermind    Incorporating new technology  Nevermind  is the first on the list to use biofeedback. The gameplay reacts to the player's stress levels. In a stressful situation players must calm their emotions to continue moving forward. Like all great Serious Games, the lesson learned can applied to real life scenarios, resulting in reduced stress and promoting emotional wellbeing.       












       This adventure horror isn't for the faint hearted. A captivating gameplay mixing harsh realities and magical fairytales. Anyone who enjoyed Alice Madness Returns is sure to appreciate the graphics and story of Nevermind!        Super Be     TTER    This is a social online game. It's designed to build up core strengths – mental, physical, emotional and social wellbeing.  Players set their ‘Epic Win’, their ultimate goal which becomes the focus. Smaller activities are also set and once completed equate to ‘power ups’ to use against ‘bad guys’ – emotional stressing events. It’s an interesting game proven to boost a player’s wellbeing and personal growth. I’m a new user to  Super Better  but so far I have found it encouraging and engaging.     






          Lumosity    Developed by neuroscientists, a huge team is involved in monitoring the effectiveness of  Lumosity . The aim is to “improve core brain abilities—and empower users to live better, brighter lives”.  The mini-games are fun and challenging. I’m playing on a limited access version but I’ve already increased my attention levels. This can be played online or on your phone.        









              Lumosity, Fish Game  



         MindLight    This immersive game uses therapeutic techniques to teach children to manage their emotions. The goal is to turn on all the lights in the mansion, overcoming fears and saving Granny. The player wears a neurofeedback device which monitors specific brain waves - relaxation and focused attention. Nominated on  Games For Change  for the Most Significant Impact award this is one to watch. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of this game.   Mindlight 's graphics are gorgeously cute too!       












            Skip a Beat     Using your iPhone or iPod touch, this game monitors and incorporates your heart rate. There are four modes to choose from - Zen, Balance, Spicy and Master! The goal is to teach how coffee, a stressful day at work, even posture effects heart rate. This gives the player an insight into their own mind, body and general wellbeing.  This  is an upcoming area in the games industry, expect to see a lot more health games and apps like this soon!       












            Happify       Not a game in itself but there are minigames!  Happify  trains your brain to be healthier. Depending on personality and goals the route differs. Players can focus on all different kinds of tasks. Small positives or re-connecting with an old friend, the aim is to grow self-esteem and wellbeing. There is a Beta App or you can ‘play’ online, the choice is yours.       












            Flowy     This game is specifically for people with anxiety but I think anyone can benefit from playing it if they are stressed and need to relax. Tailored to the players own breathing patterns, the player must concentrate their breathing into regular smaller breaths while collecting items to complete levels.  Flowy  is still in the experimental stages but the developers have done their research. This game is going to help a lot of people!       


















            Mindsnacks    A language learning game! Learning a second language has been proven to increase brain size. The benefits of a second language are plentiful! Obviously there is the added bonus of not ordering a lemon when you actually meant a Citroen at the car hire in a Paris airport. But learning a second language has shown to increase memory abilities, cognitive skills and individuals are generally better mentally flexible.  Mindsnacks  are a great way to start learning a second language. Whatever language you choose there are minigames which teach you vocabulary in an exciting and competitive way – challenging your brain and keeping it active!     






     Now is the perfect time to start learning that second language. Next week's blog will be focused on the best games out there for learning a new language, all in time for your holidays!  There are a couple of games that are worth mentioning but didn’t make the list due to either not being released yet or no longer playable.       Guided Meditation VR    Not so much a game, but it uses gaming technology and deserves a mention. This is a virtual reality application which is due for launch alongside the consumer Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. It enables the user to be transported to a beautiful relaxing environment. Because the virtual reality headset has 360 degree visuals it is completely immersive – the user can escape to meditate in their chosen environment, even in their lunch break at work! At the moment voting is open so you can vote on locations, meditation options and more, or make suggestions of your own.     






     Soar – currently in development by  E-Learning Studio  s , the player is a bird in a world of grey. The object is to bring back colour to the world. The game will work with a heart monitoring device and aims to relieve stress through immersive escapism and breathing exercises.  Neuroracer – I just stumbled onto this game. It’s basically a driving game where the player has to mulit-task, working on the players cognitive, memory and multi-tasking skills. Research was undertaken with a group of individuals of all ages and there were some really positive results. The full study can be read on  Gazzaley .  I have trawled the site for recent news but short of a rumour on a mobile version being released, I haven’t been able to find anything.  Mental Illness is a real issue. A bit cliché, but if you don’t have your health, what have you got? These games deal with a variety of areas of mental health. Whether it's for creating awareness and empathy for sufferers or stimulating the brain, helping work towards a better, happier version of yourself. Appreciate life and be Mindful!  Don't forget to let us know your thoughts using the #TL10 on twitter. 



In 2000, the Mental Health Foundation started ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’.  The first issue focused on was ‘Stigma’. Since then there’s been Exercise, Sleep, Anxiety and many more. This year the focus is on Mindfulness; a mind – body approach to wellbeing.

Did you know one in four of us will suffer from a mental illness every year.


       Totem's top 10 serious games for 'Earth Day'    It was Earth Day Wednesday - Who took the Google Quiz and what did you get? Be honest! I got a ‘Woolly Mammoth’, ‘So unique, you're technically extinct. But on the bright side, scientists hope to be able to clone you some day’.  As promised we are bringing you another list collating together ten serious games out there on the market. Last week we brought you the list  Totem’s Top Ten Games for Learning , this week can you guess the theme?  It’s Environmentally Aware Games!  To kick it off we are going to start with a serious game that has a ‘Call to Action’ built in making it (almost) unavoidable to not get involved in the issue of Fracking.     






         Frackman  - Drilling under homes and fracking for gas to make a profit- at times action eat into profits but the costs to the community are a much bigger deal. The game play is limited but if you want to take a second shot at it Team Giraffe have built in a ‘Call to Action’ which sends the player to an online petition calling for the ban of fracking under homes- a hot issue at the moment with Mark Ruffalo publicly calling on the Government to ban all kinds of Fracking. Good intentions and useful links for further reading, but  What the Frack  is the game to play if you are serious about learning more on the issue. It’s very wordy but very informative and you are free to choose the outcome, good or bad.            






                 Rhino Raid  – I really enjoyed this one! A rhino out for revenge on the poachers who have mercilessly taken his beloved. Really captivating graphics coupled with simple but addictive gameplay.  It has entertainment value without compromising on its aim; there’s plenty of information to absorb in just a short period of play. Flint Sky Interactive have even made it really simple to find out more and donate from the game  .           






            Climate Defence  – Not the most captivating or motivational game, it gives the player a brief look at the real struggle of slowing down climate change.  An unbeatable game (unless you cheat), on ‘Real’ mode there is no way to win, driving home the extent of the damage done to our planet. Facts pop up offering further information on climate change and its effective but lacks depth. It is informative but if links to external related sources were incorporated it would make for a better educational experience.                












              Oiligarchy     – On to oil! At first glance (I thought) this game was an easy play through and hadn’t much to offer. But boy was I wrong! It is a really controversial play; weighted choices like ‘prompting a homeland attack’ or ‘declaring war on Iraq’ are easily made, your focus is on profit not people! Environmental issues: from destroying the local wildlife and villages to issues such as the harmful gases speeding up climate change are touched on too. This is a very pointed game despite its simplistic, colourful art style and the initial impression it might give.             












                Human Footprint Interactive    – Better to think of this as an educational tool. Found on the National Geographic site, it offers up some interesting individual information such as the amount of chickens needed to sustain your lifetime egg intake. – Fun Fact, ‘Ireland’s annual harvest supplies a lifetime of potatoes for 91,000 Americans’.  Planet Food  is very similar, awarding players badges for completing different tasks; growing awareness of the food we eat; more interactive and offering a wider range of avenues to discover, a great way to grow individual awareness.          






           Earth Hour    - A really sweet game with a very simple objective; ‘turn off the lights’. It was created for WWF as part of the ‘Earth Hour’ initiative which takes place globally on the last Saturday of March every year. There is a ‘Call to Action’ located below the game which gives the player more information on the effects of climate change and there is also a ‘Donate’ button for WWF.            









               Fraxinus - Played on Facebook   



            Fraxinus –Play this on Facebook and seek revenge on your friends for all those ‘Candy Crush’ and ‘Farmville’ notifications. This game is just as fun and addictive but a heck of a lot more productive! Working out the sequences and ‘stealing’ them from other players all while helping scientists (actual real-life, white coat wearing scientists) develop a cure for the Chalara fungus; a disease that has the potential to wipe-out 90-95% of Britain and Irelands Ash trees, a colossal figure when you consider Ash is the third most common tree in Britain! – If this is a cause you are passionate about then I really recommend looking into  BIFOR    and the work they are doing. For those of you who enjoy walks in the countryside and want to do your part saving the trees too,  Tree Health Survey  is an App which allows users to report issues of disease in trees to the appropriate Government Officials.            












              Citizen Science  – The ‘Steward’, foretold to save the local lake from becoming too polluted to swim in, time travels to gain a better understanding of the actions which resulted in the polluted lake. It is aimed at a young audience but there’s an important lesson we can all take to heart; each one of us have a role to play in building a better, more environmentally friendly world. ‘Citizen Science’ the term itself is a worldwide movement where individuals do what they can to progress the research of scientists into various environmental solutions, like the ‘Tree Health Survey’ and ‘Fraxinus’.  Zooniverse  is a huge database of Citizen Science projects with a range that caters for every interest.           






             Plan It Green  -        A building sim; the aim is to give an old energy sucking town a newer greener facelift. As Mayor there are a range of factors to consider when building; this game incorporates alternate energy solutions like solar powered houses, wind farms, even hydro plants! It was enjoyable and an easy play. Sim City EDU (only for teachers and students), Electro City (a more challenging play), IBM CityOne (choose to either the environmental route or a corporate route, makes for an interesting selection of players) – are just a few more titles in the building sim category with an environmentally aware aspect.             






                        Flower  – It’s always good to take a little time and appreciate the world around us. If everyone did this, who knows, maybe all these other issues we’ve discussed wouldn’t be issues! This game is really beautiful. It is tranquil, calming and very spiritual. Playing as the wind, flower petals are collected resulting in a whirlwind of beauty where each blade of grass moves independently! This game is gorgeous but it is more than just a simple pleasure for your senses (it has a great sound track too), it encourages a need in the player to actually go out into the real world and appreciate all it has to offer. This game is raved about by avid gamers and non-gamers alike. A nice little positive to round off a content heavy list!          There are so many games out there that focus on real issues, educating people of all age groups and motivating people into action, this is just a drop in the ocean of what’s on offer ( there’s games for that too). It is well worth the exploration and there are some real gems that provide great ways to get involved!     Here at Totem Learning, we have been busy doing our bit too!  Is IT Green , is the Serious Game which will equip players with the knowledge and skills to make their business energy efficient and save money in the process.     Nicky Rhodes our resident 3D and 2D Artist has been working diligently on this project. She has recorded her process and methods for any aspiring artists to learn from and we are delighted to announce they will be released on our blog very soon. Not to be missed by artists at any stage of their career, there’s sure to be something to learn for all – talking of which did you see Chris Chadwick’s post on  the Golden Ratio ?     Remember you can get involved on the discussion of your favourite Serious Games and candidates for future Totem Top Tens by using the hashtag #TL10 on twitter!



The second in Totem's Top Ten Serious Games Series. This blog is all about games that address environmental issues.