It's been on Game Pass for a while - since May 2020, indeed - but Fractured Minds is very easy to miss amid the subscription service's array of big names and AAA studio-produced titles. It's no headline grabber, and doesn't have numerous guides dedicated to it. There are no memes, pushing its social media profile. But the short experience is one that everyone should make time for. And that's exactly what I did, a day before writing these words.
Developed by just one person, Emily Mitchell, when she was 17 years old, Fractured Minds will take you maybe 15 minutes to finish - it's not a game designed to challenge you, in terms of its gameplay. You'll solve simple puzzles like finding the right key to leave a room (and in doing so, complete chapter), or crack the four-digit code on a locked door. There's one section where speed is of the essence or else you sink to the darkest depths and have to restart the level, but there's no game over screen to fear, here.
Nothing is strenuous, too complex to overcome at the second or third time of asking. The whole point of the game is that you finish the game, that you complete the journey that Mitchell has laid out for you. Because its message is incredibly important - especially during a time when so many of us are finding things tough going, and perhaps we're unable to start a dialogue about our situation.
Mitchell made Fractured Minds to serve as an illustration, an interactive demonstration, of how mental ill-health affects the lives of countless people on a daily basis. And so it puts the player in situations of discomfort; of anxiety and incredible self-doubt. Paranoia rears its head, and depression. It creates a monster that pursues you - and yet, is it a monster at all?
Says Mitchell of her game: "It's designed to give the player a genuine insight into the experiences of those quietly living with mental illness - the feelings of isolation, of being trapped, of everyday situations being distorted beyond recognition. My own anxiety has been very debilitating, and I wanted to create a game that shares my experiences and provokes real discussion about a topic that is often misunderstood and rarely spoken about."
No spoilers, by Mitchell includes a message for players, at the end of the game, which should be taken to heart as we all progress towards hopefully normalising conversations surrounding mental health. Fractured Minds won Mitchell a BAFTA Young Game Designers award in 2017, and select proceeds from sales of the game - it's available for less than £2 - go towards the mental health charity Safe In Our World.
But with its addition to Game Pass - it was added during last year's Mental Health Awareness Week - you don't need to put your hand in your pocket at all to receive the message of Fractured Minds. And I really recommend that you take a quarter of an hour to play through it, to listen to what this game and its maker are saying, and perhaps learn something. I know I did, albeit belatedly. And no, this isn't a game that's going out of its way to make you feel terrible - it's here to promote empathy for those living with mental health issues, and that's something everyone can benefit from as we continue through our lockdown-altered lives.
And if that doesn't appeal at all... Well, it's an easy 1,000 gamerscore, I guess.
A Lockdown Letter From Roger Clark, AKA Arthur Morgan
Playing The Same Video Games Again And Again Is Good For You, Actually
Why Accurate Representation of Mental Health in Video Games Matters
There are various resources that can help provide mental health support, including MIND, Samaritans, Safe In Our World and CALM:
0300 123 3393
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read