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Smart devices still struggle to cope with mental health crises

Content warning: This article discusses suicide and depression. /// Most days can be good days, even when you’re diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Or at least they can be made to look as such. You learn to put on a good face, to make it through the day. All of this means that when you spiral—and you will inevitably spiral—it’s harder to reach out for help. So much of your effort is devoted to convincing people that you’re okay, to putting on a good face, that it’s hard to say things are going wrong. So, when you spiral, you are…

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The Year in Anxiety

There’s nothing to be worried about, it’s just a quiet walk through the woods. The sun is shining through the leaves. Strings swell in the background as you amble about. Everything is okay. Only it isn’t. Sure, Alessandro Salvati’s Anxiety Attacks starts out pleasantly enough. You are in the woods and everything is indeed picturesque. Your only real job is to breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Walk through a field of flowers. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe—you get the hang of it. Well, you think you’ve got the hang of it, and then the sky turns red, your breath shortens,…

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A videogame meant to raise awareness of anxiety attacks

Anxiety Attacks doesn’t need to wander far from its inspiration to earn its status as a horror experience; there are no jumpscares or monsters—just the knowledge that you might not be in control of what you see and feel, that something as simple as moving and breathing can become a chore to juggle. It is, in short, a mental breakdown simulator, emulating the experiences of those who suffer from anxiety disorders and anxiety attacks. You start in a bright forest, greeted with flowers and birdsong; the sun is bright, and the world is rich and vivid. You are given only…

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Your brain on anxiety: an interactive explanation with Nicky Case

Last year, Nicky Case and Vi Hart released Parables of Polygons, an experiment inspired by Bret Victor’s work on Explorable Explanations. Their aim: to bring the best parts of interactivity to a blogpost that might help explain how systemic biases and prejudices can take shape. After being a finalist for the Games for Change award in the Most Innovative category it seemed their playable post had achieved even more than what it set out to do. Putting a new and innovative format on the map, Nicky Case is back once again with Neurotic Neurons, an interactive exploration of the science behind…

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Face the panic-stricken options of a single mother as she loses her daughter

You wake up to a series of missed messages on your phone. Shit, today’s going to be horrible.  Today is taking place in Open the Door and Smile, an entry in the 33rd Ludum Dare game jam, and it does indeed look like it’s shaping up to be horrible. There are messages on the phone from your partner, saying that the police are on the way. You worry that he’s going to take your daughter. The walls and blinds of your room look jagged. As you turn, they take on the appearance of razor blades. The walls are closing in…

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In Excuse Me! the real obstacle course is social decorum

Humanity’s most common phobia, according to a plurality of strange websites that specialize in this topic, is arachnophobia. Fair enough. Creepy crawly spiders are hardly pleasant. But fear is contextual: Your biggest fear when home alone is rarely your biggest fear when at a public event. For research into that latter category, we have the decidedly far-from-exhaustive profiles of contestants on The Bachelor. Every year, these profiles reveal that televised Lotharios and their concubines fear nothing more than the sudden onset of diarrhea on a date. Again: fair enough.  “The world’s first flatulence crisis management simulator”  This scatological tidbit came…

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Piece your life together by piecing together broken pottery

I have but one question to ask about puzzles: if at some point a creator had a complete picture, why on earth would they smash it into pieces just so we would have to do more work before enjoying it? Kintsukuroi, an Android “experiment” by Chelsea Saunders, attempts to answer this question. It takes its name from a Japanese practice in which smashed ceramic vessels are painstakingly pieced back together. The game’s mechanics are also derived from this practice: it is a series of 3D puzzles that, once solved, produce interesting pieces of pottery. In total, Kinsukuroi will offer 20…

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If you get anxious about karaoke just wait until you play Stage Presence

Stage Presence is karaoke with less musicality and more social anxiety, and really, what’s not to like about that? You play as the frontman of a band. You’re on stage at a large festival—think Glastonbury, but without the ambient fug—when something goes wrong. Who knows what went wrong. This is the musical version of Apollo 13: You are not afforded the luxury of thinking about anything other than your current predicament. Stage Presence has you focus on the task of surviving this calamity. You use the microphone to desperately vamp as a countdown until the resolution of your band’s technical issues…

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This game reimagines the glitch aesthetic as an emotional breakdown

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. WHAT NOW? (Browser)  BY ARIELLE GRIMES Arielle Grimes has developed tremendously as an author of videogames over the past year. She has expressed grief, sorrow, kindness, and love through her interactive art. But her first foray into the medium focused on translating the stress she felt around that time into a bite-sized snapshot of her life. Called What Now?, it had you meandering between the landmarks of her room, reflecting on it a piece at a time. If you moved without stopping, allowing all of the…