You don’t normally think of mental illness as the stuff of games, but Alana Zablocki believes bringing the two together can be a powerful force for greater understanding.
The 28-year-old transgender woman, who has been in and out of psychiatric wards for the last three years, has created an online game to help the people close to her better comprehend her experiences inside.
Zablocki started writing Inpatient — A Psychiatric Story, a few months ago, just days after her last stay. She describes the game as a “choose-your-own-adventure” story but more intuitive and complex.
The player takes on the persona of a 32-year-old woman who has suicidal thoughts. You begin by checking yourself into a hospital. You then spend 72 hours navigating the mental health system by choosing between two or three pathways at the bottom of each page.
Depending on what you decide, you could get a nurse to give you the Ativan you need to sleep, or you could get “formed”— which is an application, or a Form 1, for psychiatric assessment that will allow the hospital to hold you involuntarily for 72 hours.
‘This is your illness … it’s not reality’
Zablocki remembers trying to talk about her hospital stay with her friends.
“It’s an uncomfortable situation for everyone. If you’re dealing with passive aggression from one of your nurses, and you try to explain that, it could be viewed as ‘this is your illness.’ You’re deciding that people are abusing you. It’s not reality,'” Zablocki said in an interview with CBC Toronto.
So instead, she wrote this passage:
“You walk up to the nursing station. One of them is watching Netflix. You knock on the door. No one looks up. Sometimes pounding on the door helps, but it won’t win you any favour with the nurses. You hope that at…