MAGfest: Gaming, gamers and a focus on mental health

There are thousands of video game fans in the National Harbor today at MAGfest, a convention that started out small but has morphed into a huge event that attracts around 20,000 people. This is a convention focused on video games and video game music. There’s a ton of cosplay. Three warehouse-sized spaces with free-play video games, computer games, and arcade games for 4 days. A computer game museum. And now, four days of panels that talk about everything from game design to legal issues in video games, to video games and mental health.

Later tonight I’m heading to a panel by Scribbles of Canary Nation. Scribbles has schizophrenia that started in childhood. She credits gaming with a lot of her mental health successes (as well as the organization that got me started in recovery, NAMI). This morning I was on Better Living Through Games, and tomorrow I’m going to talk about my paper Gamer’s Insights (and probably the press about the WHO proposed Gaming disorder). But look at all these cool panels about mental health/psychology and games:

  • Gaming Together: Do couples that play together really stay together?
  • The Rage of the Quitter
  • Better Living Through Games
  • Building Bridges, Not Burning Them: Collaboration Among Academia and Industry
  • Why We Care: Examples of Empathy in Games
  • Let’s Talk: Humor in Games
  • Creating Groupness
  • How to Level Up in Real Life via gaming
  • #MeToo: where our communities fit in the movement
  • Yes, This is a Diversity 101 Panel. Yes, You Still Need It.
  • The Psychology of Video Games
  • The Gamers’ Voice in Game “Addiction” Research
  • How to Broadcast Safely as a Marginalized Streamer
  • It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: Things I Wish I Knew Before Entering Academia
  • Studying Horrifyingly Violent Acts in Video Games
  • Find the Kind: Using Games to Create Better Human Interactions
  • Gaming While “Other”

I’m so overwhelmed today with a lot of emotions. Relief that I got the pre-application for a huge potential funding opportunity in by the 5pm deadline. Regret that I had to miss my fellow panelists other panels. Gratitude for being allowed to join the panel “Better Living Through Games”, lead by Heidi McDonald of iThrive. Contentment when I look out of my window here in the National Harbor and see the Wheel, a Starbucks, and some planes flying in to DCA.

So, rather than write a well-thought-out post now, I’m just going to bullet point some notes from the single panel I attended and the panel I flaked out on when the weight of the 5pm deadline became too much. Imagine if I had attended more than one…

  • iThrive helps developers make games that are great for teens and puts out white papers
  • “Going hollow” in Dark Souls as a representation of losing your mind
  • Audience Q: In an ideal world, how can we introduce the right games to the right people? Schools? Regulation?
  • A: iThrive has found that schools often have a core group of teachers who are excited about using games in creative and helpful ways, but they don’t usually have admin support
  • Constance Steinkuhler is now working with people at UC Irvine
  • Million Onion Hotel sounds hilarious
  • Scribbles: Gamer with child-onset schizophrenia who was on the panel and will be talking tonight
    • She credits gaming with a lot of mental health help
    • She believes you need a basic skillset to succeed in games
  • Q: Are we heading toward prescribable games?
  • Art and drama therapy seem to have overlaps with the uses of gaming that we talk about
  • There’s a high school in Denmark that teaches through LARPing (iThrive visited and can confirm)
  • What are the ethics of gambling-like mechanisms in games (we won’t mention any names)
  • There are psychologist/gamers who stream on Twitch about mental health, like Coco the Louder

Gamer identity (left early due to grant)

  • What is it?
    • Depends on context, game
    • Compare to being a connoisseur
    • I watch TV but I’m not a film buff
    • Keeping up with the news on the game industry?