In 2016, I produced an interactive Scratch game called “Mad Game,” which explored the intersections between affect theory, game studies, and mental health. In particular, this game explores my first experiences of cyclothymia, or a low-level form of bipolar disorder characterized by long periods of heightened productivity and suprasensation (mania) alternating with shorter periods of lower productivity, loss of energy, and general feelings of sadness (depression). Because of game studies’ unique relationship to the discourse of mental health, I explored the ways that representationalism drives experiences of bipolar disorder despite it being quite literally an affective disorder. This kind of discourse follows into game studies, where the commentary around games and mental health is exclusively centered around binary categories like “health” and “disorder.” I developed this game in order to attempt to realign the agential cuts (Barad, 2003) made by both game studies scholars and mental health professionals in delineating “cure” and “disease” as the two primary markers of our relationship with games and mental health. Instead, my game performs affective cycles as a differential phenomenology, an experience of time and space that resists the pathologizing narrative surrounding bipolar disorder.
You can play the game here (opens in new window). Be aware that it probably hasn’t been updated recently, but those faulty mechanics might offer some new insight!