She is the protagonist…Hellblade: Senua´s sacrifice

Hellblade-videogame-woman-psychosis-Senua

I find the world of video games fascinating and as an occasional player, I have always been concerned about the role of women in this type of creation. What roles, what functions they play in the wide variety of topic areas that exist today in the market. I got in touch with Manu García to go deeper into this subject. He is a video game lover who spends hours and hours playing passionately. Manu is a geek of the gamer world.

Either by awareness, by reaching more audiences, or for different reasons, in many video games there are more female characters to choose from and a little more care is taken than before to avoid sexualization or the reification of women. But there are still products, whose content is a real lack of respect for human beings and women in particular.

Thanks to Manu I have known many of the video games that I have today in the Steam library and also other scary ones that were published in some countries. In some titles, which usually come from Japan, the woman has an exclusively sexual function, and in other cases, the female characters lack personality or for example, their clothing is completely surreal in its context (this is still something very typical).

I would like to write about all this, but on another occasion, because I think it is also fair to talk about developers who have other goals and do their job well:

The videogame

Luckily there are also amazing video games with female protagonist as “Hellblade: Senua´s sacrifice.” It was released in August 2017, by the creators of Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DmC: Devil May Cry. We can find it with the user interface in 20 languages, with its corresponding subtitles. The game is rated for 18 years and older, for violence and strong language.

Character

Senua is a Celtic warrior with the appearance of a Pictish1 barbarian who undertakes a spiritual search in Viking territory to recover the soul of her lover, sacrificed by the Norse. The horror of sacrifice drags her into mental torment and into The Land of the Dead. She is an atypical heroine. Senua suffers a serious mental illness and his journey takes place in a world created within his mind, a world of gods, her reality.

The development

The game has impressive graphics. The animation is so well done that if you remove the sound you can read Senua’s lips. But the most impressive is the faithful representation of what a person suffering from psychosis really experiences. Everything is taken care of in detail. To do this, Ninja Theory´s team consulted with specialists in neuroscience and psychiatry and with an organization dedicated to the recovery of people with this mental illness, who collaborated in the creation and monitoring of the video game until the end.

The other protagonist

Psychosis, wrongly related to psychopathy (total absence of empathy), is characterized by the appearance of hallucinations, voices, delusions and flashbacks in the person who suffers. Definitely, the video editor Melina Juergens made a great effort and a good job of immersion in the character. It was recognized with the prize for the best dramatic performance. The award was delivered by the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR).

Ninja Theory allowed her to combine the editing work of the videos with her actress job to make the capture of movements playing the role of Senua. It should be noted that the recreation of the voices that Senua listens to in its head and the rest of the sound content also deserved the prize for the best use of sound in a new game, delivered by the same academy.

Achievements

We must admit that Ninja Theory’s bet was risky when dealing with a taboo subject in society, such as psychosis, but in addition to professional success they have used the power of a video game to change people’s perception of this reality, to generate understanding on the subject, and most importantly, to help erase the stigma that imprints the social environment to people suffering from mental illness.

Can you imagine everything we could get with a video game?

 

1 Pictish:  they were a confederation of tribes that lived in the north and center of Scotland until X century.

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