The mythology and psychology of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Posted on March 7, 2017

A new developer diary has emerged in relation to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice that gives clear and potent insight into the game’s portrayal of psychosis, the element that is the most attractive to me at this point.

A portrayal of mental health and psychosis, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a unique creation by Ninja Theory, a Cambridge, UK based independent games developer. Inspired by historical events, Hellblade tells the story of Senua, a Celtic warrior who is left traumatised by a Viking invasion. This third person action game, being developed for PlayStation 4 and PC, will follow Senua’s journey into a vision of hell that is the manifestation of her own mental illness. In order to ensure a sensitive and accurate portrayal of the subject, Ninja theory have worked closely with a psychiatrist and Professor of Health and Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge, as well as arranging to consult with people who have experience of mental health difficulties.

The extent to which the development team has gone to in order to bring us a story rich in mythologically accurate content is incredible. The extent to which they have researched lived experience of psychosis is also incredible. What this developer’s diary does, where typical representations have not traditionally gone, is look at the creative and often intuitive elements of psychosis and how they have woven them into this game.  The following quote from the game really sums it up for me:

“We like to think that we experience the world almost like an HD photograph, as it really is. Actually a lot of the time we are using what we already know to shape and govern what we perceive. If we recognise that principle of how the brain functions it may be that we can begin to understand what happens in the context of psychosis. Psychosis cannot be understood as a malfunction of the mind, rather a very creative process where somebody constructs a world.”

– Prof Paul Fletcher, psychiatrist and professor of health neuroscience at the university of Cambridge.

Have a look at the following video and get a feel for how this game is going to be not only a great concept, but also a gripping and realistic experience. Set for release some time this year, I am earmarking this game for a top 10 contender for sure.