Tim Schaferfounder of Double Fine Productions and in recent times author of the much appreciated Psychonauts 2has very clear ideas on how, in his opinion, inclusiveness should be managed within a video game.
During an interview with NME, the famous game designer retraced his career starting from the beginning, explaining that in the 80s there was “much less sensitivity” in the development of a game, then underlining how much times have changed with the decades, focusing in particular on how his way of developing and seeing the surrounding world has changed in the years that have passed between the two episodes of Psychonautsreleased in 2005 and 2021 respectively.
“I thought I’d learned a lot already, but then we did tests for a game, some people highlighted a certain word asking us if we knew how it meant to specific people. I didn’t know and they pointed out things like the ‘culture woke’ and the like”, said Schafer, adding that “some things we did with the first Psychonauts we deliberately didn’t redo for the second, we are older and we have put much more sensitivity into many problems dealt with in the game. Being a comedy-style game, it was very important for people to know that we weren’t making fun of them, but that we were treating the human psyche in a humorous and loving way.”
Double Fine’s number one goes on to say that “a comedy shouldn’t hurt people, and of course you think about the way your words influence people by making sure your artistic intent is successful: are you using shameful words? Are you making alienating descriptions of certain categories?” And he concludes: “The best writing in a game is never based on stereotypes, it is based on research, on the real world, on your personal experiences. Always aim for writing that is unique, and not a jumble of stereotypes”.
Our review of Psychonauts 2 shows that Tim Schafer’s latest work has proved to be a great success also thanks to the sensitivity shown in dealing with sensitive topics such as mental health. As for the future of the series, it’s unclear whether Psychonauts 3 will happen or not, as Double Fine would now like to experiment with something different.