Mental Illness in the spotlight: The Town of Light

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Develop Brighton brought many like minded developers together over the course of just a few days.

With so many great Indie games to look out for, one in particular caught my eye – a first-person psychological narrative thriller based on real events and stories.

The Town of Light

Speaking with Italian Developers, I decided to take an in-depth look into the narrative driven experience of a 16 year old girl suffering from Schizophrenia.

Mental health is something that is so rarely touched on from both game developers and the mass media. Maybe this is down to the stigma the general public has against mental illness or maybe this is because of how sensitive and close this is to our reality.

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Luca Dalcò, creative director for The Town of light, told me how the project was in fact first inspired through “personal interest and experiences with friends / family in the past”

We have a lot of respect for mental health practitioners there has been lots of steps forward in mental health compared to the past.

LKA first started with just two people but later grew to a full scale 12 man team with a large focus on the research and and background on the real life events in which this game is based on.

This is their story:

It’s not a about horror, it’s about the truth.

The unique selling point of The Town of Light is the fact that it’s based on real research with social relevance of something that is not being talked about a lot in media.

It’s a truly beautifully designed game that explores a sensitive issue that affects more people than think.

As Luca described it to me, “It’s time for games to grow, become more mature and cover something that is socially relevant. Games like this are just not explored that often”

It’s no lie, a game like this hits hard. The main protagonist guides you through her eyes meaning you’ll quite literally be living her story and fears that she can never forget. As you can imagine moving on from a past of torment and suffering is by no means an easy feet.

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Shocking statistics from have shown that at any one time as many as 51 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia.

The developers assured me that this issue is by no means toned down as they believe it is important to use the medium to show the reality of those who suffer from schizophrenia.

Toning it down wouldn’t do the issues at hand justice, These things need to remembered and need to be talked about.

It’s the art style and game mechanics which draws you into their world.

Along with the strong and meaningful message the game actually features some stunning graphics…

Jumping straight into gameplay I noticed the smallest details from the patterns the birds flew to the artistic graffiti that littered the halls of the asylum.

Combined with the emotional piano backed music it gave a strong sense of immersion and even more so with the game’s full support for VR.

Although the meaning and story was enough to keep me playing, a narrative game like this needs to attract the right kind of player.

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This is not a game for people who want something quick to play and add to their list of completed games.


This is for the genuine players that enjoy exploring games in a 3D dynamic. Someone who has the time to understand and develop an understanding for the character and wants to go away knowing they have seen life from a different perspective.

Perhaps the developers may be able to find a balance between the different player styles with future updates and games down the line?

Bringing together two levels of narrative

Real photo which inspired the art

Real photo which inspired the art

Luca really wanted to drill into me the sub levels of narrative that are going on in a game like this.

The first being:

The mental health institution storyline, conveying the message that; “we don’t want to forget what’s happen so we can avoid this from happening again in the future”

And the second being:

To explore and show players “the psychiatric discomfort that people do experience.”

Because this is something that is so near to us. Unless we stop and think about it we don’t realize

Forget Jump scares, the reality of this game is much more terrifying.

Something that struck me quite hard was when Luca told me: “In our game what you see actually exists. It’s not an excuse to fight zombies or monsters, one of the main elements of the game is the real location and story.”

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As a DoubleUpGaming only exclusive the developers also gave us a sneak peek into the research of the terrifying truth and ordeals this girl went through.

Entering the main protagonists life was much worse than any jump scare as of course you leave the game knowing that there’s a girl somewhere out there who went through the fundamentals of this game as their life.

What are the developers expecting from this game?

The Town of Light is quite literally the history of a broken life that has been affected by mental illness.

There’s a real sense that this game is being released to give players real knowledge of what has happened in the past through a game environment.

“We hope that the players have a strong empathy with the main character and to then provide a point of view about the suffering that people feel with a mental illness.”

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Town of Light aims to be released for late 2015 on a PC platform with added support for the oculus rift. Currently there are ongoing conversations to have the game released on next gen consoles however nothing is confirmed.

Do you feel that such sensitive topics should be touched on with video games?

Feel Free to let me know with a comment down below or even send us a tweet with your view on the Town of Light.
If you enjoyed this feature then you may like to check out my other piece on what was on offer down at Develop:Brighton

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