FBT is, for once, humbled...
I finished Fractured Minds in less than 20 minutes. You wouldn’t expect that to be enough time to fracture your mind, but days later I’m still thinking about it. Created as a short experimental project, not only did this win a BAFTA, but it was created by a 17-year-old, Emily Mitchell, as a way to express and explore her own anxiety issues.
Mental illness has been used in games before, in varying ways and degrees of success; some, such as Depression Quest or That Dragon, Cancer are overt experiences, while games like Hellblade and Gris try to show it in more visceral or subjective ways; but Fractured Minds is somewhere in between. It doesn’t have a huge amount of detail, but it’s incredibly distressing, knowing this is how some people actually get through their day.
Broken into Chapters that seem everyday – leave your room, attend your birthday party, walk home – things are made all the more difficult by the character’s swelling unease, compounded by voices and text claiming you can’t accomplish this, it’s your fault, you’re hated, you don’t deserve it. The later chapters are more surreal but still drive home the fact that what we do without consideration is almost impossible to others.
For me, one level where you simply cross the street then interact with faceless, phone-obsessed people to pass a locked door was just a puzzle to crack, but this is what the world feels like for some people, while the party chapter where I must have fun really brought home how hard it is to ‘just be happy’. Each Chapter seems straight-forward but then you realise how debilitating it is when you’re working against yourself.
It may look and play simplistically, but it packs more emotion than most Triple A games that expect us to invest in the characters. The sudden ending is oddly the best part – there’s no final boss fight, no cut scene happy ending. Anxiety isn’t bested or beaten forever, the character isn’t set free - today, they managed it; and that's enough.
The strangest thing is immediately after I’d finished, I replayed – not to get my money’s worth, all the Achievements, or beat my time; maybe on some level I was looking for a way to ‘beat’ it, but really I wanted to play again to better understand what the developer was going through, having created the game to help manage and expose her problems and processes. I have a new perspective – this game made me more aware and more considerate, and I can’t recall a single Triple A that’s done that.
At less than 30 minutes playtime and going for less than 2 quid on Steam, you can’t not experience this. Plus, 80% of proceeds goes to Safe In Our World, a charity that supports Gamers with Mental Health Issues. Help yourself and others; play Fractured Minds.