Ninja Theory is arguably one of the most consistent developers in the industry, but its work on Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is widely considered to be its best yet. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice did a phenomenal job exploring Senua's psychosis and the way her mental condition affects the perception of her surroundings. Hellblade was birthed from the idea that games could portray mental illnesses from a first-hand perspective rather than an outsider's and its success in doing so accurately by working with neuroscientists made way for The Insight Project.
Psychonauts is another great game that successfully explores the same themes though under a more colorful guise with less realism. Ninja Theory has been working on The Insight Project for some time now, and its findings could prove beneficial to future Psychonauts sequels.
The Insight Project's Initiatives
The Insight Project begins where Senua's Sacrifice left off. By working closely with both experts in the psychology industry and people with mental illnesses, Ninja Theory was able to translate a larger understanding of the trauma and mindset those with psychosis endure to a gaming medium. Not only was this done with technology and animation, but with filming and voice recording as well, leading to the horrifying yet insightful game known as Hellblade.
Taking it a step further, The Insight Project aims to help those with mental disorders by visualizing and projecting them using video games, a method that is only now possible thanks to modern technology. This way, people can share their experiences and illnesses with others, which will lead to a better overall understanding of mental health in society. These findings, the technology they use, and the art that comes as a result could just as well be used for new, therapeutic purposes yet to be explored by psychologists.
Double Fine’s premier franchise Psychonauts and Ninja Theory’s Hellblade both focus on dealing with the subject matter of mental health, though they are far from the only games to do so. Many titles take a chance at portraying mental illness, sometimes successfully and other times problematically. Though The Insight Project is an ongoing endeavor, games like Psychonauts could benefit a lot from Ninja Theory's The Insight Project.
Both studios happen to be Xbox-owned, meaning sharing this newfound information is more likely. Phil Spencer once talked about how these studios benefit from being able to share technology with each other, which opens the door for a whole host of new possibilities. Ninja Theory's The Insight Project might be some ways away but could play a vital role in the development of games such as future games in the Psychonauts franchise, or any game that aims to portray mental illnesses in video games.
How The Insight Project Could Affect Psychonauts Sequels
Psychonauts 2 has just been released to great reviews, and fans seem to be enjoying exploring and jumping through the psychedelic worlds that Tim Schafer and the team have crafted. It covers an array of mental disorders, such as depression, multiple personality disorder, anxiety, and alcoholism among others, and Double Fine’s portrayal of mental health issues walks a fine line between parody and accurate representation, which is part of the irrefutable charm of the Psychonauts games.
Psychonauts and Psychonauts 2 are more about exploring the psyche of these patients than understanding them first-hand, which justifies the team’s choice for these more serious themes. Games like Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice and Celeste have done a great job of portraying anxiety and depression effectively in this way. As mentioned before, it's still too early to assume that there could be a potential Psychonauts 3, but perhaps using Hellblade's approach, experiencing the mental disorders from the host's perspective, could be the next step for the series and could take it to new heights.
Of course, performing such a feat takes a lot of research and effort, much like what Ninja Theory did with Hellblade. If Psychonauts does indeed decides to head in this direction, The Insight Project could definitely be of great use in such a case. Using the findings of the research, Psychonauts sequels can explore such themes in a grounded fashion, all while retaining its signature writing and sharp sense of humor.
Psychonauts 2 is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.