Toxicity in Gaming Is Rampant. This Nonprofit Is Fighting Back
“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this,” says the famous quote from the iconic game The Legend of Zelda. In life, it is dangerous to go it alone—and having a supportive community is critical, particularly for people experiencing mental health challenges.
This memorable line of dialog inspired the name of the nonprofit Take This, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in November. The organization has been promoting mental health by combating toxicity in the gaming space for the past decade, and its reach and impact continue to grow and create positive change. Take This was founded upon three key needs and goals: support, community, and mental wellness.
The organization’s reach is far and wide. Among its projects, Take This is working with the US Department of Homeland Security to investigate racism and sexism in the gaming community.
Building Stronger Communities
Take This is committed to building better gaming communities and working alongside game developers to ensure anti-toxicity measures are built into games. The nonprofit’s vision is a welcoming gaming community that supports gamers who are experiencing mental health challenges.
The work of Take This trickles into many corners of the gaming industry. Executive director Eve Crevoshay tells WIRED that the organization’s mission “is about reducing the stigma and increasing the support for mental health and mental well-being in games in the gaming community.” This means Take This is looking at what factors are unique to video games that either support or challenge people’s mental wellness, Crevoshay says: “How do we create the conditions to increase well-being?”
She adds that a lot of what Take This does is about looking at how people experience making games, playing games, and “being in online game spaces and in game-adjacent spaces like Twitch or Discord.” Making those spaces the “best experience possible,” says Crevoshay, fuels the mission of Take This.
Another part of the nonprofit’s mission is engaging in conversations around mental health. “What we did at the beginning,” says Crevoshay, “was say, ‘Hey, mental health is an open conversation. We’re going to bring this to the table.’”
Mental health awareness—and coping strategies and resources for mental health challenges like depression and anxiety—is shifting dramatically as more people speak openly about mental health. Take This created rooms at PAX, a series of gaming conventions, where people could go to “escape the intensity of the gaming floor,” says Crevoshay. “Because game conventions are really loud, stimulating, and intense.” The intention of these rooms was not only to provide an escape but also to start a conversation about mental health in the gaming community.
Mental health issues don’t affect just gamers, of course. There are also game creators and developers who need these resources too. “Crunch,” or working overtime when developing a video game, is common in the gaming industry, and Take This is committed to reducing its negative impacts. Creator burnout is also a focus of the organization.
“Crunch is when a team is working an extreme number of extra hours, and it has been a prevalent problem in our industry,” says Chelsea Blasko, co-CEO of Iron Galaxy Studios, an independent video game studio that has partnered with Take This. Blasko says it’s something that Iron Galaxy Studios works really hard to avoid. The studio prioritizes employees’ access to mental health resources, flexibility during working hours, and more. If someone needs to take their dog to the vet, for example, they can do so and “not feel guilted or harassed by their team or like you’re letting them down,” Blasko says, adding how crunch creates “really negative pressure to overwork yourself.” Iron Galaxy and Take This partnered and hosted panels about avoiding crunch, and Take This has hosted workshops for the studio’s employees.
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