For many people, anxiety or panic attacks are very scary and very real, characterized by many symptoms and side effects. Personally, I feel terrified and have a clouded mind, as well as whole body shakes and crying. For others, they may feel drained, angry, or rock back and forth (how most people think of a panic attack). For those who don't experience these attacks, this can be a very difficult feeling to understand. So, enter developer Alessandro Salvati (AKA NeatWolf), who developed a game to let others experience this uncomfortable feeling.
Alessandro Salvati, professionally known as NeatWolf, has only produced this game at the moment, but he is currently working on another independent title currently known as ADON Project. He's also a very well known asset developer for the Unity engine, working by himself as a freelance designer. Additionally, he continues to work with a gaming company known as TuoMuseo where he is the CTO and Senior Developer of "Father and Son."
Salvati has been interested in game design and development since he was a young child. He even shares how he made his own paper prototype at a friend's home as a child. He also refers to games as his "favorite form of art." As an adult, Salvati has completed degrees in Computer Science and Engineering and Multimedia Information Systems from the Polytchnic University of Turin, as well as a degree in Electronic Engineering from a smaller university in Caligari, Italy.
About the Game
The game is set in a serene forest with rich colors and calming background noise. The concept is to show others what anxiety attacks feel like and how to cope with them. There are only two simple instructions for the entire experience: find peace zones and control your breathing.
However, should the player lose focus on their breathing or be caught by the dark looming web of darkness that represents anxiety, the world turns dark and red with disturbing messages such as "I can't [breathe]" and "Am I crazy?" Once this begins, the player must find a "peace zone" to calm themselves down quickly, in addition to regulating their breathing. Once the player finds all of the peace zones, the game then notes that all "easy solutions are gone," but that the anxiety is still present, and that it is then up to the player to escape by following a thin trail of flowers (as it is up to a real anxiety sufferer to work on getting better, and the task isn't as easy or straightforward as it seems).
Salvati used his own long-term experience with anxiety to create this game.
So Why is This Important?
Games like "Anxiety Attacks" are helpful to spread awareness of mental illness and how it makes its victims feel. I personally deal with anxiety, and I have my whole life. Seeing works like this make people like myself feel understood and heard in the crazy world we live in, reminding us that we aren't alone, and most importantly, it's going to be okay.
Salvati's work is influential because it helped pave the way for other developers to branch out and create similar experiences, bringing to light all different types of mental and physical illnesses and how they affect our lives.