Ninja Theory, the maker of the award-winning action game Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (opens in new tab), has unveiled a new, "experimental" game now in development at the studio called Project: Mara that it says "will be a real-world and grounded representation of mental terror."
"Based on real lived experience accounts and in-depth research, our aim is to recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and realistically as possible," Ninja Theory commercial director Dom Matthews wrote at xbox.com (opens in new tab). "Project: Mara will be an experimental title and a showcase of what could become a new storytelling medium."
"[Project: Mara] will be heavily based on research, interviews, and first-hand accounts to recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and believably as possible," Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades explains in the first of a planned series of development diaries. "At the heart of it is the character that drives it. The game only features one character and one location."
Antoniades also talked about The Insight Project, another project in the works at Ninja Theory that aims to use videogames to help address issues of mental health.
"We're asking a question: Could we combine the best of game design and technology with cutting edge clinical neuroscience and psychiatry to help with mental suffering and to promote mental well being? This became the Insight Project." professor Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge says in the video.
"We recognize that there's a powerful and widespread movement in science and psychiatry based on acknowledging that the brain and the body are truly intimately related and must be considered as a functioning unit. But game technology gives us a missing piece: It gives us control of a person's environment. This is enormously powerful."
It's a big, ambitious goal, but Ninja Theory demonstrated an ability to deal with the topic effectively in Hellblade. While ostensibly a straight-up action-adventure game inspired by Nordic and Celtic mythology, it was acclaimed for its portrayal of the lead character's struggle with psychosis (opens in new tab). Ninja Theory worked with mental health experts, and people suffering with psychosis, during the development of the game to ensure a sensitive and accurate treatment of a very difficult topic that's rarely handled well.
A sequel, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, was announced last year (opens in new tab), and Antoniades also touches on that in the video. "While Hellblade gave us a very personal insight into psychosis, this sequel builds on that to show how madness and suffering shapes myths, gods, and religion," he says. "Our goal is to make an experience comparable to the epic myths and sagas of old."
Platforms for weren't revealed, but Hellblade 2 has been confirmed for PC (opens in new tab) and Xbox Series X, and it's a good bet that Project: Mara will too: Ninja Theory is now owned by Microsoft, which last year committed to putting all its first-party games on PC (opens in new tab) as well as console.