How Psychonauts 2 Approaches Trauma, Therapy And Empathy

Psychonauts 2

Image: Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2, the long-awaited sequel to Psychonauts, is a incandescent, frothy, wholesome game about deep, dark, unspeakable issues. Trauma, PTSD, depression, fear, loneliness… below the squeaky-effectively-kept formica and bakelite of Psychonauts HQ lies an global humming with vitality, and a myth laced with profundity.

This tale at the origin seemed on Kotaku Australia.

Tim Schafer, inventive director and writer, is rarely any stranger to tales with monstrous heft. He’s accountable for co-writing The Secret of Monkey Island, The Curse of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, and he was head writer of Beefy Throttle, Grim Fandango, Brutal Yarn, Damaged Age. The person is a drive of nature.


Psychonauts 2 isn’t about gunning down the colossal boss at the close and cheering over their ineffective body. It’s about working out that even the ideal asshole is silent an particular person, and deep down they’ll also excellent need some inspire.


Psychonauts 2 is with out doubt one of the significant handiest, smartest, kindest games of the previous decade. And given the heft of the topics being dealt with within the game, I believed it acceptable to take a seat down down down for a long, deep dive with the man himself.

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Image for article titled How Psychonauts 2 Approaches Trauma, Therapy And Empathy

Image: Psychonauts 2

Kotaku: We’re sitting here in 2021. And there’s a line reasonably early within the game, the attach Hollis (a unprecedented unusual personality) tells Raz “Focal level. Simplest one unfathomable fear at a time”. Right here is… my unusual mantra. I primarily receive to inquire of.. how grand of across the sector the previous on the opposite hand decades, and all it’s terrible eccentricities, told the tale of Psychonauts 2?

Tim Schafer, Psychonauts 2 inventive director and Double Dazzling founder: I imply, life creeps in in comic ways the entire time! The entire dialogue I write is mostly… you know, taken from overheard dialogue, issues I’ve heard friends and the manner they’ve talked about issues. Many of the views of the characters are quite loads of than my savor, nevertheless ones I’ve seen on the earth. And in most cases stuff you’re going thru, and your savor deepest stresses on that day, advance out of characters mouths. And it’s very monstrous when that occurs, nevertheless Hollis was… that was something written within the later years of the initiatives, so I positively mediate that was a signal of the events, nevertheless not meant to be topical in any manner – it’s timeless. It’s comic… there are quite loads of lines in there, about composed protests, that was written long within the past. System sooner than quite loads of the protests… I imply, there’ve continuously been protests, nevertheless, you know. Some issues seem topical, nevertheless aren’t.

Successfully you paint with the colors that you just’ve bought spherical you, excellent? And these sorts of topics if truth be told are evergreen. But what made you savor to receive to expose this explicit tale within the first living?

Schafer: Successfully, ever for the explanation that first game, we had these birth-ended questions. We had this roughly curse, placed on Raz’s family to die within the water, cursed by fortune tellers, and I had this idea for the thriller at the inspire of that, and what it meant. Also, Ford Cruller had this attention-grabbing personality, the attach he was many various personalities. He was teleporting spherical camp, and that was never if truth be told defined – how he would perchance fabricate that, or what came about to him, nevertheless I continuously imagined it was attributable to a large battle with an arch-enemy psychic, some roughly villain… nevertheless I did receive a backstory doc I wrote at the time, nevertheless I’m excellent so elated so that you just can elevate them to life fifteen years later. And there’s furthermore a entire bunch of recent solutions, tale and plotlines that we came up with with the unusual folks within the crew, so… it all fits collectively, and works effectively collectively!

Successfully one of the significant issues that strikes me is that Raz is… effectively, yanked down a notch. Because he was rather grand a colossal fish in a tiny pond within the first tale, so there’s… you know, disrespect, hazing, some light bullyinh… is that on tale of you’re seeking to enlighten something about what it’s savor to be in a living the attach you with out notice don’t receive a tackle on issues anymore?

Schafer: Successfully, it’s excellent… you know, the stakes are better now. He’s not at camp anymore – he’s at the headquarters of an global gaze group, so no topic discipline promotion he bought sooner than doesn’t if truth be told depend! And so whereas he’s the lowest rung on the ladder, he’s furthermore in a grand more crucial living, and has bigger villains to fight. That’s excellent how tales budge up, how they help folks fervent. Plus, it’s furthermore stress-free to receive somewhere to climb to as a player – you don’t primarily wish to initiate off with superpowers excellent away!

Plus Raz is a exiguous bit one, excellent? I wished to inquire of what it is about Children that you just concentrate on makes them such compelling eyes in which to note an global. I’m not excellent thinking of Psychonauts here – furthermore Damaged Age, the attach you receive young folks saddled with these worthy burdens.

Schafer: Successfully in every of those tales, there’s something attention-grabbing… severely Psychonauts 2. In every circumstances, Raz is a truly earnest kid. He’s impressed by a personality I seen in some normal Jet Li movies, the attach Jet Li had a young ten-365 days-normal cohort who did the entire identical strikes Jet Li did, nevertheless he was excellent very earnest, and committed, and likewise you know, young folks don’t receive that 2d guessing. That impostor syndrome, excellent? They’re excellent savor… yeah! Let’s fabricate this! And I primarily most popular his earnestness. Raz has that, and his impulsiveness, nevertheless he furthermore will get a exiguous bit cocky in most cases.

In Psychonauts 2, he learns loads savor what Shay did in Damaged Age… that phase of growing up is you’re getting unusual powers the entire time. You’re getting unusual powers of comprehension – that you just might also drive, that you just might also fabricate all these stuff you couldn’t fabricate sooner than, nevertheless with that, comes the flexibility to damage folks. As you switch into older, you realise, oh. I will primarily fabricate massive issues, nevertheless I will furthermore damage folks if I’m not cautious. And there’s some extent on this game the attach Raz will get a talking to about that, on tale of he goes a exiguous bit too far along with his powers. He will get a talking to from Sasha about the accountability of getting inside of somebody’s mind.

Image for article titled How Psychonauts 2 Approaches Trauma, Therapy And Empathy

Image: Psychonauts 2

Dazzling. Successfully, quite loads of authors write from their worldview, their lived experiences, and write themselves into their tales. So who is Raz? I imply, is there any of you in Raz? Had been you raised within the circus?

Schafer: (Laughing) I don’t know! You know, I’d help in mind it a failing if my fundamental personality was me. That’s an uncomplicated entice to tumble into, excellent? ‘Cos one of the significant stuff you be taught in writing courses is that this: your yell is one yell. But all of your characters can’t discuss on your yell, otherwise it’s excellent a colossal monologue. And so I mediate within the occasion you’ve if truth be told developed your characters, they glean their very savor voices, they assuredly recount issues that shock you.

The ideal writing is, in many ways, monstrous to the creator. Raz isn’t me – he’s his savor very self -possessed particular person, and I am hoping the entire characters within the game recount issues I would never recount! That being said, they fabricate all advance from me… so I must secure that personality in my head somewhere, for certain!

You’re beginning to sound equivalent to you wish somebody to whack a door at the inspire of your head, head in and defrag the entire stuff in there.

Schafer: It’s savor letting somebody read your dream diary, excellent? Most continuously you attach issues in, and likewise you’re telling somebody your dream, and likewise you realise… oh, god, I know what this is ready, as you’re telling them. But I was telling somebody once that once I was a exiguous bit one, there was a exiguous bit one referred to as Bobby who primitive to tackle us. And so that they had been savor, Bobby, savor Bobby Zilch in Psychonauts? And I was savor… uggggh. No. I didn’t develop up and name the bully after the newborn who threw all my tadpoles inspire within the pond, did I? But look, you show these items. Whenever you occur to’re doing paintings, or writing, you’re continuously revealing stuff with out realizing it.

Successfully I mediate, by that logic, you’ve printed that you just’re an optimist. Your entire games seem to receive this thru line of now potentially not heroes, and optimism. But furthermore, I mediate you concentrate on… and I receive about this more now than ever, having played the game… that all people has baggage. Is that pretty?

Schafer: All people has precisely 5 items of emotional baggage, which receive to be sorted, certain! No, nevertheless I mediate it’s one of the significant issues we had been responsive to within the first game… even the villains in Psychonauts are redeemed, on tale of you sail into their heads and sail, ohhhh. Now I look what they’re wrestling with. You look this illustration of Coach Oleander’s father, as an illustration, in his mind. And it’s not savor it excuses all behaviour, nevertheless that you just might also’t inspire nevertheless empathise with somebody. Whenever you’ve long previous inside of their mind, and viewed what they’re wrestling with.

Certainly one of my favourite quotes in Psychonauts 2 is, “We’re not here to trade peoples minds, to repair folks. We’re here to inspire folks fight their very savor demons.”

Schafer: Dazzling! And there are every function of oldsters. Some folks receive positively performed inexcusable issues, and it’s not savor I mediate you might sail fight a boss monster in their head and function them better! At all! But your moderate individual that you just meet … and this is advice I bought early on in life.

To be form to folks, ‘cos you never know what they’re going thru inside of their heads. I mediate that’s positively an even rule when impending folks in life. It doesn’t imply that every mass-assassin is one boss fight far from being launched, nevertheless… I mediate for trendy folks you meet for the length of the day day, that you just might also silent lengthen them a exiguous bit empathy.

But that you just might also’t elevate spherical a tiny door, and jus whack it on the inspire of a mugger, dive in…

Schafer: I imply, that might per chance perchance be attention-grabbing. Can also be very upsetting… nevertheless very attention-grabbing!

Whenever you occur to speak Psychonauts 2 to folks, it sounds, on paper, savor… effectively, remedy.

Schafer: Circulation remedy! Therapy: With Punching!

Image for article titled How Psychonauts 2 Approaches Trauma, Therapy And Empathy

Image: Psychonauts 2

Raise out you concentrate on remedy plays in as a machine here? And fabricate folks elevate that to the game?

Schafer: It’s something that didn’t if truth be told occur to me when I made the first game. But we had been within the studio recording voices for the 2d one, and one of the significant actors said “you know the factor I savor about this game? Each and every stage is ready therapeutic.” And… wow. I imply, Raz leaves every mind than when he arrived in it. In a taking pictures game, I would enter a warehouse and it’s on fireplace and collapsing as I sail away.

With Raz, he positively leaves every mind having visited, and I mediate that’s the job of the Psychonauts: not fixing brains, nevertheless serving to folks visualize how they’ll select on their interior demons. And one tiny factor that’s quite loads of this time is that Raz will get consent, sooner than he goes into every mind, except it’s an emergency. It took place to me sometime between the first and 2d game that going into somebody’s mind is an extremely invasive procedure. You might per chance well also silent potentially glean consent first, excellent? So he does now! And it’s proposed as a wellness test, it is phase of normalising remedy.

Like, Cassie will recount “Oh, excellent! I haven’t had a checkup rapidly.” So there might be that touch to it.

Raise out you are feeling savor writing this game has roughly… receive you learned from the tale that you just wrote? Cling you learned something else about, for lack of a much bigger term, the human situation?

Schafer: I mediate so. I mediate games are paintings, and at any time at the same time as you’re constructing paintings, severely paintings savor this – the attach you don’t know how it’s going to within the end close up – I feel equivalent to you’re transferring into touch with something. You’re seeking to function a connection, with the viewers, on tale of you’re revealing yourself to them… nevertheless you’re furthermore making discoveries of your savor. And I mediate it’s most continuously laborious to level it out, to jot down it out in a sentence, savor ‘I learned X about myself’. It’s more savor a feeling, or a overall emotional constructing, that I mediate makes it if truth be told rewarding to function, and select in, paintings.

You suspect that’s appropriate to all of your initiatives? I imply, what did you be taught from Manny Calavera? What did you be taught from Ben? The entire lot you write looks to receive a undeniable level of notice, and I never advance away feeling savor I’ve taken something far from the game world. I continuously feel savor I’ve added something. Raise out you concentrate on you’ve had a relentless worldview or has it shifted and evolved as you’ve told your tales?

Schafer: I mediate it’s the attach those characters took me. I mediate, you know, they all receive their very savor realities, their very savor aspects of notice, so I mediate every… test, I hopefully didn’t impose something else on them! I am hoping they be in contact their very savor reality, even supposing in most cases I take into accout it, and in most cases I don’t… nevertheless all of our heroes function excellent picks. I imply, better picks than I would receive made. Per chance!

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Image: Psychonauts 2

Yeah! Now, the game starts with a psychological effectively being warning, declaring that the game will take care of some very severe circumstances. You primarily couch it if truth be told effectively. But what I’m queer about is how fabricate you – somebody inclined to function comic – how fabricate you mix trauma and PTSD with comedy, and would perchance those two work collectively?

Schafer: Yeah, I mediate it’s having an empathetic notice of your entire breadth of the human situation. Whenever you occur to’ve lived a along time – savor some of us receive! – you’ve viewed the u.s.a.and the downs of life, and that doesn’t imply that life stops being comic. You know? Correct on tale of you’ve experienced massive tragedy. I most continuously elevate up Kurt Vonnegut, excellent on tale of I grew up finding out him in highschool. And his tales are continuously that manner. Forever extremely tragic and extremely comic at the identical time – Slaughterhouse Five is very bleak, nevertheless massive hilarious, so… it’s continuously excellent perceived to me that’s what life is savor: extremely comic and ridiculous, and tragic. All people experiences that virtually each day.

Vonnegut talks about those aliens which receive time savor a mountain differ viewed in a painting, excellent?

Schafer: Unstuck in time.

Yeah! Raise out you ever utilize that? Raise out you perceive that with demanding events it’s precious to pan out and see the entire image?

Schafer: (Laughing) Per chance that’s what makes it bearable … unstuck in time, taking a test down on all the pieces. But I mediate in many ways that’s how your life feels for those who’re older, savor myself. Most continuously you’re taking a test inspire, and likewise you fabricate receive this history, all there, all true now, the coolest aspects and the injurious. And it excellent offers you sense of… an appreciation for a truly mundane elated day you had. And you look it, and are savor … certain! Right here is functional, I will also silent receive an even time this… a picnic, chilling out at the dwelling… on tale of life, the entire differ of life, shall be… I don’t wanna recount grand worse, nevertheless it excellent puts you fervent with what matters. …How’d we glean all dark and heavy talking about this game? It’s stress-free! Did I unusual it’s stress-free? (He laughs)

Successfully there’s dark stuff on this game, nevertheless we’re talking about time, and the manner it if truth be told works… it’s so uncommon when at one level Raz will get inspire to the campsite from the first game, and he’s savor… Woah. I haven’t been here in…

Schafer: Three days?

Three days! And because the player, it’s a terribly disorienting abilities. But it would perchance well deserve to receive been wildly weird for you, having mere days sail for Raz, nevertheless for you it was fifteen years. How does it feel deciding on up a myth that far along down the motorway? And did you perceive that Raz had been ticking away within the background on his savor? Or was he frozen in Amber?

Schafer: I imply, within the occasion you primarily sail deep, within the occasion you be taught these characters, feel them, they roughly turn into timeless on your head. The staunch procedure back? We bought the yell actors inspire! And so that they’d sound the identical! They’re all fifteen years older, nevertheless a knowledgeable yell actor can sound younger. They’ll excellent fabricate that. But for me, Raz was this everlasting personality. And he excellent started talking again. I imply, we did research – I’ve played that first game time and again, and we played it again after we started, I played it again with the crew… roughly did quite loads of evaluation, broke it down … it was a truly deliberate manner of seeking to note what we made.

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Image: Psychonauts 2

Ever strive to fabricate the entire psychic factor? Rush a pencil with your mind?

Schafer: Uhhh … let’s look! Now not since I was a exiguous bit one. Look, I mediate there are mysteries on this world we don’t know all the pieces about. And I mediate about the human mind the entire time, and I mediate we don’t all the pieces about it! I imply, they’ve bought unusual gadgets that would perchance read psychic waves from exterior your head. Now not psychic, nevertheless you know, mind patterns, electro-magnetic… issues, exterior your head. And within the occasion that you just might also trade electro-magnetic fields that far far from your mind?

Schafer pauses meaningfully, raising a single eyebrow.

Schafer: Know what I’m sayin’?

Ohhhh yeah.

Schafer: What’s possible? We don’t know what’s possible.

So you’re birth, huh? ‘Cos this game, man… it’s savor having a needle fleshy of optimism punched excellent thru my breast plate!

Schafer: (Laughing) Look, it’s not savor I’m anti-science! But… receive you ever seen that computers fracture precisely for those who don’t need them to? Whenever you occur to can also function electromagnetic waves spherical your head, which we on the total can’t detect… computers receive thousands of bits flipping every 2d. Dazzling? Hundreds of thousands of binary issues are switching negate inside of a laptop. Very aesthetic equipment. Can also any of the stress you are feeling, for those who’re seeking to ship a game, for those who receive a colossal, crucial demo, the attach all people on the project is excellent all these confused out-out brains inserting spherical the laptop the entire time… is it not possible that something would perchance glean thrown out of whack? And fracture the machine? That’s my hokey psychic demand for the day.

That is attention-grabbing! But you know how you glean a surge of adrenaline, of stress, for those who receive something colossal on? I was told that we’ve primarily bought it contaminated – it’s chemical substances the mind is giving you to fabricate the factor. By that rationale… perchance the stress is what’s keeping the computers going and somebody bought relaxed for a 2d.

Schafer: Oh my god. I never idea about that. It’s the opposite! You’re excellent!

So my Dad was a cop, and we ideal not too long within the past chanced on out he most continuously has PTSD. I had to jot down to books to wring this out of him, and it wasn’t till he read tales primarily primarily primarily based on what he did that he went, huh. That’s what I went thru. Cling you had anybody reach out after taking half in Psychonauts and recount that hiya, this has made me test at my traumas, and my stuff, in a brand unusual manner?

Schafer: Yeah! I will’t if truth be told fragment any examples, nevertheless many, many letters over the years from folks paying the game, announcing that it helped them positively visualize therapeutic. Helped therm… take into accout combating these items going on in their heads, and take into accout they had the energy to fight these items, that they weren’t out of help watch over in these scenarios.

Damn. Look, thanks so grand for talking, Tim. Something else else you savor to receive to throw within the blender here? Is there something else you concentrate on folks receive missed, or that you just hope they’ll select far from Psychonauts 2?

Schafer: I believed that was an spell binding dialog! I mediate we nailed it.

Successfully, thanks for that, man. I most popular it. I mediate it’s a byzantine mess.

Schafer: Can’t wait to read it. That’s my favourite roughly mess.

Psychonauts 2 is out now for PC, PS4, Xbox and Xbox Sequence S/X. You might per chance well also read our fleshy review here.

Paul Verhoeven is an creator, broadcaster and TV presenter. His books Electrical Blue and Free Items are out now thru Penguin, and his podcasts, DISH! and Free Items, are readily accessible all over you glean your podcasts. You might per chance well also practice him on Twitter, Instagram, and in person, within the occasion that you just might also secure him (he’s very excellent at hiding).

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