Asylum Jam: Escaping the stigma

When was the last time you played a horror game that didn’t utilise negative stereotypes of mental illness, or the institutions that care for those with mental illness?

If you are a fan of games in the horror genre, it is likely that you have come across these themes many times before. The problem with these negative portrayals of mental illness, health professionals, psychiatric hospitals, and asylums (which don’t even exist anymore), is that they add to the stigma of mental illness and the treatment of it. A big part of breaking down societal stigma is ensuring the sensitive, responsible and accurate portrayal of mental illness across all forms of media.

This is where Asylum Jam comes in – it is a 48-hour jam to encourage game developers to challenge these stereotypes, and craft a horror game, which does not rely on these misrepresentations of mental health. This years theme is “Escape Room”, and we can just imagine the experiences that are in store for us at the end of the jam… Here’s what the organisers have to say about the jam:

The challenge, as always, is to create a horror game following this one rule:

1.) You should not use asylums, psychiatric institutes, medical professionals or violent/antipathic/’insane’ patients as settings or triggers.”

WHO states that mental illness or disorders affect one in four people.

It is something a great deal of the world live and cope with, yet are increasingly hesitant to reveal due to negative stigmatization in media, compounded by lack of general awareness about the variances of mental illness as well as the impact of suffering from one.

Horror is usually derived from the unknown and what we do not understand— and mental illness is one of these subjects where the general public lacks knowledge and insight. Many horror games use the negative portrayal of those who suffer from mental illness as extremely violent or sadistic, usually as the villain or antagonist, as an easy crutch to rest their story, characters and motivations on. Psychiatric hospitals, asylums and other similar medical institutions are too-common settings.

Asylum Jam is here to prove that we do not have to utilize a negative portrayal of mental health, medical professionals or medical institutes to create a good horror experience for a gamer. 

We’re here to create some great horror games that don’t use these stereotypes and tropes, and create amazing experiences for horror gamers.

This game jam has now been running for four years, and some amazing games have been created. It’s not too late to take part in this years jam – it starts today! Here’s the quick run down, but please check out the Asylum Jam website for full rules and instructions:

You do not need to sign up to participate, but you must be a GameJolt member and submit your game with the jam’s tag (#asylumjam2016) to have it submitted to the jam. You must also be a GameJolt member to vote after the jam is finished, so make sure you join up! Questions? Email us at with any queries, or alternatively tweet us at @AsylumJam!

CheckPoint Copyright 2017, ACN 612816841 ABN 50 612 816 841. We are an Australian Health Promotion Charity with TCC and DGR Status.

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?


Create Account