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Dundee games designers to showcase mental health installation at London event

Lto r, Laura Cooney from The Corner, Gillian Easson from Creative Dundee,  Siôn Parkinson, Project Curator, Biome Designers Malath Abbas (front) and Tom Demajo.
Lto r, Laura Cooney from The Corner, Gillian Easson from Creative Dundee, Siôn Parkinson, Project Curator, Biome Designers Malath Abbas (front) and Tom Demajo.

A Dundee games design collective has been chosen to represent the city at the London Design Biennale for the first time.

Biome Collective will showcase an installation on men’s mental health at what is seen as a highlight of the global design calendar.

The theme for this year’s event is “emotional states” and Biome has based its contribution on the role of video games in getting young people to talk about their mental health.

Forty of the world’s best creatives are expected to gather in the UK capital to show how design impacts our lives.

Working with youth organisations and health services in Dundee, Biome has created an interactive installation called Shpeel, a misspelling of the word “spiel”, meaning either “to speak” or “to play”.

Malath Abbas, a video game developer and a co-founder of the collective, said: “We’ve designed a totally immersive experience that will allow people to share their emotional state in a non-verbal way.

“Using gaming techniques and 360-degree sound and interactive animation, visitors will be able to transform the whole atmosphere of the gallery space – the colour, sound and objects that enter it – to create an ‘emotional avatar’ which they can share with others and start a conversation about how they feel.”

The project started in May with a gathering of Dundee-based designers, mental health professionals, campaigners and clinicians coming together to give context to Scotland’s growing mental health crisis.

Participants included Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH), Brothers in Arms, a project dedicated to preventing male suicide, and counsellors and practitioners from local youth organisations.

Dundee youth collective Hot Chocolate Trust, and The Corner, an NHS drop-in service for young people based in the city centre later became involved to help push the project forward.

Laura Cooney, a community learning and development worker for The Corner, said: “Though the stigma around mental health is being reduced, people still find it difficult to find the words to talk about it.

“The young people that come to us often don’t have the language to describe how they feel.

“This can be really frustrating for them. Working with Biome Collective, we wanted to develop a tool –  a conversation starter – that would enable any young person we work with to describe exactly how they’re feeling without words.”

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