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A video game that helps us understand loneliness

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    Have you ever felt lonely?
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    The urge of wanting
    to connect with people,
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    but you seem to have no one
    you really would want to contact?
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    Or, it's a Friday night
    and you want to be with others,
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    but you have no energy to go out,
    so instead you sit at home all evening,
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    watch Netflix
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    and feel more alone than ever?
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    You feel like a monster
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    between humans that know how to function.
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    This is what loneliness felt like to me.
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    So I'm an artist,
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    and I process my emotional world
    by sharing my feelings through my art.
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    If you share your feelings with someone,
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    and they understand
    and share those feelings too,
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    you create an emotional
    and deep connection.
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    This is why you can be surrounded
    by hundreds of people,
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    jump from one candidate to the next,
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    but still feel lonely.
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    It's because these deeper connections
    haven't been made.
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    I was an always-happy child.
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    I think we nearly have
    no single photo of me
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    where I don't smile broadly
    or laugh or joke around.
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    And this went on until ...
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    well, it's still the case.
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    But I had many friend groups
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    up until, as a young adult,
    I moved to another city
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    for my first job as a comic artist.
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    And like so many young,
    thriving people all over the planet,
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    I concentrated all my energy
    into my work life.
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    But, if you spend, like, 90 percent
    of your daily capacity
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    trying to succeed at work,
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    of course there is nothing left
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    to take care of all the other
    important aspects in your life,
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    like your human relationships.
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    Nourishing friendships
    as an adult is work.
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    You need to be consistent with connecting.
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    You need to be open,
    you need to be honest.
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    And this is all I struggled with,
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    because I tend to camouflage
    my real feelings
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    by trying to appear always happy
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    and trying to make
    everyone else happy, too,
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    by trying to fix their problems.
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    And I know a lot of us are guilty of this,
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    because it's an easy way to not
    think about your own issues.
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    Isn't it?
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    Hmm? Hmm? Hmm?
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    (Laughter)
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    OK.
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    The turning point came
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    when I fell into an emotionally
    abusive relationship
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    just a few years ago.
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    He isolated me
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    and left me feeling more alone than ever.
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    It was the lowest point in my life,
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    but it was also my wake-up call,
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    because it was the first time
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    that I really felt loneliness.
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    Many artists put
    their feelings into their art.
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    There are endless books,
    movies, paintings, music,
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    all filled with the real
    emotion of an artist.
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    So, as an artist myself, I did the same.
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    I shared my feelings.
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    I wanted to help people
    cope with loneliness.
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    I wanted, yeah, to make them
    understand it,
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    to really experience it through my art
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    in the form of an interactive story,
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    a video game.
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    So, in our game --
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    we called it "Sea of Solitude" --
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    you are a person named Kay,
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    who is suffering from
    such strong loneliness
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    that her inner feelings --
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    the anger,
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    the feeling of hopelessness,
    worthlessness --
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    turn to the outside,
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    and she becomes a monster.
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    The game -- well, Kay --
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    is actually a representation of me
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    and the path I went through
    to overcome my struggles.
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    The game plays, actually, in Kay's mind,
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    so you walk through a world
    that is flooded by her tears,
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    and the weather is changing by her mood,
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    how her mood is changing.
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    And, well, the only thing Kay wears,
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    the only thing,
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    is her backpack.
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    It's the baggage we all carry
    throughout our life.
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    And Kay doesn't know how to cope
    with her emotions in the right way,
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    so her backpack becomes bigger and bigger
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    until it bursts,
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    and she finally is forced
    to overcome her own struggles.
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    In our story, we present many different
    manifestations of loneliness.
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    Loneliness through
    social exclusion is very common.
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    In our game, the brother of Kay
    got bullied in his school,
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    and he just wants to hide and fly away.
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    And we portray him as a huge bird monster
    surrounded by thick fog.
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    The player has to actually
    walk through his school
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    and experience, really feel the harm,
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    that the brother had been through,
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    because for a long time,
    nobody really listens to him.
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    But the very moment
    friends and family start to listen,
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    the first step towards overcoming
    this form of loneliness had been made.
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    We also show loneliness in relationships,
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    like when parents just stay together
    for the sake of their kids
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    but end up hurting the entire family.
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    We put the player literally in between
    the two parents while they are fighting,
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    and you get hurt in the middle.
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    They don't even see that their daughter,
    Kay, is right there
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    until she breaks down.
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    We also show loneliness
    through mental health issues,
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    with the boyfriend of Kay,
    who suffers from depression
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    and shows that sometimes
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    it is most important to focus
    on your own well-being first.
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    The boyfriend also tends
    to camouflage his feelings,
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    so he appears like a lone,
    shiny white wolf.
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    But the moment he starts
    to interact with his girlfriend, Kay,
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    the mask falls off,
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    and we see the black dog beneath it:
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    depression.
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    Sometimes we put on a smile
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    instead of dealing
    with the issues at hand,
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    and that can ultimately make it worse,
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    affect the people around us
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    and damage our relationships.
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    So Kay herself
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    we portray as ripped apart
    into her basic emotions.
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    Some help you,
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    some are trying to stop you.
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    Self-Doubt is a huge creature,
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    always telling Kay how worthless she is
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    and that she should just give up.
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    Like in real life,
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    Self-Doubt is blocking the path,
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    and it seems impossible to overcome it.
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    Destroying the omnipresence
    of Self-Doubt is a slow process.
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    But in the game,
    you can slowly, like, shrink her,
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    so she turns from self-doubt
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    to actually healthy doubt,
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    and you can finally trust her advice.
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    We also show Self-Destruction.
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    It's a huge monster
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    always lurking nearby
    under the water's surface.
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    Self-Destruction is actually
    the main antagonist of the game,
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    and she is always trying to drown you
    in the ocean of tears.
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    But, when she actually drowns you,
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    you wake up just a few moments [before],
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    and you have a chance to progress again.
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    We wanted to show
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    that we all go through hardships
    in our life, we all do.
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    But if you at least, like, stand up
    and try to move forward,
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    you are very likely to make it
    through your struggle,
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    step by step.
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    Joy is something that Kay
    cannot really embrace or touch.
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    It's always something in the distance.
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    We portrayed Joy
    as a child version of Kay,
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    with a yellow raincoat,
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    so she is invulnerable
    to the ocean of tears.
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    But Joy can also turn into obsession
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    and start to be actually harmful for Kay,
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    like when she starts obsessing
    over her boyfriend.
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    Joy will not turn back to normal
    until Kay realizes
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    that her happiness
    should not depend on anybody else
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    but herself.
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    So our monsters appear huge and scary,
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    but if you overcome your reluctance
    and approach them,
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    you soon see that they
    are no monsters at all,
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    but just fragile beings that are simply
    overwhelmed by what life throws at them.
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    All of those emotions,
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    be it self-doubt or even self-destruction,
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    don't completely vanish in our game.
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    The key message is to not only
    chase for joy or happiness
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    but to embrace all your emotions
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    and bring them into balance,
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    being OK with sometimes not being OK.
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    Everyone has their own
    loneliness story to tell.
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    This realization changed
    everything for me.
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    Being much more open with my emotions
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    and concentrating much more
    on my private life,
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    my friends, my family.
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    When we released the game,
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    literally thousands of fans wrote us,
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    all sharing their stories with us
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    and telling us they felt
    not so alone anymore
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    just because they played our game.
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    Many people wrote us that they felt hope
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    for a better future for themselves
    for the first time in decades.
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    Many wrote us that they seek therapy now,
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    just because they played our game
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    and felt hopeful to overcome
    their own struggles.
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    Our game is not a therapy.
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    It's not meant to be a therapy.
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    It's just my friends and me
    sharing our stories
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    through our art, video games.
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    But we are so deeply thankful
    for every single message
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    that people feel better,
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    just because we shared
    our story with them.
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    So ...
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    I didn't completely overcome
    my urge to help others.
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    But I don't want to overcome it anymore.
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    I love it.
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    I just needed to bring it
    to a healthy size,
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    so it doesn't stand in the way
    of deeper relationships anymore,
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    but even help me to connect with people.
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    So, if you have an inner monster
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    that is born out of negative emotions,
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    it is not only the goal
    to kill that monster
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    but to understand that we humans
    are complex beings.
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    Look at what part of your life
    is so big that others fall short.
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    Look at what emotions you barely feel
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    or maybe feel too much
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    and move towards lowering those peaks.
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    Most of all, it's about understanding
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    that all the wide range
    of emotions and struggles
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    makes us what we are:
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    humans.
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    Thank you.
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    (Applause)
Title:
A video game that helps us understand loneliness
Speaker:
Cornelia Geppert
Description:

Step into artist Cornelia Geppert's visually stunning video game "Sea of Solitude," which explores how battling the "monsters" of loneliness and self-doubt can help us better grapple with the complexity and struggles of mental health.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
12:42
  • At 3:08, the subtitles say "many others", but the speaker says "many artists". Could you fix it? Eric

  • Please note the following update to the English transcript:

    3:08 many others --> many artists

    Thank you for the edit, Eric.

English subtitles

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