I have autism spectrum disorder. Formerly known as Asperger's, ASD is a developmental disorder that affects my communication and behavior. Ever since I was a child, I've had to navigate a world that has refused to accommodate me and others like me. Thankfully, things have gotten better since I was a kid, but there's still a lot of progress that needs to be made.

In both the real world and in entertainment, there is a tendency to "other" those whom we don't understand. In the realm of gaming, mental illness is often used as a justification for why it's okay to kill certain enemies.

"Psychonauts" and its recently released sequel reject that notion entirely. In Tim Schafer's recent 3D action platformer, no one is irredeemable, especially those who are struggling with mental health and trauma. Rather than look for easy answers to hard problems, "Psychonauts 2" gives players the catharsis of battling their mental inner demons while empathizing and respecting its audience.

What 'Psychonauts 2' is

The sequel picks up where the previous game left off. A young psychic named Razputin has just been made an honorary member of a secret organization known as the Psychonauts. Shortly after the rescue of the grand head of the agency, Truman Zanatto, Raz joins the intern program at the Psychonauts headquarters – The Motherlobe.

The main conflict of the game centers around a mass-murdering psychic named Maligula. Long presumed dead, she still has a multitude of loyal followers who aim to bring her back one way or another. Zanatto tells Raz in secret that he believes a mole has infiltrated the agency and asks him to bring Ford Cruller to help weed out this mole.

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The only problem is that Ford's mind was shattered after his battle with Maligula, giving him multiple personalities. Raz takes it upon himself to restore Ford's mind back to sanity.

At the very beginning of the game, agents Sasha and Mila pursue a lead at the Lucktopus Casino. They ask the second head, Hollis Forsythe, if she and the interns would be interested in joining, but Hollis declines, reasoning that the interns aren't ready to go into the field yet.

During Hollis' lesson, Raz learns how to connect different thoughts to change a person's opinions. He then gets the idea of messing with Hollis' mind to associate money with success.

With this new outlook, Hollis tells Sasha and Mila that she's changed her mind about the mission and takes the interns to join them. Once they arrive at the casino, Raz notices that Hollis is more preoccupied with gambling than the mission and realizes that he has to undo the mess he made in her mind.

In Hollis' mind, her obsession with gambling has taken the form of a giant octopus who dubs herself the Lady Lucktopus. Once Raz defeats this creature, he explains to Hollis that this whole thing was his fault. Hollis is furious but reveals to Raz that she once did the same thing to her boss when she worked as a doctor.

However, unlike Raz, she couldn't undo the damage she had done, and it was up to the Psychonauts to get him back to his old self. She proceeds to tell Raz that the role of a Psychonaut is not to try to fix or change people but to help them fight their inner demons. This is essentially the thesis of the entire game and is examined further as it goes along.

As the game progresses, Raz is forced to go into the minds of many different people who are struggling with problems such as anxiety, depression, and alcoholism. Neither Raz nor the game places the blame of these problems on the people struggling with them or advocate changing who you are as a person.

Massive spoilers ahead. If you haven't played the game, I advise you to skip to the next subhead of the article.

While I don't find it as funny or creative as the first game, "Psychonauts 2" is still a wonderful title that I think everyone should try out unspoiled. It's currently available on PlayStation4, Xbox One, Series X, and PC. Even if you don't play video games, I'd recommend watching a collection of cutscenes on YouTube just to see how a work of fiction can tackle this subject matter properly.

At the end of the second act, Ford reveals that he deliberately shattered his own mind to forget the terrible thing that he had done. Turns out that the reports of Maligula's death were greatly exaggerated. The woman who was known as Maligula previously went by the name of Lucrecia Mux. One day, she used her aquatic powers to silence and kill many peaceful protestors- one of which was her sister.

Unwilling to kill the woman he loved, Ford went into Lucrecia's mind and gave her alternate memories to make her believe that she was a different person, Marona Galochio, Lucrecia's sister and Raz's true biological grandmother. The woman who Raz had called 'Nona' his whole life was actually his great aunt.

Shortly after this revelation, Lucrecia's memories of Maligula start to come back and Raz is forced to plunge into Lucercia's mind to help her fight her inner demons. Once there, Lucrecia tells Raz that she may not be his real grandmother, but he's still her family and proceeds to give Raz all the power she has to stop Maligula. Defeated, Maligula tells Raz that he can't destroy her as she's still a part of Lucrecia.

Raz retorts that everyone has something like her inside them, saying, "We just know how to keep it where it belongs."

Why it's the right game at the right time

People who suffer with mental health issues have long been the scapegoat for many of society's ills. After the 2019 mass shooting in Ohio and Texas, former President Donald Trump was heard to say, "Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun." This remark was criticized by many in the psychological field, including Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University. He claimed that Trump was "scapegoating people with mental illness as the cause of the problem completely inappropriately." Indeed, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, less than 3 percent of violent crime is committed by those with mental health conditions.

With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, vaccinations are arguably more important than ever. Still, many parents are adamant in their refusal to inoculate their children based on fears that they will end up like me- autistic. It's disheartening and frankly dehumanizing to think that to them, a dead child is better than a child who's simply not "normal."

To this day, those of us in the spectrum are still regarded as problems that need to be solved and are forced to navigate a world that refuses to accommodate or respect us. Many TV Shows, Books, Films, and Video Games sensationalize and exploit our trauma. Tim Schafer and the rest of the talented people at Double Fine Productions have succeeded where so many have failed.

They've done a fine job examining mental health and trauma in a work of fiction without coming off as exploitative or provoking those feelings. The notion of accepting someone for who they are and helping them overcome their inner turmoil instead of attempting to "fix" or change them really resonates with me.

I can only hope that this title will not suffer the same dismal sales of its predecessor so that Double Fine can continue to keep making wonderful titles such as this.