Support in Mind Scotland's CU Thru project in Dumfries is this year supporting the unique ARCADE festival, which is bringing video gaming on to the High Street with a new slant for 2020, focussing on the role of video games in mental wellbeing.

From 30 January-1 February, the team of artists will transform Dumfries town centre into a gigantic video gaming arena, with free-to-play building scale projections current, classic and retro video games.

For 2020, D-LUX have partnered up with C U Thru, our project for 16-30 year olds experiencing mental ill health. Support in Mind Scotland's project co-ordinator Susan McEwan said "You hear a lot about the negative effects of too much gaming, but more people use games to relax and escape from everyday worries."

"I'd say most people are gamers these days, and that goes for the young people that use our project too. Many of them socialise via online games, which can help with feelings of isolation, but having the chance to get out and meet people around a shared interest is really important too – ARCADE 2020 will be great for that.”

Creative Director Robbie Coleman hit upon the idea of exploiting the beauty and diversity of video games for their third Annual Festival of Light-Based Art in 2019. “Play’s been part of what we do from the start because we want people to come and do things, not just turn up and gawp. So why not blow these amazing imaginary worlds up to the size of buildings and let everyone have a go?”

It was an astute move. Festival attendance leapt from around 1,100 in 2018 to over 4,000 in 2019.

 “We had quite a few unexpected chats last year about how much people value gaming in terms of their wellbeing,” says co-director John Wallace, “so we thought it’d be cool to take that on and open up a discussion about positive mental health and video gaming.”

Creative Scotland’s Open Fund has helped make this vision a reality, with cash support for a slew of installations gathered together under the banner “HUMAN:SPACE”.  

HEADSPACE ARCADE will focus on exploration, relaxation and escape; live-streamed game-a-thon THE STREAM will run throughout the festival, with sofa guests chatting on mental health themes; survey-based research project DIGITAL SQUARE will explore wellbeing aspects of people’s gaming experiences and visualise results as a giant, interactive artwork.

Festival partners Battlestations will transform their mobile games trailer into the HEADSPACE Arcade. Director Derry Rogerson says “I’ve used gaming for years to help get through life stuff, and I want more people to see the how it can promote mental wellbeing. There’s nothing quite like playing a character through a ‘tough times’ storyline to help put some perspective on your own life – or the lift the sheer fun of gaming can give you.” Rogerson also notes the sense of community people get from online and social aspects of today’s scene.

To keep up to date with their events, visit www.d-lux.org.uk or find ‘D-LUX’ on Facebook.

D-LUX is funded by Creative Scotland, The Holywood Trust, The People’s Project and Dumfries & Galloway Council, with support from SP Energy Networks and Support in Mind Scotland.