Book of Beasties is a fun and easy to learn card game where players team up with Oscar, Abigail & Mimic. Together they must use weird and wonderful contraptions to help bizarre creatures that have escaped through a mysterious portal from another dimension.
BUT WAIT! Not all is as it seems, the game also acts as an aid to help teachers, parents and guardians talk with children about mental health.
The central focus of the game is to offer an approachable and enjoyable platform to promote discussion of serious mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and to practice skills and exercises that could potentially be supportive.
How to play?
The cards you'll see below are the new and improved designs and are more representative of the final game - the ones in the videos are the older ilterations
Last but not least, there is the Merchant. This old fella wanders around the game offering up opportunities to trade cards - item for item.
Note: The Merchant is an addition to the four cards in hand - if he is drawn from the deck the player must draw a card immediately afterwards.
And lastly...THE CARDS!
The beasties represent certain manifestations of depression and anxiety, each with a number of items that can help it.
Aside from the actual card game, the programme - using a lesson plan guide - encourages the conversation surrounding mental health by discussing how each character feels, why they may feel like that and how we can help them feel better.
Through trialling the game in schools we have found that this offers an ideal platform for children to talk about their own feelings, raise their own concerns and practice the simple and accessible wellness exercises that the item cards represent.
The conversation and hopefully the increased capabilities to cope with problems continues as the game is played outside of the classroom.
We have seen this method of mental health education work first hand, with students opening up about their personal issues to the SENCOs and other school representatives involved in the trials. It has even encouraged some to help others feel more comfortable talking about such sensitive subjects.
It's not just for kids though, Book of Beasties has been played and enjoyed from children aged 6 to 10, as well as adults from 20 upwards. If you just want a fun and original game to play, you can - if you want something more then it's there, take from it what you will.
Mental illness affects 1 in 4 people, and 1 in 10 children in the UK according to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) - that’s 1,100,000 kids in our care that are suffering from illnesses ranging from eating disorders to schizophrenia.
However the most prominent disorder amongst young people is depression, which affects more children today than at any time in the last few decades. Worryingly the MHF claims that 70% of these kids are not being given the help and support needed to combat such disorders at an early age, which may in turn help them later in life.
We want to help change these stats...
Our ambition for this game and other similar projects to come, is to normalise the subject of mental health amongst younger people, inside and outside of the classroom.
From talking to teachers - including SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinators) representatives from a number of schools, and a number of the children in those schools - it is apparent that many feel uncomfortable talking about their own and their peers mental health.
There also appears to be a lack of help for those children who do suffer - with minimal material especially for them to offer a gentle helping hand.
Book of Beasties makes it easier for kids to talk about this subject by relating how they feel and how they think others feel to the characters - then learn simple ways to help combat disorders as they arise.
It does not claim to be a cure, or a final solution but a coping mechanism that can be delivered and monitored as the children progress and continue to play.
Our hope is that by making mental health a normal part of day-to-day chat and removing it from that list of taboo subjects, it will appease the suffering that can go hand-in-hand with all disorders.
It may even lead to diagnosis and then the opportunity of treatment for some children.
With your help, this could become a reality even sooner than we imagined - and you could be a part of changing our kids' futures.
DISCLAIMER: School trials have been carried out under the supervision of trained teachers and SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator) representatives.
We have worked closely with relevant professional advisors, who helped us shape Book of Beasties into an accessible and effective game for children and young people. Mental health issues affect people in many different ways, and everyone who plays Book of Beasties may react differently to the game.
Our aim is to allow young people to have an open, informed and destigmatised dialogue about psychological health issues. We don‘t claim Book of Beasties will be a cure or the end game for mental health issues.
It is a tool to start conversations and a means of demonstrating that we can struggle with our mental health at any age, whilst offering a helping hand (that possibly wasn’t there before) to understand and hopefully cope with such issues going forward.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge we have faced so far is getting people to listen to us. But some have and they are the ones that have seen the potential of Book of Beasties and the opportunities it opens up to those teaching it as well as those playing it.
We want to put as much research into this as possible and are continuing to visit schools and talk to the kids to make sure every aspect of the game is what they want and need. More cards will be added, others will be changed until we are sure that it is as near perfect as we can get it... And then we'll improve it more.
The final obstacle will be getting the game out there, but we have a plan (we always have a plan) we accept all the support and help we can get in any form, and it is with that support and help that we will achieve our goal of having Book of Beasties in as many schools and households as we can, firstly in the UK, and then beyond.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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