We are often asked why we chose Mars as the setting for our set of games. Initially, as we prepared our grant proposal for TATRC and the DoD, we knew the players of our game would be members of the Military, and the mind leaps easily to metaphors they understand or would be familiar with such as engaging an enemy, answering commands or going through drills. Almost immediately we realized that (based on our research and advice from our Clinical team) any game concepts or design features based on conflict, contesting an enemy or using weapons or tools of war would stand a good chance of triggering PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) events in our patients.
Clearly, any sort of PTSD trigger would be counter to our efforts. At this point, I decided to use the future as a setting for the game, as this would remove it (literally and figuratively) from the recent past and here-and-now that these soldiers were confronting. I liked the idea of using positive metaphors such as building and creating, so the next logical leap was to a big, audacious goal: the colonization of Mars.
By moving the setting to Mars and the activity to building, creating and maintaining, we get a positive set of metaphors that are based on growth and development, and remove any chance of triggering PTSD. Mars as a setting is a boundless terrain, both for our development and design and for the future of the project.