No Asylums Allowed: Horror-Themed Game Jam Returns


News Room Contributor
Apr 18, 2011
No Asylums Allowed: Horror-Themed Game Jam Returns

After a successful first year, Asylum Game Jam challenges game developers to make a horror game without relying on negative mental health stereotypes associated with asylums.

Asylum Jam, a game jam challenging developers to make a game in 48 hours without using negative stereotypes of mental health, is returning for a second year from October 31 to November 2.

In an interview with The Escapist, Asylum Jam organizer Lucy Morris said the game jam is designed to encourage people to explore horror outside of harmful, overdone tropes. The aim is to diversify ideas in horror. Morris hasn't seen a huge change in the games industry concerning mental health stereotypes in horror since last year [], but she thinks Asylum Jam effectively challenged people to think of new ideas.

"I think the impact of the jam was at a much more personal level to the participants in particular, but if anything the jam last year really did bring a lot of attention in general to the topic, which is more than I could've hoped for," Morris said. Last year's jam had 385 participants and 60 submitted games.

Most horror games rely on tropes about mental health, where characters are classified as "crazy" or "insane," or games are supposed to be scary because they take place in an asylum. One negative example Morris points to is Outlast [], a survival horror game set in a psychiatric hospital with homicidal patients.

Despite this, Asylum Jam's purpose isn't to say games with stereotypes of mental health are bad games. Morris explains Asylum Jam is "a positive way to explore outside of tired, harmful tropes and to expand on horror - which is such a big place for us to explore with the rise of VR, especially."

Some games, such as Neverending Nightmares [], use personal struggles with mental health as a part of horror. Others, like Five Nights at Freddy's, do not use mental health when creating a tense atmosphere.

Asylum Jam will have some physical locations, but the game jam is open to everyone. Morris could not state the physical locations yet, but she will have news about them in the next one to two weeks. However, Morris can confirm there will be European venues. She asks that leaders in the game development community interested in Asylum Jam volunteer to host a location if possible. More information about the event is available on the Tumblr. []

Source: Asylum Jam []



Jun 29, 2008
While I agree that they shouldn't use mental illness as a horror element and mental patients as villains, I don't think the same should apply to actual Asylum buildings. Have you seen some old Kirkbride that has been decaying for 30 years? What other kind of game could be set in it? Urban Exploring Simulator 2015?

Also, in many games (and movies) the actual horror comes from the treatments those poor people received in the past. The villain is usually some crazy doctor who mistreats his patients or even performs experiments on them (this was unfortunately sometimes true).


New member
Jun 18, 2012
weirdee said:
cyber95 said:
Major_Tom said:
Urban Exploring Simulator 2015?
I would unironically enjoy such a game.
like, proteus, but more grey and crumbly
I would actually recommend the STALKER series for this.

It's graphics are more than a bit dated now, but nonetheless you get some painstakingly detailed ruined urban environments in an open world setting. (for something a bit more current but less open I might suggest Metro 2033 and it's wonderful sequel, Last Light)

On topic: I can appreciate trying to wane people off of relying on the cliche of spooky asylums or indeed spreading misinformation on people checked into such institutions but I disagree with using Outlast as a negative example.

Most of the mental patients depicted in the game are benign or just pitiful tortured people who serve as more of a backdrop to the rest of the game, the 'villains' are relatively few and everyone is under extreme circumstances. This comes from what the narrative of Outlast actually is: Ex-Nazi experiments with nanotechnology on a secluded group of helpless people.

It is not, and never was, about "mental patients are violent lunatics".