Self-Care Jam: A week-long online research event to explore self-care and mental health through making games together. I'm interested!

2nd to 8th August 2021

Free, open to anybody 18+

£100 in shopping vouchers for your time + 2 tickets to the NVM!


Let's figure out what games, tech and self-care could be together!

Time for a weekend game jam + 1-2h during the week?

Excited about technologies for mental health and self-care?

Interested in (making) games?

You have somebody local to you, who could check in on you during the game jam.

You are 18+ years old and you are currently not in a mental health crisis.

Support research, collaborate with others and get £100 pounds in shopping vouchers for your time.

Or your country's currency's equivalent!

Overview TL;DR

Colorful 3D letters spelling out the phrase TL;DR
  • What? A collaborative game jam using a toolkit (think self-paced activity book with different prompts, inspiration and info in it, exploring theme of self-care.
  • Who can take part? Open internationally to anybody 18+ with an interest in making games, mental health and self-care.
  • Organiser? The National Videogame Museum, together with Velvet Spors and Imo Kaufman, both PhD researchers at the University of Nottingham.
  • Renumeration? £100 shopping voucher (or the equivalent in a currency of your choice!) + 2 Tickets to the NVM.
  • What’s the time commitment? The event runs for a week:
    Monday-Thursday: Each day, we offer an optional 1h session for everybody to get to know each other, learn the toolkit and start thinking about games and self-care.
    Friday: We have a 2h kick-off session, form teams and plan for the weekend.
    Saturday and Sunday: 4h each day, with sharing what everybody made at the end.
  • When? 2nd August to 8th August
  • How? Remotely, through the internet.


This free research event is a week-long game jam (a community event in which people make games together). This event is a collaboration between the National Videogame Museum and PhD researchers at the University of Nottingham, Velvet Spors and Imo Kaufman. We are looking for people who would like to explore mental health and self-care in an inclusive, experimental community space, through and with games.

As part of Velvet’s PhD with the NVM, Velvet organised a community group of people who enjoy games and have their own experiences with mental health: Nadia, Nix, Hanne, H R, Danielle, Christine, DAMLA, Imo, Vanessa, Jo, Jenn, Anonymous, Willow, Anonymous and Gisela. Throughout four workshops, we collected thoughts, discussed inspiration and dreamt up playful, critical and compassionate ideas for how self-care technologies, like apps, could be different: What do games offer in themselves that could be used for self-care? What could other mental health technologies learn from games?

Out of this process came the Our Caring Systems toolkit. It is a colorful mix of self-paced activities, like prompts to think about, that (hopefully) can inspire and inform. This game jam will give everybody who joins access to the first version of this toolkit: Does it work? What needs to be changed? Let’s find out, together.


Could you give me a short overview of the project? Sure thing! This event is a collaborative game jam (National Videogame Museum and the University of Nottingham), that runs for a week in August 2021.

We are going to explore the relationship between mental health, self-care and games together, through making games/experiences/things with the “Our Caring Systems” toolkit. This toolkit was made in collaboration with people that have experiences with mental health and games, to provide info, education and inspiration to people looking to make self-care games and experiences for themselves or others.
Who can take part? We are open to almost everybody! Requirements are listed below:
You are 18 years or older.

You are interested in games, wellbeing and mental health.

You speak English. It does not have to be your native language, you just have to be comfy chatting in it.

The game jam is open worldwide. The museum and research team are based in the UK.

You are currently not in a mental health crisis.

You feel like you have a stable support network and coping strategies for your mental health in place.

You are okay with telling someone you trust and that lives close to you (or with you!) that you are taking part in this workshop series.

You have access to stable internet (that can support video calling).

You are okay with having a short video call with Velvet and Imo (the main researchers).

(These criteria are not in place to exclude anybody, but to keep everyone involved safe [organisers included] --- especially since the jam will happen remotely!)
What kind of tech/software do I need for the jam? A computer with a somewhat stable internet connection and a webcam and/or microphone.

You do not need to know how to code, and concepts made in Word or Powerpoint are just as good as a working prototype in Unity or something drawn on paper.

The toolkit can be accessed as a PDF and/or images, and you are free to choose any software you want to make your experience/game.

Most game jam activities will happen on our game jam Discord server, which is chat-, video- and community app. It is free to use.
How does the application process work? 1) Interest Form: Tell us that you would like to take part by filling out the register interest form here.

2) Documents: Imo and Velvet will send you documents regarding the research path of the game jam.

3) Call with Researchers: If you are comfortable with what these documents outline, we'll schedule a call together. This call is necessary to make sure that you are a real person, to verify your identity and age and to meet you in person. Since we are all meeting remotely, in a virtual space, it is much more difficult to check in on people, so we want to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into with the game jam.

4) Filling out forms: If we are both happy with the call, we will ask you to fill out the “Consent Form”.

5) Trusted Person: We also send you the “Trusted Person” form to forward to your trusted person. It is important for us that there is someone close to you that we can reach in the case of an emergency. Once your trusted person has filled in their form, all formalities are organized.

6) Done! Let's jam! A welcome email to the game jam with all information, the toolkit, and access to our discord server awaits you. We will also send you our pre-event survey to ask you some questions about mental health and games. Happy game jamming! Now you are free to check out the toolkit, make what you like and sign-up for some more research activities (if you’d like to!).
Do I need to be an experienced game designer, or have participated in a game jam before? No, not at all! You do not need to be experienced or have done a game jam before. The game/experience/thing you make does not have any specific requirements and can be produced in any software (literally, you can make your game in Paint, we don’t judge!). Whether you used Unity for years or are about to make your first game in Twine, the jam welcomes participants of all skill levels and backgrounds.
Do I have to participate in the research if I want to do the game jam? Yes, but what bits of research you do is totally up to you! We completely get that taking part in a jam remotely with strangers might be a bit daunting, so there’s multiple ways that you can get involved in the research:

Surveys: A couple of questions in a form asking you about your gaming experiences (before the jam) and how you liked the jam + toolkit (afterwards).

Focus Groups: If you feel like mingling with the other participants, we invite you to join a focus group during and after the jam to talk shop and see how the jam was for you.

Interviews: If you are feeling extra fancy, it’d be amazing if you could talk and walk us through your jam entry and tell us how you used the toolkit personally.

Shared online space: Throughout the jam, we have an open online space in which you can plop down thoughts, ideas or memes about the jam!

Discord server: Chat with other participants, share your progress, ask the researchers what their favourite game is (and have us wax poetically about Hexen, Silent Hill or Dragon Age).
What will happen with the game/experience/thing I make? You will have complete control over what does or does not happen with your game. The research team and the NVM will only ever use your game in ways that you are comfortable with. Part of joining the jam is filling out forms to tell you what you are okay with.
What do I get for taking part? £100 Amazon shopping vouchers (or the equivalent in a currency of your choice!) + 2 tickets to the NVM!

You get to have valuable and collaborative discussions with other jam participants and the researchers. Hopefully, this jam will provide new ways of thinking about videogames and mental health, and help you explore how these ideas can play out in the process of game creation.

It is also an opportunity to meet with other people who are interested in video games, mental health and self-care. This is the first time the Our Caring Systems toolkit is being made available for public use. Not only will you get access to the toolkit, but you will be able to give feedback on how it works, and how you felt about it, which will also contribute to future videogame outreach and education through the National Videogame Museum.

By taking part in this project, you are actively contributing to research about games and mental health that others can build on.
Are there any risks for taking part? There are a couple of risks: As with all research that deals with mental health and care at its core, there is the possibility that the jam gets awkward or uncomfortable. You might not get along with other people in the event (arguments, disagreements) or find the toolkit information and activities boring or meaningless. You might meet people you know in the jam – this is something to consider. You can drop out of the research at any point, without the need to give a reason -- just ping Velvet ( and Imogen (
How are you keeping people safe? Having people remotely work, talk and explore in the event is definitely a tricky circumstance, but we’ve cooked up several safety mechanisms to (hopefully) have a smooth, joyous event.

We will define what is acceptable for the group during the first workshop, to make a group code of conduct. This will also include discussing what should be shared with each other and outsiders and how we can best hold space for each other to spend our time together meaningfully.

If you’d like to be part of the project, we will ask you to nominate someone you are close with as your trusted person (both in terms of being close to you as a person and physically!). We will discuss when this person should be contacted together and figure out what would work best for you.

We will also have a small call with everybody before the workshops to make sure that all issues are ironed out and to check that people are real. Any research conducted during the jam will have a zero-tolerance policy for harmful discussion(s) or harassment. Researchers will always step in if there are ever any concerns.
Do I own what I make in the jam? Will other people see what I make in the jam? You own what you make in the jam. While you might share snippets of your game jam entry with others during the jam, you can control who sees it at the end of the event, by only submitting it to the researchers and NVM staff or by choosing to make it public. Nothing will be made public without your explicit permission.
Who is funding the jam? The event in itself is funded by the NVM through the Yogscast’s yearly Christmas fundraising drive for a good cause, the “Jingle Jam”. Velvet is funded by the UKRI, The Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training, and the NVM while Imogen is funded by Midlands4Cities, AHRC and the NVM.
I don’t think I could bring anything new to the jam. Everyone has their own individual point of view and subjective experiences. Whatever you could bring to the jam is meaningful! This jam is not about comparing yourself to other participants and there is no pressure to product something new or original -- you are free to make whatever works best for you.
Self-care, mental health and games sound boring and bad. We totally get you. This event and research are both motivated by games made for mental health that make watching paint dry look fun and apps manipulating people to feel good throughnotifications, achievements and loot boxes. We don’t condone either of them. Instead, we see that games are mediums to feel, explore yourself, have fun and be challenged – sounds a lot like self-care stuff, right? That’s where we are coming from, with a deep, but critical love for games and technology. We would love to hear where you see things go wrong! Let's think up new spaces, tools and futures for technology, games and wellbeing in the jam together.
I don’t want to take part, but can I still support this project? Thank you so much! If this project resonates with you, please share it in your personal networks, tweet about it, share it on Facebook and tell others about it!


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