Video games have a wonderful way to make people go on great adventures and have new experiences. Often, people use video games to escape something going on in their life. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I use video games as a way to vent my feelings in a safe way that doesn’t cause anyone any harm. Turns out, I am not alone.
Statistics from Australian mental health organisation Headspace say that one in five adolescents will suffer some form of diagnosable depression in their life and that depression also accompanies other mental illnesses like anxiety disorders or substance use disorders.
Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schakler’s game Depression Quest has just been greenlit for sale on Steam and if you know someone who has depression, but doesn’t understand their way of thinking, or how to interact with them, I highly recommend this game.
From the very beginning, this text “adventure” game warns you that the experience you’re about to have is in no-way light hearted or fun. It’s meant to help people better understand the things that people with depression go through: Social stigma, isolation.
The background is grey snow, like you’d see on televisions. While it doesn’t move, it gives off the bleakness that people with mental illness often see in going about their day-to-day lives. Background music plays to add depth; piano notes, I would assume. Mostly in the lower end of the scale which would well suit a rainy day.
When you hit the “begin” button, you’re given information about the character you’re playing. You have a significant other, Alex, and a job that you find somewhat dull, but it pays the rent. You and your parents both think you could be doing more with your life, but trying to figure out what that means is difficult.
Depression Quest then starts discussing some feelings that your character is experiencing; Guilt, anger and exhaustion from the lack of sleep.
During the day to day events of your character (who doesn’t have a specific name or gender, as it is meant to be you in these shoes), you’re given choices to select from once you’ve read the text. Sometimes the “normal” options will be crossed out and you’ll be forced to choose something that you don’t feel like you would do.
At the end of the page, you’re given a summary of your mental and social situation. Depending on what interactions you choose, your quest will go a different way.
No matter what I say about this short, heart-felt game, I’m torn. On the one hand, I love the simplicity of it. It’s straight to the point and really, that’s what it needs to be. But, it breaks my heart. These “fictional” choices that I’m making are choices that I’ve made in real life myself. Avoiding socialisation with people because I either feel awkward around them or in my own skin, lying to myself about doing work due to a lack of motivation or lack of faith in myself.
In the end, this game will attract two kinds of people: People who already have depression or people who are curious about depression. It’s a heart-breaking and enlightening tale that could help open the eyes of people who think that depression is just something people can shake off and will perhaps, make them take it seriously.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for men under 44 and women under 34. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please contact Lifeline Australia – a confidential, free service on 13 11 14.