#1 Edited by Atlas (2401 posts) -

Full credit for me finding this story goes to Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

As someone who has lived with depression since adolescence and for my entire adult life, videogames have always been a way for me to deal with the endless droning hum of hatred and negativity that transcends my own mind. Mostly, though, my videogame playing has been about escaping depression; to be transported somewhere else where I have the tools at my disposal to deal with any problems that I may encounter. That's why I love games that have large and involved game worlds in which one can lose oneself for hours on end - the Bethesda games are the high watermark for this, but Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Red Dead Redemption achieve similar successes.

Depression Quest is the first game I've played that actually tackled the issue of depression head-on. You are a twenty-something who is feeling increasingly uneasy with him/herself and the world around them. It's essentially a dialogue tree game or an interactive novella, as you are presented with scenarios and given different ways to deal with them. Much like recently released Cart Life focused on simulating a slice of the human experience, Depression Quest does much the same thing in a very different sort of way. It's about trying to find a balance: you have friends, a job, and a girlfriend, and all of them present opportunities and challenges in many different ways. The ultimate goal is starting off at a low point and seeing where you end up, and attending therapy and taking psychiatric medication are two pivotal opportunities that are presented.

It took less than an hour to play, and involved a fair amount of reading, and it was definitely emotionally and mentally affecting. I wasn't in tears afterwards - my pain doesn't manifest itself that way, and even really sad films almost never make me cry - but it was incredibly moving, especially with the sparse and beautiful sound design. In truth, it's just a really well put together experience, done by people who are sensitive to the subject and clearly know what they are talking about. The game's page also has great advice, including not playing it if at a time when you are feeling sensitive and fragile, reminding you that everyone experiences depression in their own way, and it even includes a link to a helpline for people who need more help than playing a game can provide i.e. suicidal.

It's an experience that I would recommend to anybody that lives with depression, lives with someone who lives with depression, or would just like more insight into how depression affects normal everyday people. I only just found it through the RPS link, but if it hasn't shown up on Worth Reading yet (get well soon, Patrick), then it probably should, just so more people can experience it. It also makes me wonder about people in the games industry being open about depression; friend of Giant Bomb, PopCap's Jeff Green wrote a brilliant post about his battles with depression on his blog last year.

I'd love to hear how others reacted to playing his game, and how it lines up with their own experiences of dealing with depression or living with someone who has the disease.

#2 Posted by Ravenlight (8033 posts) -

I saw it on RPS and clicked my way through it. The music did an excellent job of setting the mood throughout the whole experience.

The way it mirrored past experiences was pretty eerie. It's sort of comforting to know that whoever made the game really seems to understand the subject matter.

My playthrough ended up at an overall neutral place, I guess. Is there a positive ending for Depression Quest?

#3 Edited by Atlas (2401 posts) -

@ravenlight: My ending was pretty damn positive. My therapy was going really well, I was doing well with the medication, my relationship with Alex was in a great place and we were talking about moving in together, and my brother had become a confidant for me. I still hated my job, but I was dealing with it. I'm not really sure if I could've got a better ending, but I really felt like I did well at turning the dude's life around.

The game's ending is incredibly subtle, and it's not about conquering depression, because for a ton of people, depression is not something that they will ever be able to conquer.

#4 Posted by FluxWaveZ (19158 posts) -

I'll check it out, but the fact that the dude starts off with friends, a girlfriend and a job makes me think I won't be able to relate much to it.

#5 Posted by HerbieBug (3851 posts) -

I assume the intent here is to educate non-depressed people about it?

I went through it quickly, skimming mostly. The scenarios differ significantly from my experiences, which I suppose should be expected considering I am not a neurotypical person (I'm autistic). The broad strokes seem about right to me though, so i think it accomplishes its purpose. Most common misconception about depression is just the colloquial usage of it in inappropriate circumstance. To say, for example, "i'm been a bit depressed today," to indicate you're kinda under the weather and not feeling in tip top shape, but expect to feel better after a good night's sleep. This game shows it, accurately, as a small lightweight monkey that hops on your back for a ride one day; over time it grows fat, it digs it's claws into you, starts shouting abuse at you, invites its evil monkey pals to hop on for the ride as well.

One thing I would like to see is something along similar lines to demonstrate to the neurotypical public what OCD is like. OCD even more misunderstood than depression in my experience.