By AlisterCat 47 Comments
A couple of months ago I saw a psychologist after years of seeking mental health help. I've tried pills and other forms of therapy, but haven't had much luck. Almost immediately after talking with me the idea of some form of high functioning autism was brought up. Something I had never considered. At this point I had two friends with Aspergers. One new, one old. That new friend is now my girlfriend. A gamer, with Aspergers. Out of nowhere, I'm suddenly undergoing diagnosis for something I knew little about but makes complete sense to me.
This week she bought me To the Moon, and told me how it made her feel. I've gotten emotional about games in the past but I didn't really expect much from the game. If you want to know more about the game I suggest reading a wiki, but the way the game deals with the mental health of the couple that the story is centred around is something I have never seen in a game before. The wife character is hinted at having a kind of autism throughout the game. Most likely high functioning. The narrative doesn't hit you over the head though, for those who aren't fully aware of the disorder.
They do constantly make reference to the effects that her condition has on the characters and world, such as the obsessions, difficulty with people and (what I thought was a nice touch) the ticking sound of clocks. This might seem overly obvious, but that's how it can be to live like that. These things affect almost every facet of your life and is not represented in games often. It still manages to remain in the background and provide a tragic flavour for the story without being the focus. It enhances the sadness you feel for the husband who has to deal with this, while also coming to terms with his own issues.
The game left me a little shaken and very emotional. It hit home in a way that games rarely do. Yes, straight white males can feel alienated in mainstream gaming. The things typical of the wife in To the Moon are not necessarily how I am. One of the other characters with autism in the game even explains that it is different between people. I still recognised some of myself in her, and the effects on the people in that world.
It left me wondering what will come of this diagnosis. I've spoken to them a few times, filled out some tests. They've interviewed my mum. I am waiting to hear back but... I don't know. I hate waiting. I guess it's not like an illness, where things will change depending on the result. I'll still be me. There's so much I don't know or understand about it though.
In the context of gaming, I don't know where to go from here. I finished up Steamworld Dig (the shiny new PC version) as that is a very light experience but the kind of impact To the Moon left on me makes it hard to think about playing something like Batman Arkham Origins, something that has sat installed on my PC since release and I have yet to play it. I've slowly been churning through games. I have an impossibly long backlog, but this is one of the games I bought recently and want to play. Wanted. I don't know.
I think I'll be more at ease once all this has passed, and I know, though it's unlikely many more games will have this kind of impact. I've heard of depression quest, and I guess that might be relateable in a similar way, and there are games that deal with other issues like Gone Home dealing with discovering sexuality, or Spec Ops The Line dealing with PTSD.
I'm curious if anyone had similar experiences to me, or any giant bomb members who have dealt with this kind of thing before. It would be good to hear from you.