By now, a lot of people have heard about this indie video game known as Depression Quest. Many more people have no doubt heard of it in the context of its developer Zoe Quinn and her role in a social media mayhem involving Reddit users and adultery accusations. This led to further controversy regarding Ms. Quinn’s value as a developer and the unfortunate timing of the game’s release around the recent suicide of beloved comedian Robin Williams.
But I’ve waded through those dark and turbulent waters enough and I’d rather spare my audience any of that nonsense. So, instead, I’d like to give the developer some space and actually talk about the game she made on its own merits.
Depression Quest is a free-to-play (or pay-what-you-like) text game. You’re dropped into the role of a person in their 20’s with a caring girlfriend named Alex, a loose circle of friends, a lackluster 9-to-5 job, and a pair of supportive but unresponsive parents. You make various choices throughout the game, taking new routes, forming new relationships, and taking the occasional risk. However, the nature of the game limits some optimistic options, like shrugging off stress and enjoying yourself or your work. Despite what some characters will tell you, you can’t in fact “get over it” just like that. Even when you think you’re improving, you can still have bad days.
It’s a game that recognizes depression not as a voluntary quality but as a neurochemical breakdown that makes daily life difficult at times. It really captures the sense of how a person might struggle even with things that make them happy, like a lover, a pet cat, socializing with friends, or working on a project of passion. Obviously, this isn’t a lighthearted, play-when-you’re-bored game. It’s educational and informative in a very engaging and simple way.
On a personal level, while I’ve never been suicidal or diagnosed with clinical depression, I have experienced a lot of the downturns showcased in Depression Quest. My issue is more social anxiety with the occasional depressive moment and even then I’ve done better at some parties than our nameless protagonist does. But many scenarios or conversations in this game really hit home for me and I think it’s great when any form of media, let alone a video game, can reach out and catch someone’s attention like that.
Regardless of how you feel about Zoe Quinn or the whole concept of a game about depression, if you’re interested in seeing the world through those eyes, then I recommend giving this title a look, even if you don’t want to play for long or pay anything at all for it.
I’d also like to point out that, if any readers are feeling pretty low and you need someone to talk to, all you have to do is drop me a line.
Bibliography: Depression Quest. Developed by Zoe Quinn. Written by Zoe Quinn and Patrick Lindsey. Edited by Patrick Lindsey. Twine (engine). Original release date: February 14, 2013.