‘Depression Quest’ is an interactive game developed by Zoë Quinn and written by Patrick Lindsey. It deals with the subject of depression—hence the title of this game—and revolves around a simple, text-based choice gameplay. Much like a multiple choice quiz, but with no right or wrong answers. You control an unnamed character and are given a series of every day task: work, relationships, self care, etc. You decide how said character will deal with their deteriorating mental state. To quote from the game’s official website, “this game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone . . . and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.”
Speaking as someone who used to suffer from depression (and is currently dealing with a concoction of other mental health strains), as much as I love good storytelling through video games, I’m glad that there are games like this that tackles depression just as it is. However, I understand that this game may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Everyone’s experience with depression, especially taking into consideration their personal lives and experiences, are different. This game only shows one side of these experiences. Yes, there were moments where I went ‘I know how that feels’, such as the lapses of lethargy and moments of self-loathing. But the character is assumed to be an adult whereas I suffered from depression when I was a lot younger, there is a disconnect between me and the character, and I didn’t relate to them as much I’d like to be able to.
An interesting feature of this game is that on the bottom of the screen, a panel reveals the character’s condition. The most common one that showed up in my gaming experience is ‘chronic depression’, but there are other possibilities depending on how one plays the game. Depending on the choices the player makes, there will be different outcomes. In total there are five different endings. When playing it, I got the ending in which the character continues to live their lives but their condition worsens as time wears on.
Unlike most choice-based games, the longer the game goes on, the more choices will be eliminated—with a strikethrough to indicate that it isn’t an option, even though it’s possibly the best one for the character. When talking about the relationship with the character’s partner, the player is given the choices to either break up, talk things through and give the relationship another chance, or to succumb to self-doubt and self-loath. Obviously, the best way to go is communication, but that option is made unavailable. This is both enlightening and frustrating because it opens the player up to the gritty reality of depression—that while the right choice is in front of you, depression skews one’s perception of reality and prevents one from taking that positive step forward.
‘Depression Quest’ is a simple, cleverly-made game that reveals the player the hidden side of the mental illness. Its gameplay, as infuriating as it may be sometimes due to the choices, makes it a lot easier for people to grasp the reality of the situation. I recommend this game to those who would like to step into the shoes of the depressed and those who would like to understand it a bit more.
If you’ve made it this far into my post, thank you for reading! Have you played ‘Depression Quest’ before? If so, what did you think? If not, would you like to? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see yo in my next post.
Until next time,