This past week saw two games released that focused on what it’s like living with depression. These games are very serious games dealing with a very serious issue. If you’ve lived with depression please be warned that these games can be a trigger. You may just want to go look at good things instead.
Depression Quest is playable online and is heavy on the text (over 40,000 words!) with a good number of narrative branches to go through. There is, however, only five endings so don’t worry about the game never ending. You can play for free or pay what you want for the game (the developers are donating to iFred).
Having just played the game, I can assure that it is intense. Your options are limited because depression itself limits your options, and more often than not, you can see the other options but they are struck out. The text with the static background provides some context as to why some options are removed.
Clearly, one of the goals of the game is to get people talking about depression. This is a good thing as mental health is often ignored because it is usually invisible. All the online conversations I’ve seen have involved some people comparing their lives to the fictional one in the story; pointing out that the character in the game is better off. One of the designers of the game, Zoë Quinn, has a choice response to that.
Actual Sunlight is a brutal depiction of a man’s life self-destructing, and it’s a game whose central character can only find hope in his own death. And as such, his own death is the only hopeful moment in the game. Which is just beyond uncomfortable.
“Throughout the development of it, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t doing it purely for the sake of trying to viciously rip myself into as many pieces as I possibly could.” he says. “It certainly felt that way sometimes, but that wouldn’t have been honest either: I think life is funny and beautiful, too, and I have a lot of good things, even if I’ve screwed some of them up. I think most people feel this way.”
O’Neill is running an Indie GoGo campaign to continue working on the game, here’s the promo video for it: